Lately, there is something that I have been forced to sit quietly and consider: the act of praying for someone who doesn’t pray for themselves.
On the surface it’s a no-brainer. Someone is in need of God’s grace and mercy, and so we pray for him. No matter what the need.
No matter the person’s relationship with God.
Right. That’s what we do.
But what exactly are we doing when we do that? Get down on our knees. Find the words we are looking for. Make our petition.
Again and again and again.
For a person who has no knees of their own.
No belief in any power other than themselves.
That shouldn’t matter to us, should it?
Perhaps it’s not a matter of matter.
Perhaps it’s a matter of actually knowing what we are doing.
Just how big is the umbrella that we call intercessory prayer anyway?
My priest, in his prayer intentions for us, always includes, And we pray for all those who have no one to pray for them.
Which is touching.
But it’s a general smile in our souls for others.
Not specific prayers for someone who we perceive needs prayer.
But does he?
Do those around him?
So the question that comes to my mind these days is, When we pray for someone who doesn’t pray for himself, is what we are doing a prayer?
Or is it something else?
Can we, in fact, as praying Christians, go into someone else’s life and do some heavy lifting, that they aren’t or won’t do for themselves?
Are we, in short, religious Supermans here to save the day?
Well, even those questions are the wrong approach to this situation, I think.
And for two reasons.
First, describing the situation as clearly as I can: a person is perceived to be “in trouble.” We expect ourselves to “come to the rescue.”
Come to the rescue of someone who won’t help themselves even to reaching out a hand so we can catch them up into our arms and soothe their pain.
So where is God in that dynamic?
You could say, or wish, that God was in our Emergency Kit, just there to be whipped out and applied as needed.
But, really, this dynamic reduces God to a Quickie Mart. Quick! I’m all out of milk. Go to the store and get some for me!
Without even a please and thank-you.
Just a demand.
Get to it.
Get me out of this mess.
Except we’re not God. We may be representatives of God. And if we actually take that role seriously, we should know better than to make God the solution to someone’s problem. For the simple reason that God’s solutions are not our own.
And God is not on the other end of a call button. God! Get here STAT!
And don’t forget: this is a person who really doesn’t even bother to believe in God. Except as a Quickie Mart provider of whatever is needed.
And let’s admit it. We’ve all had this experience.
We do run out to the store and buy the milk. And hurry it back to the person in need. And she receives the milk. Puts it on the counter in the kitchen and forgets about it.
The response to the “prayer” isn’t even really accepted.
Perhaps it’s because I’m getting old, and, correspondingly, getting really tired of people who put more emphasis on their perceived want than on God.
Someone who won’t lift a finger to get healing for what caused the problem in the first place.
Perhaps it’s due to how our medical profession has changed so drastically: You have a need, you have the money, we fix.
Healing is not about working for restoration in the body, if that’s possible. It’s about applying something from the outside to come in a do the job.
So where does that leave us as sincere and caring intercessory pray-ers?
Well, essentially, on the other side of the door of that person’s life.
The design of the prayer is just all wrong.
For the second reason.
Most of my life I’ve seen the words, Thank you, as the only prayer we really need.
But the situation described above has guided me into modifying that.
Now I see how important it is to keep on our hearts at all times the awareness, Not my will, but yours, be done.
A prayer HAS to begin with faith.
And a explicit statement that we know that whatever the answer to our prayer may be, it is an expression of the will of God.
When a prayer becomes a poster of self-desire, Then It’s Not Really A Prayer.
I want Is Not A Prayer.
It might be the beginning of a prayer. Dear Father, I want….
But if that is all there is to the prayer, It’s Not A Prayer.
If we can get to the level of I need, as opposed to I want, then we are getting somewhere.
Too many people cry when they don’t get what they want from God. But God doesn’t function on the level of want.
God is not Santa Clause.
But even beyond that, if we are praying, we have to turn the answer to the prayer over to God.
We don’t take our malfunctioning cars into the shop and then stand there and scream at the mechanic, directing his actions, as though we know what to do.
We turn the problem over to the mechanic.
And hope that he will get the solution right.
But that hope element doesn’t belong in prayer.
We are Christians.
We have faith.
And that faith is the statement, Whatever you do for me in response to this prayer, I am grateful.
Not after. Not contingent on getting what we think we want.
Not, Do it and I’ll consider saying Thank You.
But Thank You before the prayer is answered. While the prayer is being answered. And, No Matter What, after the prayer is answered.
Not my will, but yours, be done.
Because we are Christians. And that means we surrender our lives to God.
So where does that leave us?
Here this package of desperate need arrives on our doorstep and we are pulled to action.
Pray some more!
But what do we pray for?
For the person who is in need to get down on their own knees and turn their problem over to God. With faith. With respect.
And with gratitude.
Not my will.
Not my demand.
Your solution, Father.