Thursday, June 20, 2013

When people ask for prayer

Fervent prayer (1)
Prayer is a part of all religions and many spiritual traditions. People pray to their gods, to saints, to ancestors, to spirits of the elements. The words said and actions done are often wildly different from one another, but the actual act of prayer itself is almost identical.

At some point, I think everyone whispers a prayer. Sometimes it's just a series of heart-felt words that are said to the sky, with a hope that whatever is out there receives the communication. There's a joke that says so long as there are exams in school, there will also be prayer in school, and it's funny and very true at the same time. While they might not be the most orthodox, those prayers are just as real as the ones said in a church, synagogue, or temple.

Artistic prayer (2)
As a minister, people often come to me and ask for me to pray for them. There are several ways I accomplish this. The first is to simply stop what I'm doing when a request arrives, and to say a prayer to the Divine that is appropriate to the request. This is the most simple, and often the most real of my prayers. There's no planning, no time to search for fanciful words. There's just a strong sense of wanting to help another person in whatever way I can. There's a lot of power in that instant response.

Another method that I use for praying for others is a prayer bowl. I sometimes keep a bowl on my altar that I fill with prayer requests. These might be printed emails, jotted names from church or temple, or a more formal prayer list shared by another. Once a week, I will sit down with the bowl, and take out each paper, and read the important parts out loud. It might be just a name, or it might be a story with a plea for help. It doesn't matter. I ask the Divine to give to these people the healing they require, and to bring a measure of strength and joy into their lives.

Formal prayer (3)
If I am blessed with preaching in a church or other formal gathering, I will lead the people in a formal prayer for healing. I often include the names of people who are important to the world (Nelson Mandela comes to mind at this time), and also the names of any people in the gathering who have requested prayer. I ask for healing, for patience, for happiness, for acceptance, and sometimes I even ask for miracles.

I don't know if there's any particular magic behind prayer. I just know that it does no harm at all, and that it often brings about startling results. There are studies that show prayer helps people to heal, even though science hasn't explained why. Whether it's an act of Divine guidance from above, or a miracle, or even if it's just the placebo effect, it doesn't matter. What matters is that prayer has the ability to make people feel better, act better, and BE better.

What do you do when people ask for you to pray for them? Do you have a special way you pray for others?

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1) Image by ensignmedia / morgueFile
2) Image by iamagoo / morgueFile
3) Image by xenia / morgueFile