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Why I pray for others

I asked my friend to pray for me.
By Anita Farber-Robertson

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hospital comforting

(Nancy Louie/istock photo)

When I was in my thirties, still early in my ministry, I was stricken with a mysterious illness. My world turned upside down. I was hospitalized while the doctors ran tests, and my body did its own thing, separate from what I wanted of it. I was frightened, too frightened to pray.

For the first time in my life, I understood intercessory prayer. I needed the connection, and I was not strong enough or grounded enough to establish it for myself. I needed someone to keep the lines open and clear, to maintain them and make sure they were secure in the turbulence that was ahead. I couldn't do that. It was all I could do to get through one day at a time, not knowing what was happening to me, a prisoner of a body that was becoming my enemy, rather than my connection to the sacred.

I asked my friend to pray for me. He did. I was astonished at its power. I felt the tears, the release, the comfort, and the assurance that the world and all that was sacred would wait for me, would hold a place for me, when I could not do the work of holding it for myself. In that moment I could feel that the spirit of the universe held me, as it held every living creature. My friend's prayer had touched that spirit as surely as it had mine, and it had done so in my behalf.

I pray for people now. Every day. It is one of the most important parts of my prayer life. When all the rest of it falls away out of busyness or distraction, I can still, each morning, lift up those I love and those in pain, through prayer. And fortunately, there are those I know who pray for me.

Excerpted from the pamphlet UU Views of Prayer, edited by Catherine Bowers (UUA, 1999). In this pamphlet, eight Unitarian Universalists respond to the questions "How do you pray?" "Why do you pray?" and "What role does prayer play in your life?" These questions, of course, assume an affirmative response to the previous question, "Do you pray?" Some Unitarian Universalists would simply respond, "No."

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