In the Need of Prayer

In the past few days, I have asked friends and colleagues to pray for a young man they have never met. One of my dearest friends (we will call him S.) is currently on life support in California after a horrible accident. His wife sits by his side as family and friends from all around the world wait for him to come out of a coma. They are in our thoughts without ceasing; and are the subject of so many prayers.

Outstretched Cupped Hands by George Hodan
Outstretched Cupped Hands by George Hodan

The irony is that S. is not an especially spiritually-inclined person. I have been thinking about what he would say about all these folks offering prayers on his behalf. I’m sure he would be touched, but he might also be amused or even a little annoyed. S. is fiercely devoted to his Jewish tradition, but holds little credence in the super natural. I’ve found myself talking to him directly, trying to reach him wherever he is. I’ve asked him to fight, to heal, to come back to us. I’ve prayed in English and in Hebrew. I have candles lit 24/7. I’ve pleaded with God to watch over him, to heal him, to bring him back to us. In conversation of sorts with S., I have been reflecting on the nature of prayer and why it feels so crucial to me right now.

Three reflections:

  • Ann Ulanov calls prayer “primary speech.” “It is basic and fundamental,” she says, “our ground.” In prayer, she says, “who and what we are speak out of us…To pray is to listen to and hear this self who is speaking.”1 Accessing the deepest parts of ourselves, we ground ourselves in our humanness, open ourselves to our most fundamental being and speak the first language of our hearts. Prayer like this is often silent; it is wordless and timeless, connecting us to what is, was, and will be.
  •  Anne Lamott tells us that there are three prayers: “Help, Thanks, and Wow.”2 Over the past few days, I have found that often all I can manage is “Help,” repeating it over and over in the pre-dawn darkness as I feed my newborn daughter and pray for the man we call “Uncle.”
  • And as our community begins a daily practice of sending thoughts and prayers to S. and his family at the same time, twice each day, I am struck by how prayer, however it is offered, makes it so we are not alone. Over the years, I have become a reluctant believer in the “power of prayer,” without understanding what that power might be. I do know the power of being kept in prayer and of holding others in prayer. I am more than grateful to all those who do not know S. or his family and are praying for them – sending love and thoughts, concentrating energy and imploring the life force or God or Love to surround them with care and compassion, strength and courage, comfort and peace. Deep down, I think S. is probably grateful too.


A Prayer for Today:

Sprit of Life and of Love,
Grant us courage where there is fear,
Compassion where there is division,
Peace where there is chaos.

May we find the strength to love one another fiercely,
Wildly and without abandon.
May we be granted the wisdom to know our hearts
And to speak our truths.

May we watch over each other,
Assuring each other that we are truly not alone,
But loved and cared for beyond measure.

May our hands be your hands, O God,
Our hearts filled to overflowing with your love.

Help us to love one another well,
To face the valleys together,
To climb the hills in tandem,
To ask for what we need,
And to receive abundance.

May we lift our heart voices in prayer:
Imploring help,
Extending gratitude,
Exclaiming awe.

For this life that we share,
Even in its darkest hours,
We give thanks.




1.  Ulanov, Ann and Barry Ulanov. Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

2. Lamott, Anne. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. New York: Penguin Press, 2012.



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