Walking Our Faith: The power of community prayer
Walking Our Faith
At every weekday Mass, our priest reads the prayers of the people and then asks the parishioners to add their own prayer requests. When Father Stephen asked this of us Tuesday, I asked for prayers for my mother, who was in the hospital. I finished my request with the standard response, “for this we pray to the Lord,” which is followed by “Lord, hear our prayer,” said by the rest of the congregation.
The intimacy of the smaller group setting of a weekday Mass can make our spoken prayers even more poignant because it takes a little courage to stand and speak from our hearts a prayer that might be breaking our hearts.
I almost didn’t attend Mass on Tuesday because I was bereft. I am in Breckenridge, and my mother is in Florida. The only information I had was that she had fallen, fractured her hip and been taken to the hospital.
I was feeling frustrated and frightened as I stood in church Tuesday morning not knowing whether I should get on a plane against my mother’s wishes and fly to Florida.
On Tuesday morning, I experienced the biblical underpinnings of this familiar part of the Mass with new meaning of its importance. When we speak our prayer request out loud, sharing it with our entire faith community, we are not only asking for their help in prayer for someone we care about, but in our unspoken vulnerability, we are also asking for prayer for ourselves.
And as I headed to work afterward, it occurred to me that the warmth in my heart was the love I felt from my fellow parishioners and the moving of the Holy Spirit between us as we stood and prayed together during the Mass.
For me, this was the living expression of that Bible verse come to life, a sudden insight and realization of why God encourages us to meet as communities and to pray for one another to share our burdens and our choice so that it’s never too much for one person to bear.
But what I experienced on Tuesday morning is a better understanding that each part of the service has a biblical precedent and is there for a reason that we can experience if we are paying attention — or more likely when the Holy Spirit comes and taps us on the shoulder as he did with me that morning.
I have a new appreciation for the power of prayer not only for those for whom we pray but for the strength received by the one praying. And it reminded me of a story from the Old Testament that demonstrates how God works through our times of weakness:
“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up — one on one side, one on the other — so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” — Exodus 17: 10-13
And this is what praying for one another and with one another does for each of us. Through our prayers, we hold one another up so that no one is weak and all are strong.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” — Matthew 18:20
This is why we come together as communities of faith, whether at a weekday Mass or a Sunday service or an evening prayer group that meets on Zoom. We need one another. We are stronger together than apart. Even when the majority of the congregation might be visitors from out of town, we are still united as one body when we pray together.
I am grateful to share that Mom has been transferred to a rehabilitation center where she will be getting the care she needs to recover and grow strong again. Please join me in praying for Mom. God bless you.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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