Can a butterfly flapping its wings at The Empty Cross in Kerrville, Texas, produce a tornado in Brazil?
In 1963, meteorologist Edward Lorenz presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science. His theory, stated simply, was: “A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air — eventually capable of starting a windstorm on the other side of the planet.”
“Lorenz and his ideas were literally laughed out of the conference. What he had proposed was ridiculous. It was preposterous. But it was fascinating!” recaps Andy Andrews in his book “The Butterfly Effect.”
Decades later, physics professors at universities worldwide came to the conclusion that the butterfly effect was authentic, accurate and viable. Eventually, it was accorded the status of a law. Now known as The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions, this principle has proven to be a force encompassing more than mere butterfly wings. Science has shown the butterfly effect to engage with the first movement of any form of matter — including people.
Could it be that the vivid image of a butterfly fluttering it’s delicate wings also is a metaphor for explaining how prayer produces a multiplication effect in the spiritual world? That a single prayer, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe or an individual’s life forever?
Webster’s Dictionary describes science as “the state of knowing.” In contrast, the Bible — in Hebrews 11:1 — describes faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
Perhaps, knowing the scientific aspects of “The Butterfly Effect” can help us to comprehend how small actions, like prayers, can produce powerful life changing results within the unseen spiritual atmosphere.
Saint John Chrysostom wrote about the power of prayer in the 4th century: “Prayer is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings. The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire; it has bridled the rage of lions, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, expanded the gates of heaven, assuaged disease, rescued cities from destruction and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.”
Imagine the impact of one act of prayer allowing for another and yet another, linking in ways we never imagined. If we could tabulate these ramifications, they likely would be as startling as that of the butterfly effect.
Even a small act of prayer reverberates beyond anything we might imagine.
London Preacher Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence.”
What do we take away from this? Perhaps, it is that small acts of praying for others spin the web that holds everything important in life together. That what we do every day in prayer is more important than what we do once in awhile. In other words, there is power in the frequency of our prayers.
Prayer is powerful, yet every prayer possibility awaits a prayer giver. Literally, the Butterfly Effect process is dependent upon frequent prayer-givers. The Book of James encourages each of us to be recurring prayer-givers.
“Make this your common practice … pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” James 5:16 (The Message Bible)
When we pray, we are not just talking to ourselves. Praying to God involves us in an audience with God as we actually come into the presence of God to ask and receive. James encourages us to pray for others as an act of love. The future depends upon intercessors, as our prayers through the butterfly effect, influence the course of history for those we love.
Understanding the impact of the Butterfly Effect can give us hope when there is little hope, encouraging each of us to constantly be aware we can make a difference in the future of our families and others through prayer.
Every prayer has the power to change circumstances, other people and even the course of history. Prayer is spiritual nutrition. Prayer changes us and it changes others.
The initial small conditions of each prayer have disproportionately large effects over time.
Are you empowering the future of people who you are called to love through your frequent prayers? Remember the guidance from The Book of James to make frequent prayers your common practice.
Also, be encouraged by the promise, “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” Your prayers make a difference just like the delicate fluttering wings of a butterfly.
Prayer: Father, today we come to you grateful for the hope you promised to us through access to communicate directly with you in prayer. Thank you for multiplying the power of each simple prayer request through the Butterfly Effect within your spiritual kingdom. Please give each of us the daily wisdom, urging of our hearts and guidance to be frequent prayer-givers as we love one another through prayer. Amen!
Jeff Anderson is servant pastor of SERV Kerrville, a nonprofit collaborating with community partners to empower lifelong learning. He can be reached at jeff@ServKerrville.com.