Today someone told me that he prays for me every day.
He is a person I respect and consider one of the finest people I have ever known, so I was not immediately put off by his comment. There have been times when people have said that to me and I have bristled or curdled, feeling that it was a shallow gesture. My judgmentalism about the comment may be unwarranted, but I have been conditioned over the years to reject simplistic religious gestures, and prayer has been one of them that slips into that category awfully easily.
But today I didn’t bristle, and my stomach didn’t curdle. I was warmed by my friend’s offering of the comment. It came in the midst of a conversation about his relationship with people he mentors around the country, and one of the things he said was that he commits to them to pray for them every day. He meant it. I know that he means it, and that his prayer is sincere and heartfelt. It is a perfect extension of his spirituality which is not “cheap” or simplistic. He is an intelligent, prayerful man. His prayer is not for show, and it is not something he splashes around casually.
I’m not exactly sure what I expect from someone’s prayer. Maybe I shouldn’t expect anything. But simply to know that on a daily basis my friend speaks my name, envisions me, and offers himself before God on my behalf is really, really important.
One of my favorite writers, Madeleine L’Engel, wrote in her small book, The Irrational Season, something that has great meaning to me.
“The most difficult thing to let go is my self,that self which, coddled and cozoned, becomes smaller as it becomes heavier. I don’t understand how and why I came to be only as I lose myself, but I know from long experience that this is so.” (p. 119)
As I consider the act of prayer, these words mean a lot to me. Prayer is moving beyond self and recognizing “other.” No matter what name one gives to that “other“, it is important to realize that “other” is. Prayer, in my mind, is wallowing in the presence of “other.” I choose to call that “other” God, even though I don’t fully know what that means. My understanding of God has changed dramatically over the years.
But today I was moved by my friend’s acknowledgement that when he puts himself in the presence of God he mentions my name. What a privilege to be invited to share that sacred space with him. I may struggle to get there, and may come away feeling only partially convinced that anything happened. But that’s not true for him, and he thinks enough of me to invite me into that space. I am honored.
I long ago gave up the childlike understanding that prayer was a time to ask God for bicycles, a good job, or the winning numbers in PowerBall. And I cringe at prayers offered in public which are self-serving and which tend to indicate that God is in the employ of the pray-er.
It was a good day. Every day should be this good.
Photo Credit: GaryDavidStratton