Regular readers know that our email prayerline is an important part of our service of others. All day, every day, we receive numerous requests for prayer. Some are heartbreaking — pleas for someone who is dying or in terrible circumstances, perhaps; others are more run-of-the mill requests, to get over a bad cold or have a safe journey and the like; all are taken seriously and prayed for perseveringly by the community. Sometimes we smile over a request, when it is obvious that the person asking thinks of God as their Fairy Godmother and wants, not just good health and happiness but academic and financial success as well — oh, and a nice house, a good car, a beautiful girlfriend and a few other things into the bargain. Usually such requests make it clear that the one doing the asking doesn’t have time to ask God about any of this himself (and possibly isn’t actually doing much about it, either), so please would the nuns pray, thanks (the thanks bit is optional). One thinks of sausage machines! At the other extreme are those who are almost afraid to ask anything, and hedge and qualify their requests with so much humility, one wonders whether they see God as a loving Father or as a slightly malevolent Power to be placated.
What I suspect few of the people who use our prayerline appreciate is that they are being prayed for by real people who are genuinely interested in their concerns. And if we are interested, surely God is even more concerned? You are the apple of his eye, how could he not care? Occasionally, we hear back from someone we’ve prayed for, especially if something has turned out well. That is always a joy. But I often think of those who have turned to us in desperate situations, full of blankness and despair, and wonder what has become of them — not out of curiosity but out of a sense of connectedness. Prayer is not a production line. To intercede for others isn’t like turning a tap on or off. When people ask us to pray, we pray, and we are all caught up in the prayer of Christ, our eternal High Priest, who alone prays perfectly and unceasingly to the Father.