Sunday, January 15, 2017

Praying for strangers

There was a fascinating and uplifting article in the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic by their regular columnist Karina Bland. In it she wrote of a surgeon's experience one very early morning of trying to reach the wife of a man suffering from a life-threatening injury. The number he called was the wrong one, and he ended up speaking with a woman he thought was the wife, but she was a stranger who did not know the man at all.

When he apologized and hoped the lady could fall back into sleep, she asserted that she had no intention of doing so. She was going to rise and pray for this stranger in critical condition.

Her words touched and inspired the surgeon.

Was it the wrong number? I think God was using the surgeon to ask that particular woman to pray for this man at that time, and she responded.

There have been many such stories that I've read or heard. There have been books written about the power of a stranger's prayers, about God's promptings that initiated those prayers.

Why, we may ask, does God need us to pray for each other at all? He is God, after all. He can intervene if it's His will, if He truly is the all-powerful God we proclaim to the world.

It has to do with free will, I believe. God does not move us around like pawns or alter our circumstances without our participation. Our choices, our actions of mercy and compassion, and agreement to be the humble hands and feet of God for each other are the means by which He manifests His love in this world. In such ways, God uses us to save each other daily by the "yes" we give to His invitation. And he saves and strengthens us through our efforts for others.

We can say no. We can ignore. We can pass by. We can choose to do absolutely nothing.

But many of us often do not.

Prayer may seem like next to nothing in some people's opinion, but it is an act of will - just like when the leper told Jesus that if He willed it, He could heal him, and Jesus answered, "I do will it. Be made clean."

Prayer is also an act of faith. Jesus asserted often, "Your faith has saved you." We move mountains when we cooperate with God - for ourselves and for others. But faith is the lever.

That is why I try to take a moment to say a prayer for a child's safety when I receive an Amber Alert on my phone, When I heard recently that a young man who attended my older kids' school passed away over the New Year's weekend, I wept for the family, and I prayed for his soul and for his loved ones. When my kids and I see an ambulance or fire truck pass, we say a short prayer. It is what we can do. It's all we can do. But I suspect it's effects are much greater than we know.