As you know from the email we sent recently, this week’s parish prayer list has been revised. Our goal is to simplify the previous format, as well as to make the list easier to maintain. All this rests on one big hope: that you don’t simply see the email in your inbox and click delete. Or look at it briefly to see if anyone you know is on the list. Or maybe even just read the meditation, and then delete the list! The hope that we have instead is that you spend time with the list and say a prayer for the people and issues on it.
Prayer is part of Christian discipleship and has been from the earliest days when communities of the followers of Jesus sprang up after his death and resurrection. In Acts 2:42, we learn that the community members, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” And yet many of us aren’t sure how to feel about prayer, and especially intercessory prayer (prayer for others), because we’re not sure how, or even if, it “works.” Even so, we are already involved in prayer since we pray together whenever we gather for worship at Holy Apostles. In a sense, the whole worship service is a prayer to God, but specifically, every Sunday (and every Tuesday at the Insight service and every Wednesday at Morning Prayer) we offer up prayers for others. So whether you realize it or not, you are already involved in intercessory prayer.
But perhaps you aren’t sure how to pray on your own? Believe it or not, you don’t need the right words – or even any words. You might simply sit quietly for a moment or two and then ask God to be with the person you are praying for. You might visualize them if you know them, or simply say the name to yourself. It isn’t necessary that you know the details of what to pray for in each case – God knows. What is important is the act of connecting to God and to others through your prayer.
This underlines one of the most crucial aspects of prayer for me – that it is social. When we pray for others, we admit how dependent we are upon them, how inter-related we are with them, and really, all of humanity. We also come to realize that we don’t have to do everything all by ourselves.
We don’t need to know how prayer works physiologically, psychologically, theologically. But what is not mysterious is that the simple act of praying for someone else changes us, helps us remember how deeply we are in relationship with others. And if you are the one prayed for, the same is true – you become ever more aware of the depth of your inter-relatedness with the person praying for you, and with God and God’s creation. You are valued, esteemed, loved. And prayer also reminds us that God, as our Creator and as the glue that holds us together, is our Foundation – not our independent, and fragile, selves.
So happy praying! (And if you’d like to commit to praying every day, please consider joining the parish Prayer Chain!)