Praying For One Another

0094-01-07During times of distress, when we find ourselves in misfortune, it is very common to ask that others pray for us. The priest is asked to mention their names in his personal prayers, as well as during the Divine Liturgy. Relatives and friends are also asked to mention them in their prayers and that they light candles in their memory. But when we are asked to do this for others, what is the proper way to mention them in our prayers?

St. Elijah the Prophet gives us an example of how we should go about doing this. During the Divine Liturgy, on the feast day of St. Elijah, we hear the words from the gospel according to St. Luke: “But unto none…was Elijah sent, save Zarephath, a city of Sidon, unto a woman who was a widow…” (Luke 4:26).

Here we are reminded of the incident of the holy prophet with the widow of Zarephath. Upon hearing the despair of the woman at the death of her son, the prophet takes the child’s body an carries it to his bed where he begins praying to God. I Kings 17:20-24 gives us the account: “And he cried unto the Lord and said, ‘O Lord my God, hast Thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?’ And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, ‘O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come unto him again.’ And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.”

The next time we are asked to mention someone in our daily prayers let us not fool ourselves by thinking we have rightfully done so by simply mentioning their name or lighting a candle for them at church. To pray for someone means to spiritually stretch ourselves over them and pray with our entire being on their behalf. We should keep this in mind when we implore God to visit the sick and heal them through faith. As the Apostle James writes, “Is any sick among you? Let him call the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick” (James 5:14-15). Amen.

7 thoughts on “Praying For One Another

  1. Father, bless! Thank you for your site. As a former evangelical, I have another take on this issue as well (not at all to deny your point, just complementary I believe). In my former evangelical church I was on the prayer chain email list. We would get requests detailing exactly how were being asked to pray for each situation (usually central was the restoration of temporal well-being for the persons being prayed for, with the occasional nod to spiritual growth/comfort from God, etc.). It sometimes felt as if we were being asked to tell God how to do His job (in some detail at that!). I have personally found it very freeing now that I am Orthodox to just ask the Lord to remember each person for whom I pray in His mercy, knowing that He knows much better than I what is truly for their salvation. Since I tend to take on the problems of others as if they were my concern in a not-so-healthy way and shoulder a burden that I have not been well equipped to bear, just mentioning names using the prayer for a relation or friend, or prayer for someone in trouble, or for the sick in my prayer book is a way of giving that burden over to God, while remaining in solidarity in compassion with that person in a healthier way.

  2. This is not exactly in line with the essence of your post, that being the willingness to extend and expend ourselves in praying for another, specifically intercession, but I would like to add this one bit of experiential testimony to the idea of praying for others, especially at their request.

    I was annoyed by the shallowness of the “I’ll pray for you” or the “Please pray for me” interjections in personal encounters with people who confess to having problems. That was maybe four or five years ago. And it came to me, that I would try to not let the opportunity pass me by. I just started praying for the person right then and there, with them, no matter where I was. I think one of the first times I did it was with a cashier in a grocery store.

    One of the reasons I started doing this, and I still do, is to make sure it wasn’t a piece of pious-sounding self-pity just looking for attention, and another reason was, I knew how my weak and sometimes busy nature lets things fall between the cracks. I might tell someone I’ll pray for them, and then either not pray, or pray without commitment. So for me, this practice of praying on the spot really works.

    For a better explanation, see: http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2007/10/lets-pray-now.html

  3. Omorphia > Perhaps Romanos answered your question the best when he said ‘the prayer of intercession takes effort’. So many ask us to pray for them that it’s a phrase that has almost become commonplace. When we’re asked to do this then one isn’t sure how to go about it.

    Similarly, one wonders if just anybody should be asked to pray for us. While certainly everyone’s prayer is worthy enough, we ask the question: will everyone pray for us the same way? That is, will they take it seriously? Surely, we can ask everyone and anyone to mention us in their prayers but we should nonetheless strive to seek the prayers of those who will “spiritually stretch themselves”, those who will mean it.

    To take this thought even further, I should admit that there are times when one comes to me as a priest and asks me to pray for them and I either forget or will mention them once or twice! These are usually people in my community that I’m not familiar with, people who might have come to church once or twice in ten years and then when things get bad for them they automatically ask for my prayers. It’s not that I don’t want to, rather it is simply that I’m not familiar with them and, because of human failings, I’ll forget.

    This is one of the reasons I believe that it is so important to be a true member, an active participant in one’s church community and not just on paper. For, when things get tough, that church community will really pray for us. Not by mentioning our names but indeed with their entire being.

  4. Father Milovan, thank you for this profound explanation of scripture. It fits exactly with what I know from experience, but I had never heard it explained this way before. Axios!

    The prayer of intercession takes effort. The more we are willing to extend ourselves for another in prayer, the harder our plea knocks on heaven’s door.

    God values our offering as much as we do.

  5. “to spiritually stretch ourselves over them and pray with our entire being”

    Sounds difficult. What does it mean in practice? Patience and sincerity?

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