Hillary Ibarra reflects on interceding for strangers whom we love through prayer when other acts of love are not possible.
There was a fascinating and uplifting article in my local newspaper a few years ago that I have never forgotten. The columnist wrote of a surgeon's experience one early morning. He tried to reach the wife of a man suffering from a life-threatening injury. The surgeon called the wrong number and ended up speaking with a woman he thought was the wife, but she was a stranger who didn’t know the man at all.
When he apologized and expressed hope the lady could fall back to sleep, she asserted that she had no intention of doing so. She was going to rise and pray for this stranger in critical condition.
Her words touched and inspired the surgeon.
Was it the wrong number? I think God was using the surgeon to ask that woman to pray for a stranger, and she responded.
There have been books and articles written about the power of a stranger's prayers and intervention, about God's promptings that resulted in miracles. I recently read an article in a popular magazine about a woman who showed up to clean a hospital room during this pandemic, and she increased the faith of the deathly ill patient in the bed with her words of compassion and mercy.
Why, may we ask, does the Almighty God need us to pray for each other at all?
It has everything to do with our free will, I believe. Our choices, our actions of mercy and compassion, and our agreement to be the humble hands and feet of God for each other manifest His love for the world. In such ways, God uses us to save each other daily by the "yes" we give to His invitation. And He saves and strengthens us through our efforts and sacrifices for others. Truly, we are one human family, in this world -- for better or for worse -- together.
We can say no. We can ignore. We can pass by. We can choose to do absolutely nothing, victims of our own selfishness, laziness, and apathy. That is the easy road, and I have been guilty of taking it before, I am truly sorry to say.
But like the Good Samaritan, many of us do not pass by or ignore. We prayerfully act when we can act, and we pray when action is not possible.
Prayer may seem like next to nothing to some, but it is an act of will. When a leper begged Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” Jesus answered, "I do will it. Be made clean." (Mark 1: 40-42)
Prayer is also an act of faith. Jesus asserted often to those he touched and healed, "Your faith has saved you." We move mountains when we cooperate with God -- for ourselves and for others. But faith is the lever.
Thus I take a moment to say a prayer for another’s child when I receive an Amber Alert on my phone. For those who are suffering; who have died; who have lost loved ones, jobs, homes and businesses because of Covid, I pray. For young children spending their days in fast food restaurants, so they can do their schoolwork utilizing free WiFi, I pray. When my kids and I hear the wailing sirens of an ambulance or fire truck and watch it speed past, we pray.
It is what we can do. Sometimes it is all we can do for a stranger. Is it enough? By the grace of God, yes. It is done freely in faith and with love for our fellow human beings.
If I can be nothing else, if I can do nothing else, I know that I can be a prayer warrior – that my prayers are an act of love, sacrifice, and solidarity.
The effects of our countless prayers for strangers, I suspect, are much greater than we can ever know this side of heaven.
Copyright 2020 Hillary Ibarra
Image: Pixabay (2016)
About the Author
Hillary Ibarra is a happy wife, mother of four, and volunteer. In addition to writing for CatholicMom.com, she is a humor writer and author of The Christmas List, based on the miracle of one childhood Christmas Eve. Jesus, her family, playing guitar, admiring trees, and baking bring her joy. She wants to play the banjo someday, but it might take divine intervention! Learn more at HillaryIbarra.com and on Facebook.