Each week, our prayer list contains the usual requests for prayer as people wait to hear from doctors, recover from surgery and celebrate life’s joys – births, marriages and new jobs. For the last month, our church has added something new to the list. Each week, there is a different local school. It isn’t that there is anything in particular wrong at this school, but we are asked to pray with that school in our hearts.
I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what to pray for the first few weeks so my prayers were vague. “Dear God, please keep the students and teachers of Lawson Elementary strong. Help them to treat each other well and to live with you in their hearts.”
Then one week I had a cold so I wasn’t singing with the choir. Instead I was sitting in the back with some of our youth. The pastor announced that our school of week was Combs Elementary and all of a sudden Jason, who was beside me, sat up straight. “Hey, that’s my school!”
The moment he knew that we would be praying for him and his classmates, this boy lit up. The change was obvious and so was the change in my prayers.
“Dear Lord, there are so many pressures on these young people and those who seek to shepherd them into adulthood. Help them see the path you would have them walk. Help them make good choices and to live as you would have us all live – with kindness, with love, and with integrity. Help them to not only do your work but to be your lights in this world. Amen.”
Clearly, I was still praying for a whole lot of people that I don’t know but it went so much better when I had Jason in my heart and mind. That led me to the greater realization. When I pray for a group of people that I’ve never met – people who have experienced a disaster or hardship of some kind, or the first responders rushing to an accident, or the children in a school – I need to pray as if I know them, because to some extent I do.
They are, after all, my brothers, my sisters, my fellows in God’s creation.