I have a quick bicycle commute to the parish from home. It takes me about eight minutes in the morning, as it’s largely downhill. Then I sweat a bit on the 11-minute return leg. My legs feel good after a winter and wintry spring of mostly inactivity.
During Lent, I turned off the car radio. I’ve largely kept to that discipline these Fifty Days, as I try to remember people in prayer.
Intercessory prayer has never been one of my strong points. One, I forget. Two, in my parish, I recruit people to write them up for Sunday Mass. When someone forgets, I usually go to the prayer from three years prior. I’ll make a few edits and drop in the old petitions as if they were new. Three, I don’t like to ask for help.
On that last bit, I don’t know that it’s a guy thing as much as a me-thing. I remember reading somewhere early in my Catholic life that God knows what we need before we utter it as a request:
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. (Psalm 139:4)
A few times, when someone has asked me to pray for them, and I’ve neglected or forgotten, a bad thing happens. They come to me and thank me for my prayers. I figure God is timeless in a sort of science fiction-y time travel way. So I then pray for the person, even though they’ve weathered the storm of their crisis. God sees all moments of all time as a unity, so what can be harmed by presuming on God’s pre-eminence in the fourth dimension?
That said, this is a matter where I can see a little more discipline will be helpful. On the parish staff, each of us was assigned a prayer-partner this year. I got one of our newbies, so that seemed important to remember. I put it on my to-do list, cycled every three days. Mostly successful, it was. But I needed a little more.
During Lent, I tried to remember people by inserting their names in the Hail Mary when I prayed it. I found a decade covered my close family: wife, young miss, my mother, my brother and his wife, their three kids, my sister, and my widowed sister-in-law. My staff colleagues took another decade-and-a-half. Parishioners filled out the rest. More often, I would just pray this altered Hail Mary ending:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for N, now and all the days of her/his life.
But I was thinking it would be good to have a rote prayer for that daily bike roundtrip. Since the Holy Spirit is much on our minds these days, and the Trinity beckons in another weekend, what if I composed a brief intercessory prayer for people? Something like this:
Loving Father, you have made N and adopted her/him as your very own.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on her/him.
Come Holy Spirit, fill her/his heart with faith and the fire of your love.
I’ve found I stumble over the words a bit. Probably need to get into a rhythm as I avoid potholes and traffic and such.
But a curiosity among other believers reading this, Catholic or otherwise. How do you pray for others? Do you find it enough to keep the person in mind as you pray regularly? I like to image the face of the person, but that’s more difficult when I’m operating a vehicle. And maybe I’m trying to accomplish too much on that nineteen minutes a day. On the other hand, even the uphill trek home has sailed by this week.
I was for years upon years so dry in prayer that I found it profoundly depressing. I could sing, but not pray much without singing. There, I said it.
In any event, in the fall of 2004, the prayer gradually came back to me. I came up with my own morning office of prayers, some “rote” prayers (major feature: the Angelus/Regina Caeli, rather than the Rosary, which I’ve always view as our Lady’s gift to the insomniac (I mean that in affection, not sarcasm)) and a gradual efflorensence of intercessory prayer. I will share later via email directly, in case it offers ideas that are fruitful for you.
I rise early, before 4:30AM on weekdays, to swim at my local Y when it opens at 5AM. Water is my favorite element of connection to the divine (especially ocean water at the shore – where I feel held and played with). So, when I swim, I pray. It’s like breathing. (When I manage to be far away from other people at the beach, I sing my prayers aloud while I body surf; and feel most alive doing that more than any other thing. It happens too rarely, once every few years mostly because it’s difficult for me to get to the beach as I’d like to do.)