Years ago when I was overwhelmed by a seemingly impossible task and beset by criticism, lack of support, and bad luck, a woman I didn’t know came to visit. She proposed another job for me to consider taking on. As I walked her to her car, I said, “Pray for me.” Right then and there she stopped on the sidewalk and began talking to God about my and my situation. Wow! I survived.
Some days you may feel as though you are drowning because of trouble. Your life crisis could be one humongous matter or a slew of them. Perhaps you have a major car accident, worry about a sick or addicted relative, face with a health problem, or are let go from your job. The future looks grim and you are scared. Take heart. You are never alone. A multitude of people stand ready to sustain you by their prayers. These intercessory prayers can buoy you up when you can’t swim to save your life.
We Catholics believe in the Communion of Saints. (We affirm this every times we pray the Creed.) All members of the Church—in heaven, on earth, and in purgatory—are bound together and rooting for one another’s welfare. We can reach out to other members and ask their prayers. This means appealing to our Blessed Mother, who is the most powerful intercessor in heaven, to plead to God on our behalf. We can implore other saints as well as people in purgatory to come to our aid. It also means asking people we know (and sometimes people we don’t know from Adam) to pray for us.
A salient feature of each Mass is the Universal Prayer, prayers of the faithful for five or so various intentions. The Mass itself is offered for a special intention. These are listed in the bulletin and maybe announced by the priest. We can also add a particular intention to our Rosary and other prayers.
In our convent hall near our chapel is a large bulletin board where prayer requests are displayed on index cards. You see it pictured at the top of this blog post. We Sisters of Notre Dame also have a prayer line. Sisters are stationed at a special phone during the day and take calls with requests for prayer. (Rather like a spiritual 911 service). When they are not there, the callers may leave a voice message. The requests are written down and conveyed to our super pray-ers—the Sisters in our Health Care Center.
Lifesavers in the Gospel
Scripture is replete with people who act as mediators:
The Canaannite woman who persistently pleads with Jesus to cure her daughter.
The centurion who begs for help for his servant.
The father who asks Jesus to cure his son.
The two sisters who send Jesus word that their brother Lazarus was ill.
Jairus, who asks Jesus to save the life of his dying daughter.
And, most uniquely, the men who drop down a paralyzed friend from the ceiling.
Intercession works both ways. How often we promise to pray for others, sometimes glibly! Some people ask us to pray for them—face-to-face or on Facebook. Maybe we have the habit of signing letters and cards “Love and prayers.” How do we keep our promises so these are not empty words? I found that it helps to write down the names of those for whom I pray and keep the list in my morning prayer book.
Before Mass starts, offering it for a personal intention tends to make you more “intent” on the prayers.
Imitating the woman who prayed aloud on the sidewalk, during a phone call with a person in distress or just unhappy, we might voice a prayer on the spot.
We don’t always know the effects of our prayer. Perhaps in the next world we will discover how our prayers helped another person and also whose prayers kept us from drowning.
• Who especially needs your prayers right now? How can you meet this need?