“You’re in my thoughts and prayers.”
“I’ll be praying for you.”
How many times have we heard people say those words or said them ourselves? We often say them as a way to bring comfort to someone in need when there is nothing else we can do to help or fix something. But do we really mean it? I started to question that of myself a few years ago.
It seemed as if every time I would scroll through social media, I would find myself typing something similar to what I said above in response to friends’ requests for prayers. Sometimes I simply clicked on the praying hands emoji. Then I would continue to scroll on to the next post or move on to the next thing. I felt like a fraud.
Assuring people that we will pray for their petition can seem like the only thing we can do when faced with struggles. We can’t cure diseases, keep people safe, or fix what is broken—physically, emotionally, or spiritually. What we can do, though, is ask God for help.
Saints Help Us
And therein lies the power of intercessory prayer. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one of the definitions of the word intercessory is: “prayer, petition, or entreaty in favor of another.” Therefore, in terms of our faith, intercessory prayer is the act of offering up prayers to God on behalf of others. What it isn’t, of course, is a magic equation of: we ask, God hears us, and God answers our prayers.
Sometimes we pray by asking for the intercession of the saints or Mother Mary. We may seek out saints who happen to be patrons or patronesses of a certain cause. For instance, if someone is suffering from a chronic illness, he or she may pray to St. Juliana, patroness of those with chronic illnesses. And who among us hasn’t asked for St. Anthony’s help to find something that we have lost?
Doing my Part
And that was when I started my prayer journal. It resides on my bedside table. Written inside are the names of all those I know who need or have asked for prayers.
Some of those prayer requests come directly from people I know. Others come from my social media feeds. Even more come from prayer requests made when, every weekday morning, our Franciscan Media staff gathers for prayer. Finally, I pray for those who carry their burdens deep within their hearts, unknown to both me and others.
The more challenging pages of my prayer notebook, though, are the ones on which I have written the names of individuals who challenge me with their behavior or those who have wronged me. They, too, deserve my prayers.
Every night I open that notebook and pray for each of them—line by line, name by name, situation by situation. Sometimes I ask God for healing. Other times I ask for peace, comfort, or clarity. Mostly I just pray that God gives each of those people what he or she needs. That may not be what either I or that person is asking for, but I know that God will provide what he or she needs.
And, of course, as a mom I pray to Mother Mary to watch over my kids, protecting and guiding them as they grow and step away from me and my husband.
Before I finish my prayers and close my notebook, though, I say a prayer for myself. I ask for the strength to be present to those in need of comfort, as well as patience and love for the times when I am being less than loving. And I remind myself—the writer—to remember that words matter. So, for anyone who has asked for my prayers, rest assured that I truly mean it when I say, “I will be praying for you.”