Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Pray For Me
I won’t pretend a guess at how many people I have prayed for by name over the years, certainly many thousands, and if my general intentions be heard, certainly millions. For them, I know my prayers have been answered. Some of those prayed for have found peace in their lives, others perhaps only a brief respite from their daily trials, and for others God has answered my prayers in ways only He knows. But I am confident, He answers.
Many have thanked me for my prayers, when I made my intents known to them. And some have laughed. Yet the sun shines on those who want it, or not. One thing which I know I haven’t done, however, or certainly only rarely done, is to ask someone to pray for me. Perhaps some of my prayers for others are going unanswered, because God expects me to be the answer to their needs. And so while I wait for His answer, He waits for mine.
Humility is a hard thing to hold onto. We are so concerned about ourselves, and we so often forget the thing I constantly remind myself of: Do Not Be Anxious. I think that sometimes our prayers for others are out of our anxiety for them. We want to DO something for them, and so we pray --- asking someone else to do something. Perhaps that is not enough; perhaps WE need to do something directly, to ease others’ anxiety, even if it is only to temporarily take their minds from their worries. Perhaps we could, in all sincerity, ask them to pray for us and our worries, to take their mind off of theirs.
My neighbor was a wild young man. I won’t judge his sins, but certainly many were visible for all to see (including the police). But now he is older, and a long-awaited maturity has come upon him. And with maturity comes wisdom --- usually, but not always, and perhaps not in his case (?). Wisdom is a meshing of many good things and good knowledge obtained over a lifetime, but what if you have had few good things you can look back upon? Can one feel the vacuum from a lack of wisdom, of understanding what it all means? Can someone feel after many years that they are in a kind of darkness, yet know that there IS a light, even if they cannot see it? Do they want, even that which they cannot define, a peace in their lives? And if they do, how can we self-proclaimed instruments of His Peace, help provide it to them?
I don’t know the depth of my neighbor’s faith or prayer life, if any. I do know that he does worry about many good things, for himself, certainly, but also for others. And I help him as I can --- or feel I should. I’ve given him simple prayers, such as Fr. Groeschel’s Prayers in Dark Times booklet. He said those helped, and he thanked me. But I wish I could do more, to get him closer to the One who can really help him, to give him some real wisdom and peace.
But to give him that help, perhaps I need to ask him to help me, first.
The next time he, in his depression, feels like telling me some of his woes, I shall again listen and then offer to pray for him, but then I’ll go on to tell him some of my woes. I’ll try to sound needy --- and the Lord knows I certainly am --- but in a matter-of-fact way. I won’t be dramatic about my woes, but I will honestly show that I have them. And then he’ll see that, for me, there is absolutely nothing he can do in return for my help to him.
And then I’ll ask him to pray for me. I don’t know if he really even believes in God. It won’t matter, because I do. If he squirms at my words or says “I’m not much for praying,” I’ll respond: “That’s okay. But I believe there is a God who listens, and even if you think you would only be talking to the wall, please, for me, pray for me. I know you worry about repaying me for the things I have done for you. Please, if you really wish to do something back for me, pray for me.”
I don’t know if he will or won’t do what I ask, but I am sure he will respond to my sincere request with a “yes, I will.” And will his prayer then start to open his heart to the ways of God, to find true peace there? I don’t know, but I feel that in many difficult situations the best thing we can do for someone is to ask them to talk to God, even if the conversation starts about us. I believe there is a God who hears all prayers, even of those who don’t know for sure that He exists.
And certainly we need others’ prayers, and perhaps especially from those who don’t even know Him. For whose prayers do you imagine God desires more: the prayer of the sinner or skeptic --- or stranger, the cry of a lost sheep, or the prayers of those who say they believe in Him, who say they trust Him, and yet who always seem to be asking Him for things ---- for themselves?
I think Jesus demonstrated by His life whose prayer He listens for. You truly wish to help your neighbor? Ask him to pray for you. And trust that God will help --- both of you.