I have always been one who would ask for prayer. I remember as I was preparing for my ordination interview a few years ago, I emailed every pastor in every denomination I could think of asking for prayer. I even emailed nearly every monastery and convent that had a website with a prayer request tab on it. I believe asking another brother or sister in Christ for prayer is so important to our faith lives.
People often ask me for prayer. Sometimes people ask over email, Facebook messages and in person. I always try to spend time in prayer for others. I have been volunteering at a place called Fletcher Place Community Center. There I volunteer as a chaplain offering a listening ear and taking prayer requests when desired. After I talk with someone, I always ask them, “Would you pray for me too?” Sometimes they look confused or surprised as I ask for their prayers.
I remember starting this when I would go to the local jail at my last church. At the end of our small worship services, I would ask them what I could pray for that week. After they would share their requests, I would share mine and would ask “Would you pray for me?” I specifically recall a few of the incarcerated men ask me why I would want their prayers. I would always respond with something like “Our prayers can be heard in jail just as well as they can be in church.” That would bring a bit of a laugh of course, but I truly believe I needed their prayers just as much as they needed mine.
Before I was ordained, I had a green, plain stole that someone had given me a few years before. (A stole is given at the time ordination and is a reminder to be a servant.) I decided to invite the congregation to sign their names with black markers on my stole, so I could carry them with me as I would be ordained by the Bishop. I took that green stole with me to the jail. It now hangs in my office at church and it bears the names of several men who were incarcerated at the time and at least one man who is still serving time in prison. I asked them to sign their names and pray for me as I would be ordained.
We need each other’s prayers. I remember Paul’s words to young Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” We are to be in prayer for and with all people. Pope Francis has become known to ask for the prayers of others including the poor and incarcerated. It’s a recognition that the prayers of the faithful are important. We are in community with one another. I need your prayers, just as you need mine.
Whenever I ask for other people’s prayers, I always share that I am in need of prayer as much as the next person. That is so true for all of us. We’re all in need of prayer and a brother or sister praying for us. I asked one man at the community center how he was one day. He replied directly and concisely, “Well, I’m sick, so I’m not that good.” I said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you start feeling better.” His response, “I’m glad somebody cares. That feels good.” Offering prayer for another person is a way to show you care. It does make you feel better. That’s why I always ask for the prayers of others too.
I invite you to be in prayer for others. As you do, ask other people “Would you pray for me?” The prayers of the faithful are important; the prayers of pastors, lay people, church leaders, monks, nuns, the poor and the incarcerated. I will be praying for them, I hope they all will pray for me too.