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The joy of praying for others

A few weeks ago, one of my friends sent me an urgent message. She is captain of a large research ship, and she was looking at forecasts for the day ahead. The weather didn’t look good, and she was concerned about how she and her crew would dock the ship safely at the end of the day after a long trip.

Would we pray for a safe docking?

Absolutely. What a prayer request! I texted my prayer group to invite them – and their children – to pray. They replied quickly, naming saints they would ask to intercede, and saying how excited their children were to be praying.

I prayed throughout the day, and I invited my children to pray with me. My friend had told me what time they would be docking, and I was cooking dinner as the hour approached. I talked with God about the ship whenever I thought of it and asked him to lift the fog and guide the hands and minds of the crew in bringing the ship safely to its dock.

As I was washing the dishes after dinner, my ship’s captain friend wrote to let me know they had made it. The crew had had a bumpy ride, but they had docked safely. I shared the update with my friends and family who were praying, too. It was a relief and even exhilarating to feel that we had played a role – however small – in guiding that ship home.

I absolutely love being asked to pray. Even when the intention isn’t as dramatic as praying that a ship will come safely through the fog and choppy waters into its dock, I am so happy when someone lets me into a problem or a dilemma and asks for my prayers. I feel so honored to be entrusted with a request that matters to someone I love – or even a stranger on social media.

We are all part of the Body of Christ. Being asked to carry an intention to Jesus on someone’s behalf is an extraordinary gift and privilege. And praying is something I can do.

There is so much we cannot achieve. We might not be able to heal the sick or solve international conflict or offer meaningful comfort to a grieving family. Sometimes we don’t have time to make a meal for someone – and even when we do, that gift still seems inadequate.

But we can always pray. We can pause during the day to say a Hail Mary for someone. We can pray a rosary or talk to the Blessed Mother or a favorite saint about someone’s concerns while doing household tasks. We can carry intentions to Mass. We can offer the challenges of the day for someone who is carrying a particularly heavy burden.

Even when we cannot find the words, we can hold people in our hearts, praying for and with them. What a joy it is to be able to accompany one another through life’s journey in this way.

Prayer can move mountains and bring about miracles. I hope you’ve seen that happen, too. But even when it doesn’t lead to the results we are hoping for, prayer has a powerful impact. It helps us feel connected to people and places and issues beyond ourselves. It opens our minds to the challenges that others are experiencing. It broadens our perspective. It helps us grow in gratitude and hope. It deepens our friendship with God and with others. Prayer changes us in important, meaningful ways.

“My little children,” St. John Vianney said, “your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven, and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the souls and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.”

Sorrows disappear, miracles happen, and ships come safely home. Amen.

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