I spoke to a customer service representative recently who was working during a natural disaster. Flooding in her community had reached historic levels. She filled me in on the areas affected and shared a story about a friend not being able to reach her elderly father because the road was washed out. She said they need our prayers. I said I’d pray for them, and we ended the conversation.
I’m not a pray-er. As a result, I rarely tell someone I’ll pray for him or her. When I feel compelled to offer some form of spiritual support, I say something lame like, “You’re in our thoughts, “and then I feel bad that I didn’t offer to pray. On my semi-annual trip to Mass, praying is not a problem. After seventeen years in Catholic schools, I’m conditioned to return from communion head down and hands clasped, kneel on a slim padded bench, and begin a conversation with God. It’s my routine, and I feel like someone holy is listening in church. My prayers are earnest, and if I finish before everyone, I add a few more.
I have a very hard time praying at home. It feels fake and hollow, almost like a homework assignment. I struggle with what to say, how to hold my hands and whether or not I should get on my knees. Sitting in a chair at my desk, I just put my hands together, closed my eyes, and said a sentence about the flood victims. Then it hit me to pray for their hearts not their circumstances. Praying for healthy, full and loving hearts is a universal prayer. Everyone benefits.
I watch too much cable TV news—CNN, MSNBC and Fox, and peruse too many newspapers. In any given day, I read portions of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. I was carrying news anxiety around like crumbs in the bottom of a tote bag. You never know how many crumbs you carry until you empty the bag.
Digesting all this information isn’t healthy. My innards feel dark and thick as if they could heat up and explode if I’m not careful. I’m afraid of my fury, how it will sound if I share all I’m feeling, that people will think I’ve lost my mind.
I can pray for people’s hearts because it makes sense to me. Focusing on any one of what seems like a million troublesome events misses the point. Just writing this I see that the white caps on my dark rage are buffed out of the picture. Praying for hearts can heal us.