December 2, 2009

The Power of Prayer

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read The Power of Prayer there.

Thanks to the gift of a wonderful volunteer I worked with eighteen months ago, I began a spiritual journey that includes regular meditation and yoga. And I’ve been praying too. Usually for friends and family and even those who caused me pain in the past—everyone. It helps the healing process and it helps me know what’s important. Until recently, I never prayed for myself, though, other than, somewhat opportunistically, in trotros.

So I want to share something that happened a few months ago. I’ve held off posting because it seemed too hokey for blogging, but I decided, now, to share anyway.

I had been reading Caroline Myss’s Invisible Acts of Power (published in 2004 by Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, USA) before I fell asleep. What she calls “invisible acts of power” are, simply, compassionate acts of kindness, or generous acts of spirit or material means between friends, family or even complete strangers. Through hundreds of letters from recipients of anonymous and not so anonymous acts, givers who received pleasure or wisdom from helping others and, most painfully, those who expressed regret at not helping where they could have, she shows that the “divine grace” inherent in the decision to help, accept help or not give help for whatever reason has profound affects on our spiritual being and interconnectedness.

I know that many reading, especially if they live in Ghana or have volunteered or traveled here may quite likely have been involved in some kind of act of kindness along the way. I saw it many times over.

There were countless inspiring stories from people who desperately needed their rent paid and the money suddenly materializing, to those who had serious accidents and needed a compassionate voice, to others who were abused and found themselves helped in the most unlikely of places, and yet others who may have witnessed, stepped in or supported others, that stand as testament to the human desire to share and help others.

I’m not religious in any conventional sense, and the book does not espouse any one religion, but I have been following spiritual teachings for a few years. Nevertheless, I felt a tad skeptical when I was reading these lines even though I had already received a bit of divine intervention myself over the years.

Myss wrote: “Even when our prayers appear not to have been answered, we can be sure that they have been received and that an answer is already here or on the way. Perhaps that answer does not come at the moment of the prayer or in a personal form that we recognize or an angelic presence that we would like to see. But answers to our prayers filter into physical manifestation when the time is right.” (p. 225).

And I read this story a couple of pages later (p.227). I have edited it slightly here. It’s what happened later that night, that I describe further along, that made me reluctant to post.

“A few years ago I was going through a very painful divorce. My soon to be ex-husband was doing his best to destroy my reputation since I was the one who filed. Worse than that was how all of this was affecting my children. Many nights I went to our church chapel and I would sit there until the middle of the night. One night I was in the chapel crying, but I was at my breaking point. I had been praying and then I started to weep. I told God, ‘I need help and I need it right here and right now right this minute because I can’t handle one more minute of this alone.’

“I sat in the pew crying. Immediately the door at the back of the chapel opened and a woman walked in. She marched right up to the front pew, sat down, and put her arm around my shoulder. She started talking to me and everything she said made sense. I felt the presence of peace sweep over me. How could she have known what was going on in my life? I had never seen this woman, yet she spoke to me as if she had been walking with me the entire last year through this divorce. As I calmed down, I looked at her and said, 'I don’t even know you, but I feel like I do. I have never seen you. I don’t even know your name.' She replied, 'My name is Grace.' With that she got up and left after she told me that I would be fine. I have never seen her since and I will never forget that evening. I know if you ask for help you get it, but that was really quick. I didn’t even say please, but I have definitely said thank you. I came away from that night with new strength and renewed faith.”

I fell asleep reading the book and then I suddenly woke in the wee hours. There was no sound at all which, if you know Ghana, is unusual. There were no roosters crowing yet, not even any crickets or insects, no breeze, no dogs barking. It was dead quiet and dark. But I was wide awake and alert as if it were mid-morning, which is unusual for me as I’m not a morning (and definitely not a 3 a.m.) kind of person. Godwin was sleeping quietly beside me under the mosquito net and I was tucked in my sheet, even though it was hot.

Wide awake, I became bit bored. I found myself thinking about what I’d read before falling asleep. After a while, I decided to try praying for something--this is something I had avoided doing for a long time. I made my first appeal to the spiritual powers that be as I lay wide awake at that odd hour.

It went something like this.

“Hello, I’d really like ABCDE and, by the way, I’ve already had bad malaria (yes, I started bargaining) and typhoid, and almost rabies, and giardia, and who knows what else, and I live with terrible bowels, so you know I know what pain feels like. So please, I would like ABCDEagain and I don’t mind working very hard for it, as you know, OK?”

That was it. I felt stupid as I said my first real prayer for something specific in a very long-winded way. And then…

The moment I finished this prayer and its last thought, the spoon in my tea cup on the other side of the room rattled. I feel a little embarrassed even posting this. (I’ve held off posting it for months.) It was just the distinct tinkle of metal on ceramic for a second or two almost the instant I finished the prayer.

Firstly, just so you know, I don’t take drugs and I hardly ever drink alcohol. I was wide awake and alert and dead still under the mozzie net. There was no noise before or after in the room, and geckoes stick to the walls, although we haven’t seen one in the room for a while before.

So I lay even stiller and thought, “Bit of a coincidence that was. Hmm. Was that an answer? Was that God? Or was that a mouse? Is there a mouse at all? I don’t want a mouse running all over me…” I was so shocked that I sat up and pushed Godwin awake and told him what happened. We got up and looked around, but we couldn't find anything.

The rational part of me thinks it was a coincidence. The part that’s scared to admit such a quick and distinct answer to a prayer is still in shock after all these months.

On balance, I’ve been pretty fortunate without asking for a thing over the past four years—other than not dying in a trotro crash and, well, that’s worked so far. I shall keep giving thanks for myself and prayers for others.

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced anything like this? Or someone's generosity when you least expected it but really needed it? Or did you do something for someone else make a big difference in their life? Or something that you felt was insignificant but had a profound impact in the other person? Or a stranger made a kind gesture to you?


  1. I believe in treating others the way you would like them to treat you. You haven't had to ask for much because you probably give a lot of yourself. When you give without expecting anything in return, you get more in return without knowing it. That aside, I also believe God looks out for us when we look out for others and treat them well. (Sort of like how I'd be nice to kids that are nice to my kids).
    Praying/talking to God has worked very well for me all my life.

  2. Thanks so much for posting Mike. I do think so too. I wouldn't have believed it, but there have been so many "coincidences" and amazing cosmic timings in the past few years for me not to believe that there is something bigger at play.


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