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Making praying for others more powerful (part one)

Members of First Assembly of God pray for survivors of a flood last year and those spared this year.
Members of First Assembly of God pray for survivors of a flood last year and those spared this year.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Several of us were standing around a New Age conference when a young American came up dressed in traditional Tibetan robes. She was selling small, intricately-crafted, copper pyramids for her Temple. Holding one up, she enthusiastically told us that someone in San Francisco had been able to heal another person many miles away by meditating on such a pyramid. I asked her what would have happened to the ill person if the one in San Francisco had been too busy to meditate for them. She didn’t have an answer.

There are many requests for public prayer for others in our culture. We are asked to pray for our servicemen and for victims of disasters. People pray that our leaders make the right decisions. Children are taught to pray for members of their family, and religious congregations are often asked to pray for a member who is ill. What effect, if any, do all these prayers have, and how can we make them more powerful?

Let’s take the example of a congregation praying for an ill member. The leader will bring up someone’s name and what they are suffering from. (Bill went into the hospital yesterday for cancer surgery.) Those who know the person will usually picture them in the way they are being described, that is, in their state of illness. The first response many have is, “I’m glad that’s not me,” or, “I hope that doesn’t happen to me.” Then they may say or listen to some words asking God to heal the person.

In terms of the Law of Attraction, visualizing the person in their state of illness—with the associated fear—isn’t good for them or for the person who is thinking these thoughts.

However, the assumption is that the prayer, the request to God, will help this person get well. So what is God’s role in this? What if the service is running late and the congregation doesn’t have time to pray for Bill? Or maybe some don’t like Bill and refuse to pray for him, perhaps even with a hint they’d prefer God get rid of him? What is God to do?

If you pray, what is your image of God to whom you are appealing? Is it an old white guy who loves people but is also quite judgmental (as I was taught)?

Instead, let’s assume that God is at least as loving as the most loving among us. Imagine yourself as loving as you could possibly be to your young daughter and son. You adore your children. Perhaps your daughter has discovered a special toy that makes her heart sing. You can hardly wait to give it to her, so you leave her with her older brother and go to the store.

While you’re there, your son tells her he’s not sure you will give her the toy. However, if she wishes, he will appeal to you (pray) on your daughter’s behalf. She is feeling unsure and enlists her older brother’s support.

As you enter the house, he entreats you to give the toy to your daughter. Of course you do. And as he leaves to go out to play, he whispers to her, “The next time you want something, tell me, and I’ll pray for you to get it.”

Could you love your child more than God loves you? Do you need someone to pray for you so God will love you and shine His light on you? Does anyone need this?

Part 2: If God already loves us more than we can imagine, what is the benefit of praying for someone?

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