I don’t know if you’ve ever asked or responded to the question “How can I pray for you?”, but in my life it is a question that I have come to utter and answer frequently.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when it happened, but sometime within the last few years, it has become a natural part of my relationship with the Lord to intercede for others and their specific intentions. It is not at all uncommon for me to text friends and ask them how I can pray for them. And because of this exchange, I have become more comfortable and seen the beauty in asking others to pray for me as well. And so, this summer, when I found out that my third attempt at serving as a Totus Tuus missionary would not come to complete fruition and was crushed and could not understand why God had brought me as far as He did only to find out I wouldn’t be getting sent out on mission, I picked up the phone and called a friend to ask him to keep me in his prayers as I navigated yet another change. I reached out simply for prayers, but was met with Christ. My friend answered the phone and I explained the situation to him, and he readily offered me his prayers. And, as the conversation continued on, he spoke words that my heart needed to hear, in a way that I now recognize as Christ speaking through him.
In this simple act, my friend was Christ to me. From my action of reaching out for prayers, I was able to receive a gift that I desperately needed. And over and over again, this is what intercessory prayer- both asking others to pray for me and praying for others- has taught me: a way to love, the beauty of vulnerability, and what it means to be Christ to and receive Him from others.
AN ACT OF LOVE
With every act of love
We bring the kingdom come
-With Every Act of Love by Jason Gray
A reality I face that I would venture to guess is the same for you is that I have a lot of people in my life whom I want to love well, but that doesn’t always seem very feasible or possible, and sometimes I don’t even know how best to love the people that seem to need it most. For me, intercessory prayer has become a way to love even those I cannot be physically close to. If your best friend broke their leg but had no way to get to the doctor or simply wanted some extra support at the doctor’s, wouldn’t you do almost anything you could to take them to the doctor? In intercessory prayer, which is even more accessible than getting in a car and driving a friend to the doctor, we can carry those among us who are hurting or broken to the Divine Physician who can and will do more for them than we ever could on our own. Intercessory prayer is an act of love that can be given over and over again from wherever one is- a chance to carry people with you in your heart from wherever you are.
BEAUTY IN THE BREAKING
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest…” -Matthew 11:28
Growing up, I’ve come to the realization that 1) it’s ok if I’m not always ok or if there’s something I’m struggling with and 2) it’s important to allow others to walk with me throughout my life, but in a particular way in these moments. Sharing these difficulties with others by way of asking for prayers helps me invite others into these moments. It challenges me to be humble and to admit my weaknesses. And, it reminds me that humans are not meant to be islands fighting their way through this world on their own. Rather, we’re meant to be surrounded by others fighting with us: Christ gave His apostles one another, He gave John and Mary each other at the foot of the Cross, and He gives the members of the Body of Christ each other. Friend, you are not meant to carry your burdens alone and there are people in your life who want to support you- let them! And, if we desire to be vulnerable and to have a place where we can be loved in our weakness and brokenness, I believe we are called to be that to others as well. You can be a place where others in your life know they don’t have to put up a facade but are allowed to come as they are. Our world needs more places and people like this. In a world where so many wrestle with the realization that they are broken and need help, you have the ability to help someone recognize that that is ok, and then to help them heal by turning it over to God.
Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me. -Galatians 2:20
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that Jesus is a great intercessor on behalf of all humanity to the Father. And, because of this, when we in turn pray for others, we are participating in the prayer of Jesus (CCC 2634-2635). You have the radical ability to make Christ manifest in the lives of those around you by virtue of your ability to offer prayers for another. As intercessors, we can take part in Christ’s love and role here on earth by inviting others to share with us their burdens, so we can help carry them to Christ.
Not only does intercessory prayer open you up to be Christ to others, but you also have the ability to see Christ and receive His love through others. In the same way that you offer Christ’s love to someone else through your prayer, when you are on the receiving end they offer it to you.
I firmly believe that intercessory prayer can and will teach you these things as well, and maybe even new lessons that carry special importance for you. And so, I want to encourage you to try it. Pick someone in your life and then take a leap by either asking them to pray for an intention of yours or asking them how you can pray for them, or even by praying with them over the phone or if you happen to be together. Or, if this isn’t something you feel comfortable doing, start by simply praying for someone in your life (they don’t even have to know) and then as your comfort grows, reach out! But please, pray for others and allow others to pray for you, and then see how it will change your heart and theirs.
Audrey Assad, in her song “Islands”, writes “Underneath the shelter of this love/ We will walk each other home.” Let’s walk each other home, straight into the arms of Love Himself.
Rebekah Crowley is a senior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN studying Catholic Studies and Liturgical Music. She will graduate in May, and is excited to see what new adventure the Lord leads her on! If you're looking for Rebekah, you can probably find her sitting at her kitchen table doing homework, in a practice room, in the chapel, in class, laughing with her roommates, or connecting with a friend over a cup of coffee or a meal.