I have a number of people I pray for, in my own life and as a spiritual director. As I accompany people in their prayer lives, I’m reminded of how much our prayers arise from our life circumstances. I rejoice with directees when they get to see God and experience his love for themselves. We take time to celebrate that together and give thanks. In seasons of desolation, I feel their pain and walk with them through it and sometimes weep with them in their sorrow. I journey with people in times of questioning and doubt, and I listen to their struggles to find God in the midst of conflict and pain. We look together for evidence of his presence, and we do our best to listen as he speaks into their lives. It’s the most rewarding work I can imagine.
It’s challenging though when people I care about are struggling. I have to stay deeply rooted myself or I can have difficulty in trusting God’s will. Especially when I see suffering, I want to pray for an end to that, for relief to come quickly. Sometimes it does. If I pause though, to think about how God has used suffering in my own life, I know it can be a source of growth and strength, if I let it. It actually seems to be the only way we grow. I just wish there were some other way.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on an icon of Christ as the vine and we as the branches. I’ve been placing the faces of those I pray for on those branches. I light a candle in their name and pray Christ’s light for their path. I envision Christ abiding with them in a place of peace and rest. I’m reminded that he who was no stranger to suffering will be with them in theirs. It’s helped me release them to his loving care, to trust in his goodness and faithfulness. And to say along with Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.”
Today’s prayer practice: Prayers of release
Sit quietly before God and center yourself in his love. Ask to know and trust his will as you pray. Reflect on the icon of the vine and branches, on Jesus as the vine. Take those who are on your heart and hold them out before God in silence. If it helps, light a candle in their name as you release them into God’s care. Listen for guidance in how to pray for them spiritually, physically and emotionally. Envision God’s healing power surrounding them, and pray simply as God directs. As you go through your day, listen for additional insights, and pray as God leads.