Currently I am nursing a cold and enjoying a post-Thanksgiving retreat in Inverness, on Tomales Bay, at St Columbo’s Retreat Center. And I am sitting in front of a sign that reads “Prayer Changes Things.” The word that catches my eye is “things.” What happens to things when they are no longer taken only as things, when they are inflected through art or poetry or, in this case, prayer? What happens when I bear witness to things changed, when the indigence of the object gives way?
A Kantian will argue that what changes is not the thing, but the Subject, the agent, the ego, the “I.” And this is very close — in fact, identical — to how many Christians have come to view prayer. Prayer changes me and, since I am an agent who can act and change things, therefore prayer changes things.
But, what if prayer changes things? Not because prayer changes me, but because I have come to see and understand that things are not things. Prayer changes things.