Last week, I discussed an energy force. It’s the phenomenon that theologian Paul Tillich called “God.” He defined this concept not as a supernatural person but as the “ground of all being.”

If this force exists, is prayer a way of tapping into it?

Many people have personal stories about using prayer with miraculous results. But does it really work, or is it just a concept psychologists call “magical thinking?”

Magical thinking is often seen in young children, who do not have a realistic grasp of cause and effect. But this does not mean adults are immune from this type of logic — especially when emotions dominate over reality.

An example might be a child touching a TV remote. At that very moment, lighting strikes outside. The child, in his underdeveloped mind, thinks his channel changing caused the bright lightning to flash.

Are we then to conclude that all answered prayers are simply acts of coincidence? As a discussion point, let’s take a look at my personal story:

It was 1957 on a warm spring day in Southern California. My relationship with my father was not always the best. He was a professional health practitioner devoted to his work and perhaps to the emotional detriment of his family. As children, our physical needs were always met, but nurturing support at times could be lacking.

On this particular day, my father and I were building an FM radio receiver with cabinets for a speaker system. That day, his guiding hand and encouragement left me with a feeling of love that I had not experienced in the same way previously.

Our spiritual connection was real, and I did not want the feeling to end.

But my folks were social animals, and Saturday evening was no exception. A husband and wife were coming to our house for dinner. I feared my bond with Dad would be cut short, as my parents prepared for the event.

In our hallway was an upright piano. As a joke, Pop put a speaker inside the old relic, which was playing ragtime music. He wanted to see if the sound of our electronic creation was good enough to “fool” our guests into thinking we had a player piano.

As the music continued, I became more concerned about the bond we had formed coming to an end. Therefore, I did only what a child had the power to do — prayer.

Yes, it was a selfish act, but I asked over and over that the guests would not show, hoping my father and I could continue with our new-found relationship.

They were scheduled to arrive around 6 p.m.

At 6:15, the music was still playing, but no guests. By 6:30, there was no knock on the front door. My parents were starting to worry. Dad wondered if an accident had taken place, while Mom worried about her labor-intensive meal being ruined.

The “fake” piano continued to play at 6:45, and by 7 p.m., still no guests had arrived.

Finally, Dad called their home. The husband answered and apologized profusely. They had both “forgotten” the engagement. The party was canceled and postponed for a future date, which I don’t believe ever happened. My father walked over to the piano and unplugged the speaker. I could feel his unmitigated disappointment.

Was the forgetfulness of this couple an answer to a child’s prayer or simply another coincidence? As mentioned before, Mom and Dad were constantly engaged in weekend social activities for years before and after this occurrence. My folks’ active social life continued until they were too old to host. Yet to the best of my knowledge, there is not one other example of guests “forgetting” to attend any other gathering.

In the final analysis, did my prayer work? What were the odds of this happening being pure coincidence?

Well, I can’t say I have a definite answer for either. So in retrospect, I’ll simply demur on the subject, and you be the judge.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer

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