It has been almost forty years now that I have been in some form of ministry. During this time, I have asked thousands of people if I might pray for them. People of all ages, various social and ethnic backgrounds, political perspectives, sexual identities. Believers and non-believers. Christians of all stripes as well as people of other faiths and those who claim no faith at all. In four decades I can count on one hand the number of persons who were not grateful for my prayers or offer to pray. And many, many times, bringing the subject up has opened the door to spiritual intimacy that is tremendously nourishing.
In my Hope for Troubled Minds Facebook community, I have been messaging members for prayer requests. I then write their responses in a notebook and look them over at various times through the week. Their prayers are unique, but they also share a lot in common. Many pray for their children, other family members or friends. Some pray for health and well-being, jobs, moves. Others pray for front-line workers and those most impacted by the pandemic. In just over a week, I have received over 200 prayer requests. It can seem overwhelming, but one thing I’ve found about prayer is that it gives you more strength than it depletes.
These interactions have led me to deeper friendships with people I message. And not always in ways you might expect. One exchange I had was with a woman named DeMaris Gaunt. DeMaris is an artist mom I have grown to deeply appreciate for her intellectual honesty, quick wit, and a marvelous sense of humor. This was our conversation last week:
Me: Hey DeMaris, I’m devoting time this week to pray for our community members. How can I best pray for you?
DeMaris: What a strange feeling I have as I ponder the question. I feel that your desire to pray for me, your wish to know HOW to pray for me…is about as good as any prayer. I simply can’t tell you how to pray for me, because to do so would feel like I was accepting that there were ears to hear the prayer, a mind to process my need, and a divine will to act, or not. I hope you know my feelings and hopefully my “tone” is always coming from a place of love… Please don’t feel like my comments about the prayer you would so graciously offer up for me are at all a “rejection.” That you offer is a beautiful and loving act of kindness and friendship. I just come from a place of total unbelief.
Me: Yeah, I get that. That for your gracious expression, friend.
Yesterday, I wrote back to let people know I had been praying for them and ask how they were. I decided it would be fun to write to DeMaris, so I did:
Me: As you requested, I have not prayed for you this week. Is there anything else you would like me to not pray for?
DeMaris: This totally cracked me up!!! Mind if I share it, with your name cut out, of course? It would be in a positive way.
Me: You are welcome to share and include my name if you wish. It also cracked me up just thinking of it.
This was her post:
This message literally made me laugh out loud! My sweet friend Tony asked last week if he could pray for me.
I told him the fact that he asked “HOW” he could pray for me was as meaningful to me as any prayer…but I couldn’t begin to direct him how to pray for me or what to pray for. To do so would feel insincere, because I can’t/don’t believe there are ears to hear a prayer for me, or a divine will to act on it.
(Been having a rough time emotionally due to the fact that I was impulsive and did something that hurt someone I love very much, blah blah blah…)
Some times the best prayers are no prayers at all.