Like most people, I imagine, I get asked to pray for a lot of people and causes; and most of them quite properly deserve my prayers and concern. At the same time, of course, there is the argument that I simply cannot give proper consideration to all of them . . . which leaves the question open of whether I should say that I will pray for them in the first place.
It’s a problem : and it’s not one to which I see an easy answer; certainly it’s one which potentially leads to lots of different ones, and I can’t say with any certainty which of them is (are ?) right . . . so I thought you might like to know the one I have come up with. (And I’ll be delighted to have any useful insights into why it’s right or wrong; because I’ve been puzzling over it for so long that I’m now at the stage of not really being able to see the wood from the trees !)
There are, obviously, some things which need my focussed, concentrated, personal prayer : I try to recognize these clearly, and only offer to pray for those for which I can reasonably expect to provide a proper level of prayer . . . which probably means people I know well, or causes with which I’m already involved, for which I can offer direct prayer on a regular basis.
Beyond that, I simply work on the basis that I try to accept things which I believe in – which may be people, or causes, or even abstract ideas – and then just make them part of the ‘general intentions’ of my prayer life – so they get a legitimate part of my Office and my Rosaries, form a regular intention at Mass and Holy Communion, get the odd Candles lit for them, and hopefully benefit from a variety of other spiritual practices and prayers, whether explicitly or implicitly.
I believe that this is an acceptable way of dealing with it, because at the end of day I believe – as I’ve said before – that God always answers prayers : He just doesn’t necessarily answer them in the way we expect (or even the way we want).
Accordingly, as He knows what is in my heart, it is quite legitimate for me to offer Him my prayers, and my intentions, and leave it to Him to apply them . . . to build up, as it were, a sort of treasury of merit which He can then apply as he sees best.
I rarely if ever know what is best for those for whom I pray : God always does, so if I am prepared to trust in Him, and leave it to Him to decide what to do with what I offer Him, then hopefully it will achieve something useful.
Let me give you an example. Years ago now, someone I loved very dearly was diagnosed with cancer : and we obviously prayed about it . . . but neither of us prayed directly for her healing. Instead, we both tried to emulate Our Lord in Gethsemane, saying to God that we would obviously like her to be cured : ‘but nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done’.
God’s will was done. She wasn’t cured, but she died a wonderfully good death – which several priest friends of hers attested to – secure in the knowledge of God and of His love . . . and her family and friends, strengthened by her Faith, were far better able to cope with her death than is usually the case.
That may not have been what we thought we wanted : but what a gift of God it was.
Now you see why I’d rather just do the earning, and leave the spending of what I’ve earned to God.