We have all experienced it: someone asking for our prayers, either for their need or someone else’s. We receive these requests in emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook, a tweet, or in a simple conversation. They come from our family, friends, or maybe even a complete stranger who knows you are a believer.
Social media is a wonderful way for people to share prayer requests. They ask for prayers for themselves and a situation they might be in; maybe a request is for family or friends; or it could be for someone you don’t even know. I’ve always marveled at the prayer requests Kathryn Jean Lopez posts on her social media, like this one: “Would you please, in your charity, pray for Chris? He is sitting on Fifth Avenue with his dog, with a sign ‘trying to survive.’” I’ve seen her post similar requests for the homeless and sick she encounters on the streets of New York.
We all have our prayer lists. It might be for the conversion of family members; for someone with cancer or is hospitalized; someone who doesn’t know how they will make ends meet. A person might also believe they have a special charism of prayer. Some people dedicate their intercessory prayer for priests and religious. For me, knowing several couples struggling to conceive, I have adopted those couples in prayer.
With all the prayer requests that come your way, how do you pray and intercede for the needs of family and friends? Here are a few suggestions to improve and ensure we hold true to our promise to pray for others.
Adapt the Hail Mary and Pray the Rosary
In one of my devotional books, A Rosary Litany, I renew a practice of St. Louis de Montfort of modifying the Hail Mary by inserting a phrase after the name of Jesus that focuses one’s meditation on the rosary mystery. In a similar fashion, I have taught people and prayed with people by adapting the Hail Mary to include the name of the person I wish to pray for.
If I’m praying for Johnny, I would say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for Johnny, and pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” If I’m praying the rosary, that is a lot of Hail Mary’s by which I have brought the person before Our Lady and asked her to intercede and wrap that person in her mantle of prayer and protection.
Speaking of the rosary, you can also offer a full rosary for an intention, a decade, or even just one Hail Mary for a specific need. Gus Lloyd of the Catholic Channel’s Seize the Day often leads an intentional rosary, asking callers to phone in and pray a Hail Mary of a decade for whatever their need might be. Entrusting our intentions to Mary’s intercession is a powerful way to pray for others.
Pray a Novena and Encourage Others to Pray with You
There are countless novenas in the Catholic tradition to the many saints we all know and love. If someone has cancer, pray a novena to St. Peregrine. Praying for a safe delivery for a pregnant mom? Pray a novena to St. Gerard Majella. Have a hopeless cause? Turn to St. Jude. Looking for a sign? Ask St. Therese to send you roses.
Whatever your intention is, a novena is a powerful way to pray because it is a commitment of nine days or nine hours. And there is power when we pray together. If you are going to pray for a friend, why not ask other friends of theirs to join you in that novena. Pray steadfastly and ask the saints to pray with you for nine days.
Visit a Shrine
There is probably a shrine close to where you live, and if not, there is always the possibility of a pilgrimage to a holy site. These shrines are dedicated to Jesus, Mary, or the saints and usually you can find crutches or other reminders of graces received and healings obtained by a previous pilgrim’s visit to the shrine.
Sometimes these shrines become known for a particular grace. Such is the case with the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, Florida, where couples struggling to conceive visit and ask the Lady of the Milk to obtain for the grace of a good delivery. Those who are sick travel to Lourdes, France to bathe in the healing waters discovered by St. Bernadette.
A pilgrimage to a shrine might be an added touch in praying for someone because it involves sacrifice on your part, and God receives that favorably. When you make your pilgrimage, pick up a card and send a note letting the person know you prayed for them.
Offer Your Suffering or Take on a Penance
The other day, Catholic speaker and songwriter Jackie Francois Angel tweeted, “I’m sick, 5 months pregnant, have a migraine (which makes me throw up), and about to board a 10.5-hour flight. I actually prefer the pain of giving birth to this scenario, but give me some prayer intentions, and it will help me turn this pain into intercession. And, go!”
Jackie understands the value of redemptive suffering, and since she couldn’t do anything about her health situation, she turned it into a prayer. At times we might choose to take on a penance for the sake of someone else. To pray for a friend, we might give up alcohol for a time and turn it into a prayer and offering to God for that person. Your offering or act of denial will become a prayer when given to God as a prayer.
Pray from the Heart
Beside our scripted prayers, there is always prayer from the heart where we spontaneously pray to God, giving voice to the need, our feelings, and desires around an intention. If we are with a person or on the phone with them who is requesting the prayer, we can pray right away, including them in the moment of prayer. As you pray for them in your own words, they will sense how much you care and love them. Don’t miss the opportunity.
For Whom Are You Praying?
You probably have your list of people that you pray for daily, but there might be more out there as you go about your day. Ask the Lord to open your eyes and ears, so that you might see and hear when a prayer might be needed. Then offer your prayer to God in whatever way you choose. The prayer you offer, might be someone’s only prayer, because they might have no one to pray for them or they do not pray themselves.
The Lord said, “ask and you shall receive.” Let us start asking and praying for those who are in need of God’s grace and mercy.