But is there such a thing as divine intervention in response to prayer?
Author Jean-Pierre Isbouts isn’t naive enough not to see that prayer has not stopped evil and suffering from happening throughout human history. He asks if, given the deaths of 40 million people during the world wars of the last century and the violent extremists of ISIS and Boko Haran who delight in beheading people for the glory of Allah, it is still possible to believe in a merciful God?
His response to that question is “Ten Prayers that Changed the World: Extraordinary Stories of Faith That Shaped the Course of History.”
Quoting Plato, Isbouts writes that there is “a spark of the divine” in every person, and it is “a beacon through which God can speak to us and we can speak to him. . . . “All that we need to figure out is the right bandwidth by which to reach him. Some call that spirituality; others call it prayer.
He adds, “I think of it as whispers of God — whispers that have and incredible power to stir our mind, urge us to action, and make us do things we didn’t think we were capable of.”
From Abraham’s prayer to spare his son, Isaac, to Jesus’ prayer that has become the “Our Father,” on to Constantine and the granting of religious freedom to Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, George Washington, and more, the stories are as much history lessons as affirmation that prayer has had an impact on world events.
Catholics in particular will find a worthwhile summary of Luther’s story.
And did you know that the well-loved “Prayer of St. Francis” wasn’t written during the lifetime of the 13th-century saint but in 1912?
Outside of Abraham, only Ganhdi breaks into what is otherwise an all-Christian line-up of the 10 prayers. And frankly, the prayer for fair weather that Gen. George Patton’s chaplains composed so the Allied Army could relieve the troops surrounded by Nazi German forces at Bastogne during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge — as good a story as it is — seems to pale in comparison to the impact the other nine have had on human history.