A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


It was a simple, innocent question from someone I've never actually met in real life.

"You probably pray," my young e-mail correspondent wrote. "If you don't mind me asking, what do you pray about? And why?"

I didn't mind. Although prayer is a deeply personal practice for people of all religious persuasions, I'm happy to talk about it. So I clicked on "reply" and prepared to be profound.

"You're right," I wrote, "I do pray. Faithfully."

Good start, I thought. I especially liked the double-meaning of "faithfully." I hoped my young e-friend would appreciate it.

"And when I pray," I continued, "I pray about . . . "

My mind started swimming. What DO I pray about? And what can I say about prayer that would have meaning to someone who wasn't familiar with the role prayer can play in someone's life?

"I pray about . . . well . . . everything."

Duh! That doesn't tell her anything. Come on, Mr. Writer. Mr. Communicator. Mr. Holier- Than-None. Come up with the words that will help her understand what prayer has meant to you through 45 years of living in-and-out of intimacy with God (and you'll have to tell her the truth -- there has been more out than in). Tell her about the times you prayed and felt like your words were racing on Heaven's Autobahn right straight to God -- a feeling so exhilarating that it helped you through the times when you felt like your words were bouncing off the ceiling and crashing to the floor around you. Tell her about the time your eldest sister felt impressed to pray for your eldest brother at precisely the same moment he was contemplating suicide 500 miles away, and how he was immediately filled with such a powerful feeling of peace that it turned his life around. Of course, you'll also have to tell her about the times you've prayed with all your heart and soul for stuff that . . . well, let's just say that you're still waiting for those answers.

Still, I pray. But why?

I pray because my parents prayed, and I saw how it imbued their lives with meaning.

I pray because I like how I feel when I pray: peaceful, hopeful and optimistic.

I pray because I have two children at home, learning and growing in a world that sometimes isn't child-friendly.

I pray because I have a daughter in college, facing life on her own for the first time.

I pray because I have two newlywed children, trying to figure out marriage at a time when so many around them have quit trying.

I pray because I have a granddaughter.

I pray because I want to do everything I possibly can -- everything --to support our military men and women, our law enforcement officers, our fire fighters and our ballot-counters.

I pray because , , , well, who else are you going to thank for that sunset?

I pray because I have a father with Alzheimer's.

I pray because I can never get through to Bill Gates.

I pray because I know how much fathers like to hear from their children.

I pray because there is hunger, poverty and pain, and there's only so much I can do.

I pray because I believe, and I believe because I pray.

And when it comes right down to it, that's the only answer that really counts.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and