Growing up, my parents always taught me to pray for anyone going through a difficult time. Whether it was a sick neighbor, an uncle who lost a job, a friend who broke her leg, or strangers facing a natural disaster, we prayed for them. Prayer was part of our daily routine, and we were constantly on the lookout for people who could use extra measures of comfort or strength through prayer.
As I got older, I continued to pray for others out of habit. When my college roommate faced depression, I prayed. When my coworker faced infertility, I prayed. When my neighbor’s newborn baby faced health complications, I prayed. I tried to help with tangible needs where I could, but praying was a constant. No matter the situation or distance, I knew I could always offer prayers.
Yet, I often wondered whether my prayers made any difference. Was God really sending the blessings that I intended? Were the people I prayed for receiving any benefit from my prayers? Did they feel the peace, guidance, and strength I was aiming to send?
Or were these problems too big for my simple prayers to have any effect?
Five years into our marriage, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He became very ill, and we were unsure how long he would live. The only thing that seemed certain was that our road would be difficult. We felt scared, sad, and lonely.
And then our friends started praying.
I ran into people in the grocery store who assured me they were praying for our family. I saw people at church who said even their littlest children remembered my husband in their bedtime prayers. We received text messages, phone calls, and Facebook comments declaring love, support, and prayers.
An entire community was praying for us, and we could feel it.
It wasn’t just wishful thinking or empty pleasantries or some kind of placebo effect. The prayers were really, truly working.
The prayers didn’t eliminate our problems. They didn’t erase all the sickness or remove all the pain. My husband still needed chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. I still needed counseling, a shoulder to cry on, and a nap. My husband was lucky enough to survive, but many others do not, despite the most faithful of prayers.
But the prayers brought a very real power to our lives.
There was power to push through the endless procedures. There was power to endure another round of chemotherapy. There was power to get from the doctor’s office to the hospital to the pharmacy when all we wanted to do was stay in bed. There was power to find joy even when everything seemed miserable. There was power to make it through another day.
And there was so much love. It was as if God took the prayers of our friends and family and sent them as little packages directly into our hearts. The love almost felt tangible, like I could reach out and access it whenever the days got too hard to bear. We could feel the love from our friends on the other side of town. We could feel the love from our family on the other side of the country. We could even feel the love of strangers who happened to hear of our story.
We could feel the prayers. They weren’t meaningless or empty; in fact, so much the opposite. The prayers often provided the most help of all. They lifted our spirits and comforted our sorrows in ways that I never thought possible. I am indescribably grateful for everyone who prayed and still prays for us. It makes such a dramatic difference.
I only wish I could repay all the kind, praying souls.
I will try to pass on the love in the best way that I know how.
I will pray.
And I will ask God to fill each heart with power and love, as He has done for me.