I belong to a Sunday School class that embraces praying for one another….and for those brought to the class through a shared time called “prayer concerns”. It happens every Sunday….our class president, Jerry, writes the requested names on the board. Class members send cards to each person, if requested. These names are included in Jerry’s opening prayer.
So, we start each class with others on our hearts, on our minds……and take their names home with us covered by a covenant to include them in our prayers all week….or longer. Their names are listed in our newsletter as confirmation of their importance to us…..and as an affirmation of our responsibility to them.
This week I asked our class members to pray for George Harvey and his daughters…..a family who lives in Florida who recently suffered the death of George’s young wife, Tory……mother to Abbey and Millie, their beloved young daughters. Cancer has claimed this young woman’s life. God has claimed her in victory over that death. She is well now.
After Jerry wrote the above on the board, I kept looking back at the names….these as well as the others. And admit my attention kept wandering back to George and his girls. To his parents, Kaye and George who lost their young daughter to cancer a few years ago, during Kaye’s tenure as a pastor at our church. Beloved friends. I thought of Tory’s family, whom I do not know. I considered with some needed depth what it means to pray for someone else, especially those we have never met! I have long been taught and know it isn’t necessary that we have met. I have rejoiced in knowing that.
I know in my heart God has made us a family…..a diverse family across many localities without borders. Several don’t know George or Millie or Abbey personally. We didn’t know Meadow Pollack, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Or Alan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian child who drowned trying to reach safe shores. Or Malala Yousafzay, a young woman from Pakistan who still fights for the right to an education for all children. Or Stephon Clark, recently killed in the backyard of his grandparents’ home.
But we are called to pray for them, too. We have the privilege to pray for them. We have the responsibility. I will leave the theology of prayer to those who teach us. But, starting with my parents’ teachings forward, I have become convinced that prayer is a powerful, and oft underused, gift. It connects our diverse communities, be they local or national or international with connection, with a commonality that transcends differences. For me to pray for you, I first have to think about you, wonder who you are, what your needs might be, what your joys might be, your sorrows. Even if far away, never to meet, you become a person to me. You do become my family, my neighbor, in the way God has taught.
I remember some years ago having lunch with a homeless gentleman, gathered with several of us who were his friends. I asked him if he would like to pray. He told me he didn’t know how. I suggested he speak as if he were having a conversation with God. My simple definition of prayer. I wish I had a recording of his words. Oh, my! He learned he had “the right” to pray……and he learned he had the power to pray. And then, we all learned from him!
So, a seemingly simple request every Sunday has reminded me of its power. It has rekindled my focus on its importance. It has disallowed taking it for granted!
So, to George and Millie and Abbey, Kaye and George and Tory’s family…..please know you are in our prayers. We lament not being able to offer our physical presence, meals, hugs or the like…..but we are blessed by the knowledge our prayers go with you, especially those first days returning to school, to work, to a changed way of living. Prayers have answers not only through those of us far away but in the actions of those with you, who love you and will do anything you ask….or don’t ask. I am honored to bring your names to classmates I know who will pray for you because they accept the privilege.
We care about you.