This story from Ambrose Worrall’s The Gift of Healing[*] illustrates that not all prayer, however well-intentioned, will necessarily bring about the desired results. Some prayer may even interfere with obtaining the desired results.
Ambrose Worrall had been asked to intercede for a six-year old girl named Kay, who had developed encephalitis following measles. At the time he began, she was completely paralysed.
From pages 18-19:
“Because of her contagious condition, no one was allowed to visit the little girl in the hospital. I agreed to treat Kay by the only method possible, absent treatment. The father gave me a picture of the girl from which I could work. That night, at home, with this picture before me and in my mind, I followed a technique I have developed of ‘tuning in,’ to become, in a metaphysical sense, one with the patient.
“As I sat there, I felt this affinity almost immediately sweep through me. I put down the picture and turned off the light. I then felt a flow of healing force which comes often in such healing procedures from the solar plexus region of my body. In such moments, I am extraordinarily sensitive to all reactions and I was again almost immediately aware that this healing force was being opposed by an unusual barrier surrounding the child.
“At the same time I saw before me in the darkness the face of the father. I could see that he was concentrating intensely on something. I did not know what it was. But I was sure that it had something to do with the force field effect I had been experiencing — the turning aside of the power. Why? The father above all wanted her well.
“I called the father the following morning to discuss the case. I asked him directly, ‘Were you thinking about your daughter last night?’
“The father said yes, he had been concentrating on his child, concentrating on the idea that the throat muscles of the girl — at least that much — could relax, so that the tube they had put through her nostrils for feeding purposes could be removed. I told him I did not think it was wise to concentrate on the girl’s throat in that way. It would be far better, I said, to think of her as being in good health, as she was before her illness, to picture her in perfect health.
“He agreed to co-operate. That evening I ‘tuned in’ once more and this time felt no resistance to those healing waves which I felt flowing from me.
“That night Kay opened her eyes for the first time in eighteen days. The fever subsided sharply at the same time, and the paralysis was cured as far down as her waist.”
Kay would go on to recover completely, unusually quickly; however, as Worrall indicates is normal, it wasn’t instantaneous.
What can we say about this? The father certainly did not regard himself as having any unusual abilities, and would not have perceived such flows of energies as Worrall did. Nonetheless, his visualization of the daughter as still sick interfered with the energies Worrall was directing toward the patient.
This parallels Worrall’s remark in “Essay on Prayer,” that “’PRAYER,’ [is] a sending out of a dynamic, positive desire which does not of necessity have to be in words. It can be a visualization in picture form of THE CONDITION DESIRED. We should not concentrate on the elimination of a condition, but on the CREATION of the condition desired.”
What you “see” is what you’ll get.
I want also to note the role of feelings, or affects, in prayer. It seems clear that the first time the father prayed, he was tense and anxious. These feelings, themselves, are not the most desirable. If you send out tension and anxiety, then tension and anxiety are what you’ll get. It is far more desirable that one’s visualizations should be full of joy in anticipation that the desired outcome may obtain.
That entails far more control over the direction of one’s thoughts, and over the choice of one’s feelings, than most of us normally feel is possible; yet Jesus, for example, consistently spoke from the assumption that one can choose one’s feelings at will. Meditation is the principal tool for developing this ability.
Related: When prayer backfires
Related: The wandering will
[*]Ambrose A. Worrall with Olga N. Worrall, The Gift of Healing. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. Copyright (c) 1965 by Harper & Row, Publishers.
Originally posted 2015-10-03.