This past Sunday, there was a small paragraph in the church bulletin that changed my life. No, really. Changed. My. Life.
Prayers of the People (inspired by a prayer of George Appleton)
"Hold a name lovingly, trustingly before God , without diagnosing the person's need, or telling God what to do, leaving God to do, what in love is most needed.
The name may be repeated many times, on the lips, on the mind, and then held silently in the heart.
If Christ's name is added after the name of the one for whom we are praying, God's love is invoked to magnify our own human love."
And I sat in my pew with a heavy heart, having very recently learned of a friend's pregnancy loss. I lowered my head and quietly repeated her name as tears of grief fell in sympathy for her family's pain. In the past I would have directly asked God for what *I* wanted for her...comfort, peace, healing, strength. But after reading that paragraph on intercessory prayer I was struck by how ridiculous it is for me to tell God what to do, how utterly foolish it is for me to think that I know what this person needs. I know nothing except that I love them and they need what only God can give. So I sat and quietly prayed my friend's name. I focused all of my thoughts and energy on her with each breath. And gently with every heartbeat, with every repetition, a silent transaction took place. My heart released all the sadness for my friend's hurt and replaced it with hope for her healing. As I emptied the pain that I didn't even have words for, it was taken up by a power much greater than my own.
This was a very meaningful touchpoint in my faith journey. I've prayed before and I've never sensed the same release of my burden into God's care the same way. It was enlightening.
So from now on if I tell you that I'll pray for you, there's a good chance that I won't be asking God to help you find a new job or heal you from your illness or whatever. I will simply enter a quiet space where I can focus all of my being on your name, breathing you in, breathing you out, placing you fully in God's care. Isn't that where you want to be anyways?