Praying for Many

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Sister Alma Rose: How to Pray for Multitudes


Sister Alma Rose Q & A

Dear Sister Alma Rose — I am on my church’s prayer chain, and people in the church make prayer requests, usually for loved ones who are sick, many of whom I know personally but more of whom I don’t. Some of the requests are for “the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan” or “the beleaguered and starving in Darfur.” I also pray daily for my own friends and family. I do not know how to pray, genuinely and with love, for so many people. Can you help? cartoon_group_2
—Signed, Baffled in Baltimore

Dear BIB — Sister Alma Rose understands y’all’s frustration. Sister Alma Rose, being Sister Alma Rose, is often asked to pray for multitudes. When she was young and naive, Sister Alma Rose wrote everybody’s request on a separate slip of paper, and she put all the pieces of paper in a “prayer box,” and then she prayed for the box, in a manner of speaking.

Or she would write the names on a list and then pray for all the requests in a bunch, but her heart wasn’t really in it and her thoughts would wander off to “Oh! The hyacinths are blooming” or “Oh! There’s a big stain on that cabinet; I need to remove it as soon as I finish off praying. Vinegar or ammonia, do you suppose?”

Then, as she became more devout, Sister Alma Rose thought she needed to pray very specifically for everybody, and she would ask God to remove so-and-so’s plantar wart or heal a difficult relationship, but midway through she would get very antsy, because she can’t sit still for long periods of time, and she would “surrender” the whole clump of requests to God and go to the kitchen and bake some bread.

cartoon_couple_making_listsSister Alma Rose does not know how prayer “works,” precisely, but she believes that there must be some kind of connection between the pray-er and the pray-ee through which the powerful energy of prayer travels, and since she does not know all of the people being prayed for and God does, and since God is the source of all energy, Sister Alma Rose finds that God is indispensable to prayer.

Bright blessing

Sometimes Sister Alma Rose gathers energy from God through meditation and then carries God’s blessing as a sort of shining angel. She floats with the sunrise to all parts of the world, and darts down, á la Tinkerbell, to embrace with light the person she is praying for. She holds an image in her mind, individually or in clumps, of those she doesn’t know personally.

At the River

Sometimes Sister Alma Rose visualizes those she is praying for being carried by angels to the Jordan River, or some other river, perhaps the Nile, where they (the pray-ees) are set down on the west bank to await the sunrise. Sister Alma Rose is there with them, and she sees them all. When the day dawns on the river, each person soaks up the healing rays sent from God, and the Holy Spirit carries all the pain and troubles away on a whirlwind, and thousands of birds sing for joy.

Lovingkindness meditation

Sometimes, after surrendering her own and everybody else’s burdens to God, Sister Alma Rose blesses her people (individually wherever possible, otherwise in clumps) using Susan Piver’s sweet, comforting lovingkindness meditation:how_not_to_be_afraid_of_your_own_life

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be peaceful
May you live with ease

—Susan Piver,  How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy

Wafting Love and Warmth

Sister Alma Rose always, usually, when she remembers, turns worries into prayers. When she is fussed about something, she surrenders it (the “something”) to God. When she happens to think about someone, or when she sees an unhappy face in the throng, she calls upon God to empower her to send waves of love and light to that person. It is not at all unusual, after sending such blessings through the ether, for Sister Alma Rose to receive a letter, a phone call, or a visit from the pray-ee that very day.

Candle Prayer Ceremony

candles_boxedcandles_prayercandle_book-261x388As often as possible, Sister Alma Rose lights candles in the evening for the people and situations she is praying for. Not everybody gets his or her own individual candle, or else Sister Alma Rose’s entire house would be turned into a huge candle mob, and it would not be safe for her cats, Tim and Henry.


One could also divide up one’s prayer list and pray fervently for, say, five people a day. Sister Alma Rose does not find this satisfactory, but that doesn’t mean y’all shouldn’t try it if it appeals to y’all.

One can also, when praying the Lord’s prayer, specifically the part that says, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” use it as a vehicle for petitions and intercessions: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Patricia; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Ephraim”; and so forth.

Sister Alma Rose has also made strings of prayer beads, each bead representing a person or situation. She enjoys praying this way, as it engages several of the senses and Sister Alma Rose is less likely to become distracted.

The very intention to pray is itself a blessing, and as Sister Alma Rose’s dear friend the Rev. Bruce Hurley used to say, God sorts out our prayers. 

May God bless y’all, dear reader: May y’all be happy; may y’all be healthy; may y’all be peaceful; may y’all live with ease. Amen.


