Praying for Many

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Sister Alma Rose: How to Pray for Multitudes

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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.

Alternatives

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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SISTER ALMA ROSE’S MORNING PRAYER: GRATEFUL FOR THE FLAT TIRE

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.

http://video.aol.com/video-detail/tedtalks-jill-taylor-2008/711630680

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.