Quantum physics teaches that certain events are uncertain until observed. This is most easily described with the case of Schrödinger’s cat, an experiment to bring the uncertainty of quantum physics into our everyday experience. He designed a box, inside of which there is a cat and a poison that may or may not be released, depending upon an atomic event. Quantum physics says that, until someone looks inside the box, the cat is in some sense both dead and alive, it is not definite until you see it. Schrödinger’s cat leads to all sorts of scientific and philosophical questions, among which is whether we could pray for the cat before opening the box, since we cannot pray for a dead cat.
Jesus tells us today: “before Abraham came to be, I AM.” At first, this sounds like bad grammar, but it is actually just very careful grammar. “Before Abraham came to be” refers to an actual period of time. Jesus is saying, about this period of time, not “I was” but “I AM.” He is not saying that he existed back then. He is saying that he is existing back then. As Jesus stands talking with the Jews, he is also back before Abraham existed, he is also right here, right now in this church. For God, the creation of the world and the end of the world are all at once. This phrase, “all at once”, is a very good phrase for understanding God’s perspective. He sees all at once. He lives all at once. He exists all at once.
So we can pray for the cat. When we pray, our prayers go outside of time to God, who can put them back into time whenever they are needed. Take the Titanic as an example. We cannot pray that the ship will not sink, since we know that it did, but we can pray for the people on the ship, since we do not know what happened to each of them, and our prayers will be effective. Consider the case of suicide. When a person commits suicide, there is a critical moment, after they have killed themselves, before they die, when they need to repent and be reconciled to God. St. John Vianney once told a woman who came to him in confession about her husband, who had committed suicide, “Between the bridge and the water, he prayed a Hail Mary. He is in Purgatory now. Pray for him.” Where there is uncertainty, there is the possibility of prayer. Our prayers right now can affect a critical moment at any time in the past, because they travel from us through God, who is outside of time. If there is something you want to pray for, find the uncertainty and do not be afraid to pray.