I Will Pray

Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.

People have been doing this for hundreds of years all over the world. There is something that wells up within the human heart that makes us want to pray for another, especially in times of hardship. It is a gentle stirring within, which prompts us to go beyond ourselves. The other side of that, of course, is the movement, deep inside, which prompts us to ask the other person to pray for us. With all of this, there is the spontaneous admitting that we are not able to go it alone. And, in our asking and our praying, the anguish somehow seems to be cut in half.

What does it mean to pray for another? How do we do it, and how does it work? For one thing, when we offer to pray for another, we are, in fact, taking on the burden of the other. In love, we are saying that their concerns are our concerns, and are dear to us. Like God, we desire the best for this other person, who may be going through a hard time. We are telling them that they are not alone. Some time ago, a friend, who had cancer, told me what it felt like to be prayed for. “I felt wrapped in love,” she said. “There was a spiritual presence which gave me strength and support.”

Prayer Changes Things

To pray for another is a true act of love. In every act of love, God becomes nearer. This act of love changes the one who prays and the one being prayed for. It also changes the given situation in some way. New energy becomes evident. Although the prayer may not be answered according to the specific manner in which it was said, God comes close with love and mercy in a new way. Something good and different always happens.

True spirituality includes our neighbor. In The Courage to Pray, Fr. Rahner points out that the world is always the starting point for our relationship with God.1 Through others, and our love for them, we attain a certain immediacy to God. Hence, love is the prompting behind our desire to pray for the other. Intercessory prayer also brings with it an inner surrender to the God of love, on the part of the one who asks and the one who prays.

Any prayer, uttered in love, gets us ready to receive what God wants to give us. In some way, the answer is always connected with the Reign of God. Although we may not always know just how to pray, we can always pray that the best outcome will come to be for the other person. It is possible that, in the plan of God, the other person needs to experience the suffering at hand in order for a greater good to occur. Hence, it seems wise to let happen what will happen and to give God the latitude. Usually, our vision is too small to know what is best for the other.

Some Kind of Action

It is also advantageous to concretize our prayer in some way and to follow it up with some kind of action, no matter how small. We can remember the person by name at Eucharist. We can pray a decade of the rosary for the other person. We can “offer up” the anguish of a bad day. Since we are bonded to the other person in prayer, it is also strengthening to ask the other to let us know the outcome.

I once viewed a film on the Carmelite Sisters in Lisieux, France, the Carmel of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. The Sister being interviewed stated that everyone was being prayed for even before they asked. It is comforting to know that, at any time, one can claim the prayer going on in all the monasteries and places of prayer in the whole world.

Sometimes, when I write notes to myself and ponder all the good things that have happened to me, I wonder if this is due to the fact that someone I do not know, in a far off place, has been praying for me. It prompts me to want to do the same for another.

1See Karl Rahner and Johann Baptist Metz, The Courage to Pray, (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1981), p.55.