I’ll pray for you.
How many times have we typed that on a Facebook post where someone is asking for prayers for a difficult situation?
Thoughts and prayers
How often do we hear this after a tragedy occurs in our country? Almost too much, to the point that it is often ridiculed as separate than action. We don’t need your prayers; we need something done!
But prayer is a form of action, it is a beautiful form of charitable action that unites ourselves to our creator on behalf of our brothers and sisters.
St. John Damascene states that prayer is the
“raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2559)
When we pray, we are actively involving ourselves in being open to petition to God, to hear His voice, to listen in peaceful presence to His command for our lives. When we offer the intentions of others who have asked us to pray for them, we are making a committed effort to unite that person’s intentions with our own intentions, coming together as a Body of Christ.
One way to think of prayer is to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Sympathy is generally defined as the showing of pity or sorrow for another person. Poor you, we might say to someone. Empathy is regarded as being intimately connected with the sufferings of another, to try to be in their shoes and see things from their perspective in order to fully realize their struggles.
To connect these terms to prayer, imagine sympathy as seeing another person struggling and feeling sad for them, and that’s it. Now imagine seeing someone struggling, and putting their struggles into your mind, reflecting on them, understanding the pain it is causing, The Catechism also states that
“Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays.” (CCC, no. 2562)
Thus, when we pray for another, we are using our whole being to act on that person’s behalf, to state that their petitions are our petitions. Thus, we are expressing full empathy when we pray for someone else.
Of course, we can also fall into the habit of saying “I’ll pray for you,” as an easy way to get out of an uncomfortable situation, and then not pray. I know I’ve done this too many times. It is at that point that our words will ring hollow. To prevent that, here are some habits I’ve developed:
- Invite someone to pray then and there at the moment they ask for prayers.
- Talk to the person about their situation, listen attentively, offer prayers and an open ear.
- If you pray for that person later in the day, imagine seeing their face, reflecting on their presence. For example, instead of saying “I pray for John Smith,” I instead imagine what John Smith looks like, and pause on his face, then I ask for prayers. This has helped me slow down in my prayers and reflect more on the person.
- Act. Prayer and action go together since both are forms of charity. Action is living out your prayers.
We pray, we act, and we love.
Daniel Quintero is a newlywed husband, writer, and avid karaoke singer. He currently attends Prince of Peace Catholic Church where he volunteers in the lector ministry and with faith formation. His favorite motto: Awkwardness does not exist.