Can our prayers really make a difference? The simple answer is yes. We are now one week into this fortnight of prayer and we may be tempted to give up because we may get the sense that nothing is changing. Up to this point the world seems to be largely ignoring our efforts. The media certainly doesn't seem to be going out of their way to cover this movement of prayer and action. No sweeping announcements of reversal have come from the HHS department. Will our efforts really make any difference?
Prayer is never a waste of our time or effort. Several points on prayer may help to bolster our confidence in God and in the power of prayer.
From the Compendium of the Catechism we read:
545. Why is our prayer efficacious?
Our prayer is efficacious because it is united in faith with the prayer of Jesus. In him Christian prayer becomes a communion of love with the Father. In this way we can present our petitions to God and be heard: “Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
It is precisely because our prayer is Christian that is fruitful. It is Jesus who makes our prayers powerful. We must always resist the temptation to doubt this, even when we don't immediately "see" our prayers answered. Christian prayer is Christian precisely because it is united to the will of God. It follows the model of Christ's prayer in Gethsemane "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
When we are moved by the Holy Spirit to pray, it is often when we need something or perceive that someone else needs something. This form of prayer is called intercession. The Compendium of the Catechism has this on intercessory prayer:
554. In what does the prayer of intercession consist?
Intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It conforms us and unites us to the prayer of Jesus who intercedes with the Father for all, especially sinners. Intercession must extend even to one’s enemies.
Notice how the answer reminds us of the prayer of Jesus. Our unity with Him is the source of power for our prayers. He intercedes to the Father, to His Father whom we call "Our Father." Notice too, how emphasis is placed upon prayer for one's enemies, not as an option, but as a requirement. This is not a prayer of spite. We do not curse our enemies, rather we are called to offer prayer as Jesus did. This is loving prayer that offers mercy and forgiveness to one's enemies. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
If we have difficulty believing in the power of prayer we might be helped by Mary. The Compendium presents the truth about Mary's role in this way:
562. How is Christian prayer Marian?
Because of her singular cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray to Mary and with Mary, the perfect ‘pray-er’, and to “magnify” and invoke the Lord with her. Mary in effect shows us the “Way” who is her Son, the one and only Mediator.
When we have difficulty believing in the power of prayer it is really a crisis of faith. Central to our faith is the conviction that God is directly involved in the world, in the activities of our daily life. Mary can help us to see God's providence in our everyday circumstances precisely because she is the mother, the one who notices our needs and rushes to give us aid. She is the one who believed the words of the angel Gabriel and magnified the Lord in prayer and action. Turning to her and trusting in her intercession is a sure path to Jesus and greater trust in His power in our world today.
Let us turn to Jesus and offer our prayers throughout each day, in union with Holy Mary and with the whole Church gathered around the throne of God, begging mercy, love and the triumph of the truth. If you have not already been saying this prayer "For the Protection of Religious Liberty" provided by the USCCB you may want to do so starting today.
O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
This prayer is from the USCCB Fortnight For Freedom website which includes several other prayer resources.