By Cecelia Ramirez
I’ve been sharing the words “I’ll pray for you” with others for as long as I can remember. Until recently, telling loved ones--or strangers--in difficult situations that I would pray for them just seemed like the best thing I could offer when there was nothing I could physically do to alleviate their situation. Even if I didn’t change anything, I could at least walk away reassured that I said something comforting and attempted to share a message of faith. Praying for someone seemed like just that--a mere attempt to comfort someone and share my faith.
It was something that I had to settle for when I couldn’t do anything “better.”
But the way St. Paul addresses prayer when writing to the Colossians in today’s first reading is much different than the way I grew up thinking of the intercessory prayer that I offered to others. Rather than a last resort, his prayer for this community is among the first things he assures them of in his letter. It isn’t until he acknowledges that he has prayed for wisdom, patience, strength, and numerous other gifts necessary for them to serve God that he begins to advise them.
It’s as if he’s humbly accepting that there’s little he can offer unless he invokes God’s grace through prayer first.
Like St. Paul, I was also compelled to follow Jesus’ words of “ask and you shall receive” after a stressful week at my childcare job last month. I’ve often struggled with being assertive, especially when it leads to conflict, and even when I know it’s the necessary response.
I thought that pushing myself through situations that required my assertiveness would be enough.
But when it wasn’t, I turned to the prayers of my community as a last resort. In my mind, even the sincere words to God from my friends wouldn’t do as much as my own solo efforts to approach situations with confidence, but it’s to those sincere words exactly that I attribute the sudden change in perspective and increase in confidence that I experienced a day later. That such interior change could happen was a miracle to me. I’m certain that it couldn’t happen on my own. So in addition to confident assertiveness at my job, I received a deeper faith in the intercessory prayer that I often offer and request.
To be clear, I don’t think that God always responds immediately and with exactly what is asked for.
But the pattern I’ve found when I invoke God’s grace through prayer is that He always does or reveals more than I could on my own.
If He does this when I pray for myself, or when others have prayed for me, who’s to say He won’t do the same when I pray for others? In the Gospel, God tells Simon that he will become a fisher of men, implying that his new role is to catch men with the love of Christ, in order to lead them to Christ himself. I extend this call that Simon received to myself. I also feel challenged to lead others to Christ. Now having a deeper understanding that offering prayer isn’t just offering comforting words, and that it does actually reveal God’s close presence and power, I want to do what St. Paul does when he desires to point others to God.
I’m going to trust that prayer is the perfect starting point.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cecilia is a California native and a Bostonian at heart. She is a recent graduate from Boston University and a former missionary with NET Ministries. Currently walking with Jesus through the struggles of post-grad life, she finds joy and peace in daily prayer, reflective writing, and long walks with scenic views. Her goal in life is to visit all the beautiful places she dreams about each day and, of course, to fall in love with God at every moment.