A promise to pray is itself a kind of prayer, but I don’t think the promise is fulfilled simply in making it. Praying for another person is a way of loving them. It holds them in the flow of God’s love when they may have difficulty seeking it for themselves. When a community prays for someone, it lends the strength of its collective faith at a time when an individual may grow weary.
Which all sounds good. But really, how do we do that? If I want to pray for you, it helps to begin by trying to understand what you’re going through. It’s good to acknowledge how things really are for you, at least as best I can. Prayer is mysterious and powerful, but it is not magic. It cannot negate a crisis or remove the traces of a traumatic event. The struggle to create a life in the midst of challenges to body, mind, and spirit is real and ongoing, and that is where we have to start.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what another needs most. In some cases my own emotion surrounding their situation makes a specific prayer impossible to express. Other times I simply don’t know what is troubling them. One way to pray when words fail is to see the one for whom we’re praying held in a beautiful white light. I envision the light enfolding and permeating their being, healing their wounds, buffering them from external shocks, and strengthening their ability to see beauty and meaning in their life. I imagine the easing of body, mind, and spirit through the healing warmth of the light. I think of the light as always there, the divine support given by grace to each of us.
This way of praying works whether we know someone well or only by sight. It has meaning whether we feel closeness or tension with the person we’re praying for. It is a prayer we can use to support our leaders and bolster the everyday people in our lives.
Fr Michael Smith SJ
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