Whether it’s for a football player stricken during a Monday night game, or for an ailing pope at the Vatican, or for a persecuted cardinal in China, or for the restoration of peace in Ukraine, or for a missing mom in Massachusetts – it seems that the community has been summoned to prayer on an unusual number of occasions recently.
Certainly all of these are very worthy intentions. But it strikes me as ironic that in a culture that typically ignores the presence and power of God, we certainly know where to turn when we need help, don’t we!
It’s true that Jesus strongly encouraged us to pray for what we need. And in the Letter of St. James we’re told “to pray for one another that we might find healing.” (5:16) But the practice of intercessory prayer raises a few relevant questions. How do we measure the power of prayer? Do our prayers really make a difference? And why exactly do we pray for one another?
Well first, we pray for God’s assistance when there’s a need or a problem we can’t handle by ourselves – for peace in the world, (especially these days), for recovery after a natural disaster, for healing from an illness, or to overcome a spiritual struggle. In asking for God’s assistance, it’s not so much that we want God to “change his mind,” as some have alleged, but rather, that God’s presence and providence will be realized in our time of need.
We pray for others as a sign of solidarity with them. Usually we can’t personally solve the problems of the world or relieve others of their suffering. But in praying for them, we remind them that we’re aware of their plight, that we care for them, and that we stand with them in fraternal solidarity. Knowing that someone is praying can be a source of great comfort and strength for our suffering brothers and sisters.
And we pray for others as an expression of our own faith. We believe in a personal God who really loves us and cares for us. And when we pray we’re simply doing what Jesus told us to do: “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you,” Jesus said. (Mt 7:7)
So then, let’s never hesitate to pray, for ourselves and for others. It’s a beautiful expression of our faith and a reminder that as we travel the world, we’re all in this together.
Something to think about: What are your prayer intentions at the moment?