Often I come to prayer with uncertainty. As a child, I understood intercessory prayer as a way to give God my list of "favorite things you should change" about me, other people, or situations. Now I'm very aware that I may not know "what to pray for" that is truly right for the person or situation.
The Church, like my adult children, extends far beyond my personal experience. My values, inner life, and communal life sometimes give me confidence that I know good steps forward for the Church or the bishops or for my grown kids - yet at the same time, I know that they see and experience things beyond my horizons. They discover truths I may not grasp yet (and vice versa). The Spirit lives within them in ways I may not perceive.
How to pray for them requires sensitivity to all that. Plus plenty of humility. Plus healthy self-respect for what I do genuinely have to offer.
For perspective on how to hold a person, organization, or situation in prayer without assuming I know what they should do, I asked several wise friends how they pray for their adult children. They gave me practical, beautiful ideas:
- Wordlessly cradle the person or situation in my arms, in my heart. Simply hold (her, him, them, it) in tender love. Be aware that my own embrace is an expression of the divine love in which we live and breathe and have our being. (A way to pray for LCWR and member congregations as they prepare for their Assembly?)
- When I feel more emotional distance than a tender embrace requires, I can instead wordlessly hold the person or situation in divine Light. Imagine him or her, them or it, standing at a distance where I can clearly see them. Become aware of divine Light entirely surrounding and supporting them - divine Light ever growing within them - a presence so real that it seems tangible. Immerse myself in that experience of and hope for God present in and to and for them, enlightening, warming, supporting, and pervading them. (A way to pray for Archbishop Muller as he begins his tenure as head of the CDF?)
- Take a moment to be mindful of the presence of God in all things around me, through me, in me. In a stance of holy listening, ask:
1. God, what is your prayer for this person/place/situation?
2. What is your prayer in me for this person/place/situation?
3. What do you want my prayer to be for myself in this regard?
4. How would you have me be with this person/place/situation?
5. Is there anything I need to surrender in order to join more fully and freely in your prayer for this person/place/situation?
6. How would you have me see this person/place/situation?
7. Is there anything for me to say or do on your behalf in regard to this person/place/situation?
8. How would you have me hold this person/place/situation in my heart?
9. End with a deep desire for a continual yielding to God's prayer at work in me.
(Fr. Phil Cover recommended this method to my friend Arlene. I especially value the clarity of these reflective steps to truly unite my prayer with God's infinite and intimate wise love for the person or situation.)
And so, in solidarity with LCWR and Catholic Sisters, in union with the unimaginably vast presence of God among us and in our Church and world, and in love for my adult children, my husband, my sister, and the many other people and situations I care about - I pray.