Prayer and hope Prayer does make a difference when it comes to hope. The psalmist says as much (Ps 71:5-6, 14): 

For you, O Lord, are my hope, 
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. 
Upon you have I leaned from my birth. . . . 
But I will hope continually,
and will  praise you yet more and more.  

Psalm 33:18-19 further assures us: 

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his merciful love.
that he may deliver their soul from death,
and keep them alive in famine.

Sam Ceccola would attest to that fact. He first beat lymphoma eighteen years ago. Then, he beat skin cancer, and brain cancer, and lung cancer, and prostate cancer. What scared him was not the idea of death, as he’d come to deal with that possibility when his cancer first appeared in 1992. It was, rather, concern for his wife, who was waging her own private battle with fibromyalgia. Sam made up his mind to do everything he still could to make life easier for her (cf. Spirit magazine, Sept. 2010, pp. 92-96).

Besides mantle cell lymphoma, a rare and often lethal form of cancer, he also fought into remission prostate and lung cancer and faced surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. Sam’s oncologist would have given him a one-in-ten chance of survival. Radiation treatments for the lymphoma burned up his salivary glands and damaged his jaw. He suffered several attacks of a rare pneumonia that inflamed his lungs. He was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome — often a precursor to leukemia — and a recurrence of melanoma. He was fortunate when benign polyps were found in his bladder.

But he’s still fighting and praying. 

People ask him all the time for his secret. How does he keep going? He answers, “I can only pray that I’ve inherited some of my father’s genes.” His 94-year-old father still lives on his own. Above all, he says, he trusts God and his doctors. 

That sounds like a good prescription for anyone. Praying does make a difference. It helps us put our trust in God and other people, who care for us.

Question for reflection/action/commitment

Why do prayers make a difference?

Let us pray

Lord, watch over your people, who come to you in confidence. Strengthen the hearts of those who hope in you. Give courage to those who falter because of their failures. In this holy season of Advent, lead them closer to you in hope, by the power of your Holy Spirit.  May they one day proclaim your saving acts of kindness in your eternal kingdom. Amen.

Bishop Robert  J. Baker is a noted speaker and author and currently serves as the bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama.

This is an excerpt from "Reasons for Hope: Meditations for the Advent Season." You can read more reflections here.