You’re in my thoughts and prayers.
I must have heard that a dozen times in the last week as my brother recovers from surgery. And I’m sure each one of you has said it to someone who has encountered some physical ailment or mental anguish.
It’s a wonderful thing to say and a well-intentioned gesture. In many instances, it’s about the only thing someone can say to the hurting or bereaved.
That’s a lot of prayers being said for my family and me. It’s good to know. I’m not sure that I believe that all these prayers actually are being directed at us as often as it is articulated. But everyone appreciates the kind thoughts, and really, kind thoughts are their own kind of prayer.
Do you ever wonder what impact someone else’s “thoughts and prayers” have on you or a loved one?
Most of us probably think in terms of those thoughts and prayers leading to the outcome that we’re hoping for. You know, pray for the successful outcome of a surgery or ask for God’s intervention in a situation that could go either way. If the outcome is in our favor, then God answered the prayer.
But as Msgr. Michael Heintz from St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend pointed out in a recent exchange of ideas, “we have to get away from the idea that it’s a kind of negotiation — bargaining with God — like we really have anything that gives us leverage.”
What if my prayer for dry weather so a charitable event can be successful is in direct opposition to the farmer who desperately needs the rain to save his crops? Who wins? Whom does God choose to favor?
A couple of years ago, I sat down and began to make a list of people for whom to pray. I tried to include not only family and friends, but my so-called “enemies” too.
I don’t really have enemies. You’ve got to be more important than I am to actually have enemies. Let’s just say there are a few people out there who don’t love me quite the way some do. They were put on the list.
But like so many other well-intentioned thoughts/acts, I never quite finished the list, and I didn’t stick to the goal of having that list nearby at my desk so I could look at it, think briefly about a person in my life, and offer up a warm thought or prayer for that moment or day.
I wish I would have finished that list and stuck to my intentions. I recently lost a friend who could have used more of my thoughts and prayers. Would we still have him today if I had actually included him on my list? Would he have found peace and comfort had just one additional person been praying for him?
Prayer isn’t going to change God’s mind — as if He had the type of “mind” that could be changed. Rather, we express our desires to God in order to cooperate with Him in bringing about certain effects that He has ordained for our good.
“Prayer is not so much about swaying God as it is placing us in a kind of deeper awareness of the relationship we have to Him,” said Msgr. Heintz. “In the end, what prayer changes most clearly is the person who prays.”
By praying, we acknowledge that we cannot achieve things on our own. It is an act of humility on our part. We may grow frustrated at times because God doesn’t react to things on our time schedule. But the mere act of praying — for the person who is saying the prayer and for whom the prayer is intended — prepares all of us for the acceptance of God’s will.
In the end, we don’t know what impact our prayers have — the human mind is not insightful enough to fully understand that — and that’s okay. But I do know this. I’m going to finish that list and I’m going to look at it and pray for at least a few of those folks every day, trusting that God is listening.
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