I’m finishing up a beautiful novel: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards. At one point in the novel, Bree is talking with her sister Norah. Bree has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and Norah is worried about her. Bree says, “I’m on the church prayer list. That helps.”
This comment struck me first because this is not an explicitly religious novel; that’s the first I read of Bree being connected to a faith community at all.
It also made me glad to know that it is helpful for people to be on the prayer list. When people share their concerns at church and we pray for them—that helps. When I talk with or even e-mail with someone who shares about some deep sorrow or fear and I say, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,”–that helps. When I write names in my prayer notebook and pray for those people—that helps. When the ministry team spends hours sharing concerns and praying for people in the congregation—that helps.
I honestly don’t know what it means—that being prayed for helps. But I’ve read that it is true. I’ve had people tell me that it is true. And I have experienced it for myself.
When I was on retreat last weekend, we were going through a checklist of what we needed to do to put the retreat house back in order for the next group. The last thing on the checklist was: Pray for the group who will come here after you. I said to those with me, “This means that someone prayed for us before we got here.” And I saw the smiles, felt the warmth, that such knowledge generated.
A few weeks ago I ran into a friend from seminary at a preaching workshop. He said, “Wow. It’s great to see you. It has really been on my heart to pray for you over the past month or so. I have no idea why.”
I told him, “My ministerial credentials have been under review. That’s why. And thanks for the prayers. They helped.”
And my Ministry Team at church is amazing. As a pastor, I am generally the one called on to pray for people within the church. But I know that this group of people (along with others, I’m sure) is praying for me. One woman prayed over me after I shared with her a particularly difficult situation in my life. Another offers me her professional massage services—and I know that with each touch comes a prayer. It helps. A lot.
I know that following Christ takes more than praying to him. I know that loving someone takes more than praying for him. Still, I have experienced the power of prayer to bind us to God; to bind us to each other.
I don’t understand exactly why or how, but I believe that prayer helps. And I am grateful, because sometimes all I know to do is pray.