"Let us pray for one another"
This past week there was a question on prayer in The Wanderer, which is a conservative sort of New Order newspaper. The questioner was disturbed that when she asked her friends if they prayed for her during Mass most of them just gave her a blank look, as though they had never heard of such a thing. She seemed to feel cheated, as though she had been doing her part of the bargain by praying for her friends, and they were letting her down by not praying for her.
Now, while I am inclined to think that God looks after prayerful people, even if no one else is praying for them, the questioner did make a very good point: we should be praying for one another. Part of being a Christian is the right to expect the mutual encouragement and support of other Christians, and, certainly, prayer is a part of that. "Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ," Saint Paul tells us in today's epistle.
We should pray, first and foremost for our dead. We have no way of knowing just what need of prayer the souls have in Purgatory -- the prudent thing to do is to assume that our deceased loved ones are there and in need -- it certainly won't hurt them. And it won't hurt to pray for all of the souls in Purgatory, for there may well be some who have been forgotten by everyone alive here on earth. Remember that while the souls in Purgatory cannot better their own condition or shorten the time of their purgation, they are saints of God who will one day see Him face to face in heaven -- and they will not forget to pray to God on our behalf.
Likewise, we should pray for the living. First of all for our family members, to whom we have something of an obligation. But also for friends and neighbors and co-workers. There is a strong tradition in our society that people pitch in to help those around them. It may be more obvious in rural environments where people have no alternative but to depend on each others' aid for things like barn raising, and crop harvesting -- but it should not stop just because we live in an urban environment and don't do much agricultural work. And praying for each other is not very strenuous work.
I like to think of our Parish as a large family, so do look around you and make a mental note to pray for the people you see. Try to remember those who you have not seen in a while as well. Some are just snow birds who will be back for the winter, but others may be ill and in even greater need of prayers. And, of course, remember the people who used to be with us but who have passed on over the years.
I make an effort to pray for all of the members of the parish. That's not too difficult because there are not that many of us. I will confess, though to having a bad memory -- so if you want me to pray for some specific intention, it would be a good idea to write it down on a slip of paper. Pray please for the growth of the parish, and for the welfare of the entire Church. It should not be news to anyone that the Church is going through a particularly critical time in Its history, and that everyone from the Pope on down is in need of our prayers.
Beyond our own circle of friends and relatives, we belong to society. Just as we might pray for Popes and bishops whom we have never personally met, we ought to be praying for the people who make that society run. Just as the modern Church has Her difficulties, so do the nations of the world. It may sound a little trite to hear me say that we ought to pray for the President, and the mayor, and the police, and the firemen, but we really should. And perhaps for those who teach the children, and heal the sick, and run the businesses that make us able to put food on the table. Pray for peace in the world.
Remember too that our prayers should not be limited to those whom we like. There are difficult people out there, some of whom may be difficult enough that were are tempted to refer to them as our "enemies." But it is hard to think of anything much more Christ like than to pray for those who persecute or simply annoy us.
Pray for the conversion of souls to the Faith. There are a lot of people out there in the world -- some have never heard of Jesus Christ, some have not heard enough about Him to understand the need for Him in the plan of salvation, and many today are apathetic. One of the terrible mistakes of the "ecumenical" movement is to ignore the need to pray for conversions. Supposedly we would be insulting our Jewish or Moslem or Buddhist friends by praying that they may receive the grace to receive Baptism -- but that is backwards! -- there can be no greater insult than to refuse to pray for someone's eternal welfare, no greater act of nastiness.
Finally, don't hesitate to call on our Lord and Lady with the prayer that they look after those for whom you ought to pray. We are rather fallible creatures -- some of us forget who to pray for unless we have a little note card to refer to -- we don't always know the specific needs of those for whom we should pray -- and very often we don't really know what would be good for them in the eternal scheme of things. Our Lord and Lady have no such limitations -- we can go to them with absolute confidence that things will be handled in the best possible way.
And, just one more thing. Prayer of petition is good -- asking God for the things we need is an acknowledgement of His goodness and mercy. But don't limit prayer to asking for things. Always spend some time in adoration and thanksgiving -- pray to God because He is good and not just for what He can do. And certainly show some gratitude for all the good things He does.
Pray to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary for everyone, but "especially for those who are of the household of the Faith."