Praying for Someone

My grandson Jack knocked out his one permanent upper-front tooth. His parents took him to the dentist, who attempted to re-set it. The expectation was that it would either reattach or be rejected. My heart was heavy with concern for him. I couldn’t help but hold him in prayer. I also asked friends to pray for him.

What was I doing? I prayed passionately, with lots of caring energy. And I specifically prayed for his tooth to reattach. As far as I know that is the best thing that could happen for him. The accident would be overcome and he would have less trauma to go through. Sometimes when people pray like this they are in effect trying to work magic—to manipulate God by saying the right words, praying hard enough, getting enough people to pray, or whatever it might take to get God to bring the healing they want.

As a chaplain in oncology I once had a patient who had been struggling with breast cancer for many years but whose body had had enough. Her family had prayed for her through the years, with many remissions. They couldn’t bear to have her die. They asked me to pray for her, hoping that my prayers would get God to let her live even if theirs weren’t getting that result. When she did die, they were in such despair that they gave up on God and left their church.

In order to avoid this pain, some people pray only for God’s will in the particular situation, believing that that is the right way to pray—to be suitably humble. Others simply don’t believe in an interventionist God, a God who cares and who impacts specific situations in human life.

I pray what is in my heart. God knows my heart; there is no point in trying to cover it up. I also know that there is a much larger picture that I cannot see or comprehend. I trust that God loves and wants good. And I let go the prayer. Such praying brings community, strengthens my ability for love and compassion, and keeps me honest and humble, attuned to mystery and paradox.

Queries:

What do you think about intercessory prayer? What is your experience?

If there is that of God in every person, how might that of God in you relate to praying for others?

Prayer:

Pray as you can, not as you can’t. Sometimes action is the prayer to choose.

For further reflection:

“I pray that . . . he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit . . .” (See Ephesians 3: 14-19).

“Praise the Lord . . . who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases . . .” (See Psalm 103: 1-6).

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3 thoughts on “Praying for Someone

  1. A good topic, Patty! One that most of us struggle with. I do, for sure. I stopped wrestling this question a while back, for when life gets tough, I pray anyway!! But I always wonder when I do – “does it make a difference?” I think it does, for it helps Me at least. It keeps Life in perspective again! Happy travels.

    Ann W.

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  2. Intercessory prayer! wow, what a relevant topic for me! Relevant because I have benefited from intercessory prayer more than once in my life, including right now. And also relevant because when I think too hard about it, I have difficulty with it, because it “doesn’t make sense.” “Sense” meaning in a rational, scientific manner. To an extent this is also because some of my friends don’t feel comfortable with the word “prayer.” They prefer “Holding you in the Light.” Or “sending you good energy and positive vibes.” And that is OK– those are prayers too. Or, people are not comfortable praying when they do not know whom or what they are praying TO.

    Do I believe that me saying a prayer to God that so-and-so will be cured makes a difference in whether that person is cured? I am not sure about that. I kind of doubt it. Not that I don’t believe that God cares about every one of us. But sometimes, cure is not going to happen. Does that mean we didn’t pray enough? or that God could have fixed things and just decided not to? Because “we cannot understand” God’s reasons?

    So, I guess my prayers are often wordless ones, and if there are words, sometimes I pray, “Please let so-and-so feel your presence and love surrounding her, and help her know she is not alone.” I don’t know how people pray for me, but I know that I feel it, like a warm blanket surrounding me. It relieves my fears and worries. It gives me comfort, and that is reason enough to do it!

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  3. Prayer makes a difference in my connections with people (and through them, God.) A Friend once shared with me that “God would like to be asked.” That’s certainly the point of the Psalms, even though some of the things “asked for” goes against my principles (Psalm 137, for instance).

    There are also times when I’m not meant to know the outcome, but “pray anyway” comes to mind. I often pray spontaneously when there doesn’t seem like anything helpful I might “do”, or when people come to my mind strongly.

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