During 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.