First Person

Prayer isn’t our work, it’s God’s

I mostly agree with Jeffrey Weiss about prayer. I think St. Paul would too.

Read Jeffrey Weiss’s article, “My friends are praying for me. Does God care?

Jeffrey Weiss might ex­pect a clergyman to critique his appraisal of the book of Job and to argue that “prayer works,” as I heard from a TSA agent who recently squinted at the disparity between the precancer face on my ID and the one in the flesh before her. “I’ll pray for you to be healed,” she whispered as she checked my boarding pass.

But with a terminal cancer of my own—mine’s in my marrow, as voracious as it is rare—I would tell Mr. Weiss this: I think you’re exactly right to point out how the book of Job reveals the theological problem in how we often speak of prayer. God is incomprehensible. As God says to Job, everything that is did not have to be—a reminder woven into the opening line of scripture, “In the beginning . . .” We are, Job learns, contingent creatures. Our knowledge can never bridge the gap between us and our Creator. If this is true, you’re exactly right to caution against the way we speak of prayer working.