Following the Vicar’s letter in last month’s magazine on the subject of prayer, the greatest of gifts in our relationship with God, it was thought appropriate to have another article on how the life of prayer should spill over into a passion to pray for others. So perhaps this article can start with a question.
Will you pray for me? Quite often you hear people asking that question. There may be many reasons for the question – a tough time ahead, a test of some sort, an issue to confront, a relationship that has soured, an illness, a bereavement. And the question may not be just for the questioner. It maybe for someone else whom they know or are seeking to support or help in practical and/or spiritual ways.
However the question is posed, it contains a number of implications. First, it suggests that the questioner believes, however superficial that belief may be, that God is involved in human relationships. Secondly, it suggests that your faith and belief in prayer, will bring comfort and strength to the questioner. And, thirdly, it suggests that if you and the questioner pray together, a deeper awareness and discernment of God’s activity and purpose, in whatever the situation, will result.
There are many different instances in the Bible where prayers are offered for people in many circumstances. The best summary of the value the church places on praying for people can be found in the letter of James Chapter 5; verses 13 -16 say Are any among you suffering? . . . . they should call the elders of the church and have them pray over them . . . the prayer of faith will save . . . and you will be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Accordingly, many churches offer a ministry of prayer whereby a small team of clergy and laity, with some basic training in listening skills and articulating what is heard into a prayer, pray for people in the belief that prayer can change things.
Now, of course this is not the only way we may pray for one another. In St Michael’s we pray for sick people every day at Morning Prayer. On Saturday mornings in our prayers for the life of the parish we pray for the sick and for visitors to our church who have left requests for prayer. On Sundays at all our services the needs of people are offered in our prayers. And we must not forget that sometimes it is with thankfulness in our hearts that we want to offer a prayer. Again that might be something personal, or for some happening in the wider world e.g. the Queen’s long reign. Indeed thankfulness can itself bring healing and hope.
But, after the 10.00am service on Sunday, in the Lady Chapel, we offer a ministry of prayer. A small group of us teamed into pairs, one male one female, and trained as mentioned above, are available to pray with you about anything that is on your mind, a need, a thank you, an illness, whether it is for yourself or someone else. This is done in complete confidence and will not be shared with anyone else unless you have given permission for that to happen. For instance it may be that a pastoral visit from the clergy or one of the Pastoral helpers in the church would be appropriate. So please ask for prayer if you feel you need it.
Isaiah has a lovely phrase that describes prayer so well – ‘waiting for the Lord’. From Isaiah 40 verse 31: ‘those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’.
So never be too shy to ask the question, ‘Will you pray for me?’