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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Flame in the Heart

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Prayer candles

Your true light, alone, O God, burns

to illuminate and not

devour, and such as we would find in

it is everlasting.
—Sister Alma Rose

Once upon a time, we believed in miracles — spiritual miracles. When we were ill, injured, or afflicted with any sort of… [problem], we made appeals to God. We turned to our spiritual guides — our holy men, our priestly purveyors of prayer therapies. We recited prayers prescribed by the church. We turned to healers, medicine men, saints, and the somehow spiritually charged symbols of faith: icons, statues, pictures, and medals. We looked for signs that prayer, faith, religion, belief, and God could heal us. And we found them. Often, they worked wondrously.

Then along came medical science — biology, pharmacology, radiology, and modern surgical practices. Suddenly, we had a pill, a treatment, or an operation for everything that could be cured — scientific miracles. And prayer and faith were shunted to the side, their incredible power forgotten. Never mind that some people got well without science and medicine. Never mind that some people got well even when the treatments and pills failed…. Faith was dismissed as superstition, dismissed with contempt.

Now, everyone has stopped laughing. Now, the very science that they trust is proving what we hoped, what we prayed was true all along. Somehow, for some reason, prayer, faith, and healing work.

Experiment after experiment is showing the connections, raising possibilities, and suggesting that God not only exists and answers prayers, that prayerful “intentions” not only influence physical reality but that prayer, religion, and faith are good for us — good for our health, good for our outlooks, good for our communities, good for our overall physical and mental well-being. The connections are clear. More than two hundred studies prove it. —Kenneth Winston Caine and Brian Paul Kaufman, Prayer, Faith, and Healing: Cure Your Body, Heal Your Mind, and Restore Your Soul

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The Flame That Is Your Living Soul

fire_in_fireplace_istockWhen Sister Alma Rose was a girl, Daddy Pete would pile logs in the big fireplace of an evening, and Sister Alma Rose and her sisters, Calista, Merrily, and Lorelei, and Vincent and Colleen — who lived with Sister Alma Rose’s family on Hilltop Farm — and their babies, Grace and Henry John and George, would gather by the fire, and Daddy Pete would sometimes, usually, thank God out loud for the peace and abundance and love and health in the home at Hilltop Farm. He always did that in his heart, Sister Alma Rose is certain, and when he spoke the prayer, it was with a voice full of love, and Sister Alma Rose don’t know if Daddy Pete was aware he was talking.

prayer_candles_boxedAnd then everybody would just set quiet and content, even the babies would be silent till they fell asleep, and all those nights the fire would teach lessons without anyone realizing they was learning from that fire.

When Sister Alma Rose was growed up, she set one night by the fire with Cousin Dulcie, and Cousin Dulcie says, softlike, “Look how the flames come together and get stronger.” And Sister Alma Rose looks, and she sees two little flames jump into one flame that’s bigger than the two was when they was separate.

From that day to this, Sister Alma Rose has prayed with candles. She has a little votive in a glass jar for each person she’s praying special for, or sometimes she uses floating candles in great glass bowls.

prayercandlebookShe lights a long taper, and she says, “God, thou art the fuel for the candle that burns in every heart,” and then, one by one, she lights the little candles, and each time she says the person’s name she’s praying for, and she says, “May the candle in thy heart burn brighter, because it is joined by mine, kept alive by the one Source which is our loving God.” And then she prays some more, for their hurts, and when she puts the candles out (she has a pretty brass candle snuffer, she don’t blow them out like on a birthday cake), she says, “God blesses thee, for the flame that is thy living soul burns forever.”

And then she says, “Amen,” and because praying makes her hungry, she goes and fixes herself a little snack.

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