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Morning Ritual

Getting Ready from the Inside Out

exhausted_mom_istockQ. Dear Sister Alma Rose — I am a faithful reader of Sister Alma Rose Has the Last Word, and you have convinced me of the importance of frequent prayer and meditation; but I am having trouble finding the time! It is always rush-rush-rush in the morning and rush-rush-rush in the evening, and, by the time the children are asleep, I’m wiped out. Can you give me some advice? — Signed, Pooped in Ponca City

A. Dear Pooped — Even if you have time during your work day to meditate, which Sister Alma Rose is intuiting you haven’t got on account of it looks like your modus operandi is rush-rush-rush (but in any event, see Sister Alma Rose’s Lunchtime Meditation and Sister Alma Rose’s Walking Meditation featuring Fats Domino), it is always a good idea to start the day with prayer and meditation. Maybe, if y’all did that, y’all would be calm and focused enough to ambulate purposefully instead of rush-rush-rushing, which, Sister Alma Rose supposes, involves hurried and inadequate nourishment and the inability to find your keys or a pair of clean undies, and so forth.

teenage_girl_bruthsing_teethSister Alma Rose also supposes that you find time to brush your teeth before you leave the house, and you probably scrub too hard and when you get a little older the dentist will say that you have damaged your gums and tooth enamel what with all that scrubbing. In any event, Sister Alma Rose is certain that you would be more READY to start your day after prayer and meditation than after hasty and perhaps harmful tooth-brushing.

Morning ritual

Sister Alma Rose is a great believer in ritual. A ritual is one step up from a routine. A ritual is a routine infused with sacred purpose. Sister Alma Rose’s ritual infuses her entire day with sacred purpose — not, perhaps, so anyone could see it from the outside. Y’all wouldn’t look at Sister Alma Rose bustling about at 2 in the afternoon and be saying to yourself, “Goodness, how I admire the way Sister Alma Rose infuses her day with sacred purpose.” Nevertheless, Sister Alma Rose is always (usually) conscious of the presence of the Almighty in each action and in every encounter. At least that is her intention.

Sister Alma Rose calls her morning ritual “getting ready from the inside out.” She begins by (1) feeding and tending to her spirit, through prayer and meditation. Then she (2) feeds and tends to her body — by performing her morning ablutions, eating a healthful breakfast, and going for a walk. Then she (3) feeds and tends to any who are in her care and (4) tends to her environment, doing whatever tidying up and washing up and pulling of noxious weeds, and so forth, are necessary.

Sister Alma Rose’s Morning Prayer and Meditation

One of the fine advantages of a routine or a ritual is that it’s somewhat automatic. You don’t have to waste time and tempt Satan’s spawn whose name is Procrastination by deciding what needs to be done and in what order. Imagine if, every time y’all got in the car to go somewhere, you had to figure out how to drive all over again. Fortunately for most of us, driving is routine.


Routines and rituals need to be reexamined now and again to make sure they’re still serving their purpose. For prayer, Sister Alma Rose makes use of (and has for a good length of time made use of) a Prayer Pattern. At the same location as the prayer pattern are (1) music that Sister Alma Rose likes to pray to and (2) the names of the folks she’s praying for.

Sister Alma Rose prays for a great number of people. Sometimes she does an imaging sort of prayer wherein she feels divine love and healing entering through a white light as she inhales, and when she exhales she expresses her prayer for each person by a warm light that reaches from her heart to the other person’s heart. Sometimes she pictures those she prays for standing in the Valley of the Sunrise as the first morning rays cleanse and sanctify each of them. Sometimes she just mentally says their names and hopes God will understand.

Sister Alma Rose does not intend for y’all to put “prayer and meditation” on a checklist and then DO prayer and meditation and then cross it off your list and forget about it. There is great need and there are many opportunities to refresh your spirit during the day, even if it’s when you are waiting in line or stuck in traffic. It takes less time and energy, and it is more productive of peace and harmony, to pray serenely when you are stopped at a red light and the driver in front of you — who presumably was able to procure a driver’s license for her broom only by casting a powerful spell upon the DMV personnel — is looking into the rear-view mirror and applying lipstick when the light changes, and is no more cognizant that the light has changed than she is that the earth is revolving around the sun at a speed of 18.5 miles per second — than it is to honk the horn and flip her off. Sister Alma Rose knows this to be true. She has tried it both ways. To this day, she occasionally croaks “ribbit” for no apparent reason, always at inappropriate times, as if there were an appropriate time to croak “ribbit” when one is a respectable lady in the prime of one’s life.


