Today's poem is by Richard Cecil

The Efficacy of Prayer

"Those who pray recover from illness
and injuries twice as fast as atheists."

Yes, but however hard they pray,
all of those hopeful people die
which means eventually their prayers
go unanswered, just as mine did
back when I used to pray for things.
"God, please make Elise love me."
"God, let me hit a home run."
"God, I'll make a pilgrimage
to Rome if You'll cure my dog's cancer."
I never got what I prayed for
because I prayed for miracles,
not for expensive stuff I wanted
like the Lionel scale model train
I begged and begged my parents for
until they went in debt to buy it.
"God's not Santa Claus," I learned
from a sermon called "What To Pray For"
preached to children every Christmas.
"Don't pray for toys; pray for world peace."
Good advice, but hard to take,
since prayer seemed to make no dent
in war after war, year after year,
and "peace" implied some creepy truce—
two trigger happy, edgy armies
prepared to mow each other down
if either crossed the DMZ.
Since our side started all the wars
it made more sense, it seemed to me
to pray for victory, not for peace.
But we were like the New York Yankees—
we didn't need to pray to win;
the other side was bound to lose.
So I just prayed for things I wanted
that I would never get unless
some law of nature were repealed.
God, help me catch the touchdown pass
instead of fumbling the football.
God, let me not be chosen last."
But God never bent his laws,
which led me to conclude that He
did not exist or didn't like me—
either way, no point in prayer.
But now I read that praying's healthy,
while Vitamin E & C don't work
in the massive doses I've been taking—
they may even shorten life,
which means I'm doomed to see hell sooner
if God exists, and if he doesn't
I'm going to spend less time on earth,
which seems to me like Paradise,
than those who think they're going to heaven,
who call the earth "a vale of tears."
That must be why their prayers are answered:
they hate it here, so they're forced to stay.
Oh. how I wish I could learn to pray!

Copyright © 2007 Richard Cecil All rights reserved
from Tar River Poetry
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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