Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness.
- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
While laughing and reminiscing during the Thanksgiving holiday last week, my brother shared a story about prayer that happened many moons ago.
It all started when I asked my brother to identify the instigating factor that brought him back to Ohio 20 years ago, after a 9-year stint in Colorado. Being the older sis, my memory isn't as sharp as I'd like to think it is.
Brother reminded that he had become engaged. Oh yes, he got engaged over Christmas to his old high school flame, the one he could never seem to get out of his heart. The following spring he returned to Ohio, found a job, and moved in with his finacee. Then reality hit. Within a couple of months, he realized he had made a huge mistake. His fiancee was not the person he believed her to be. He broke off the engagement, moved out, and attempted to pick up the pieces.
During the ensuing weeks following the break-up, my brother tells us that he was in great emotional distress. When he reached a point of desolation, he uttered a short prayer: "God, I need your help. I can't do this alone anymore." It helps to know that my brother had stopped going to church for many years at the time he decided to pray.
Within 20 minutes of sending off this prayer, my parents call my brother. They tell him that they were thinking about him and wondered how he was doing. My brother adds that 10 minutes after that phone call I phoned him, again with the thought of connecting to him. And then once again, 10 minutes later, my sister calls my brother. All of us lived in different cities, without knowledge of what was going on with each other. After the last phone call, my brother admitted to God that he got the message. He isn't alone and help is out there for him.
I don't know where that prayer that my brother uttered 20 years ago ends. His current (and only) wife of 18 years will tell you that his former flame served a purpose in getting him back to prayer. In hindsight that prayer put my brother back on track with God, propelling him to a return to faith and to a much deeper, more genuine relationship with God.
I wonder, where do prayers go? Is there some spiritual Internet that holds the energy and charge? Does one prayer beget another, like cells dividing and growing? Or do prayers evaporate once they are "answered?" Or am I even asking the right questions?
What do you think?