Sister Alma Rose’s Morning Prayer: Saints and Angels, Pray for Us

Saints and angels, pray for us, and intercede,
that we may by the God of grace be blessed. For
you have seen the face of the Almighty; you
approach and comprehend the beauty of the
Holy One, much more than we, so limited in
vision and so fragile in belief. Or is it that we
see and do not know the Author of Creation
—in the shoulder of a hill as it reclines in the
embrace of Mother Earth, or in the still, deep,
sparkling pools of strangers’ eyes?

If only we could be the children we abandoned
long ago in favor of sophistication and of
freedom — though we soon enough were
disillusioned as to liberty. We found it
burdensome and wished we could be caged
again and innocent, surprised by joy.

For Paradise regained we pray — to be divested

of the heavy armor we have learned to wear,

believing it protected us; to shed anxiety, regret,

and guilt; to be instead aware of who and where

we are this very moment, undistracted by the

future or the past — to be, in fact, reborn, with

nothing added or subtracted, as when we were



This we are promised: God’s forgiveness,

seventy times seven, even more, surpassing our

transgressions. Are we not given morning to

remind us that we too, who dare to be, are daily

new? Why are we reluctant, then, to but accept

the full abundance of our blessedness? We

hesitate — it is unearned — forgetting grace.


But God is greater yet than everything the world

can tell us. Darkly through a glass we glimpse

eternity, perhaps, though half in wonder, half in



O Saints and Angels, show us how we might

approach the vast, the mystical and holy

presence that is Love; and as we stumble on the

path your purity illuminates, O Saints and

Angels, pray for us that we be undeceived of

evil, of disease and violence and death. For we

would walk behind him, pale reflections of his

glory, each to another, and would bind our will

to his direction, on our pilgrimage to Heaven.


Originally published in Unfamiliar Territory, Part 1, by Mary Campbell, ã 2007, Zero Gravity,



To Abir, the Strong One:

Abir, Strength of my strength, the Pit is not bottomless after all. I know that because I went SPLAT when I landed. And then Y’all lifted me out and healed my brokenness and, in Y’all’s grace, made me an instrument of healing. A small instrument, to be sure—a piccolo, not a bassoon, but I expect soon to be a flute.

My heart like to burst with gratitude… that great sweep of wind that carries me when my feet won’t and my wings don’t have room to spread.

Praise to Thee, Abir, Strong One: I am obliged to Sister Anita for her admonition: “Thank God for everything… even the flat tire. When the tire goes flat or the radiator boils over, you were headed in the wrong direction anyway.”

Praise to Thee, Abir, Strong One: I am obliged to Sister Jerry for this prayer ritual:

Bring a loved one to mind. See them in as much detail as possible, imagining the loving light shining down on them and washing through them, revealing the light within their own heart. Imagine this light growing brighter, merging with the Divine light and enclosing them in the egg of light. Then bless them:

May you be at Peace, May your heart remain open,
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature,
May you be healed, May you be a source of healing for all beings.
~~~from Pocketful of Miracles  by Joan Borysenko, PhD.

Praise to Thee, Abir, Strong One: I am obliged to Sister Judith for this candle-lighting prayer:

I’m in a Bubble of Light and only LIGHT can come to me…and only LIGHT can find me. LIGHT above me, LIGHT below me. LIGHT behind me, LIGHT before me. I’m in a Bubble of Light and only LIGHT can come to me.


In the darkest hour, I lit candles for

Pete F., Edie, Jack, Josefina’s heartache, Mary Ann, Shay, Pauline, Yvonne, Kay, Joni, Berta, Elaine, Theresa, Shannon, Susie, Jerry C., Tracy, Jackie, Chad, Raydelle, Pat, Deborah, Cathy, Cate, Caroline, Cathy, Helen, Kevin’s family, Kim, Michaela, Claudia, Joanne, Elizabeth, Carol, Jane, HF and friends, Nick, Elizabeth, a family who lost a child and a home to fire… and, as always, Jan, Margie, Susie, Elaine B., Jane F. K., Jane H., Susan, Riley, DF, Billy, Eric, John C., the families of Nancy, Jack N., Eli, Marian, Sherry, Chris, Paige, Sara, Karen, Mary L. 

I am obliged to Sister Yvonne for this inspiring video of a neuroanatomist who suffered a stroke on the left side of her brain and emerged with some amazing insights.

In Thy Grace, Abir, Strong One, reveal to me the Opportunity that looks for all the world like Poverty, the Reliance on Thy strength that looks for all the world like Illness. Amen.

If you haven’t done so, scroll down to the Bing & Bowie post below; it will bless your day.