Saturday, November 15, 2014

Making Your Prayer Go Viral


While singing a prayer I've sung a hundred times, I noticed something interesting. And the implication of my observation is that, within the Communion of Saints, there is a way to multiply our prayers way beyond our own personal power. And this is something which Christians have not fully taken advantage of. The secret to "making your prayer go viral" on the ears of God has been hidden in plain sight within the official liturgies of the Christian Church.

Prayer in Numbers

We pray. 

And we ask other people to pray for us because Scripture teaches us that if one prayer is good, two prayers are better!

We can see a biblical example of this principle when the Prophet Daniel asked his three friends to "seek mercies" from God that he could interpret the troubling dreams of the King of Babylon (Daniel 2:18-19). And the mystery was then revealed to Daniel in a dream.

Those of us in the Catholic and Orthodox communions ask our family and friends to pray for us. But we also ask our family and friends who have fallen asleep to pray for us as well. If you are interested in reading a scriptural defense of this practice, please read this post.

Asking Others to Ask Others to Pray for us

The definition of something "going viral," whether it be a YouTube video or web post, is that the item in question is "shared" by people so much that the spread of it goes well beyond the promotional efforts of the person who created it.

When we have a pressing need in our lives, we pray to God directly, of course. But we also reach out to friends and family to pray on our behalf as well.

And I'll bet that you've asked a friend not just to pray for you, but also to ask their own circle of friends and family to pray for you.

Again, we ask others to pray for us knowing that there is indeed "strength in numbers" when it comes to prayer. If there were not, then why would St Paul ask others to pray? (1 Tim 2:1; 1 Thess 5:25; Col 4:2-3) 

Asking Saints to Ask Other Saints to Pray for us?

Here's my controversial claim. We believe in the Communion of Saints. And a part of that is the ability to ask those who have fallen asleep, our immediate relatives and heroes and saints of our Faith, to pray for us.

And we do so out of the hope that their proximity to God makes their prayers for us all the more powerful:

Powerful in its effects is the prayer of a Righteous Man (James 5:16)

If we believe that the faithful departed can, by the power of God (not by their own energy), hear our requests that they pray for us, could we not ask them to ask others in Heaven to pray for us as well? Would this not be just the same thing as asking a friend to ask other friends?

Here's why I'm thinking this is indeed a fully valid prayer form. I believe the practice of asking a departed Saint to ask other Saints to pray for us is actually contained in the official liturgies of the Church.

Every Sunday, before the Divine Liturgy begins, I pray/sing aloud the Third and Sixth Hours of Prayer for my congregation. And here's what I noticed is contained within the prayers of the Third Hour:

O Birth-Giver of God, you are the true vine who has put for the Fruit of Life. We pray you, intercede, O Lady, with the Apostles and all the Saints, that our souls may receive mercy.

Θεοτόκε, σύ εί η άμπελος η αληθινή, η βλαστήσασα τόν καρπόν τής ζωής, σέ ικετεύομεν, πρέσβευε Δέσποινα, μετά τών Αποστόλων, καί πάντων τών Αγίων, ελεηθήναι τάς ψυχάς ημών. 

In the words of this prayer, we ask Mary to intercede for us. This is the same thing as asking a living family member or friend for prayer. But we additionally ask Mary to intercede for us "with the Apostles and all the Saints." Now, this prayer does not include us directly asking "the Apostles and all the Saints" to pray for us. The implication here is that we are asking Mary, not just to pray for us but also to ask the Apostles and all the Saint to pray for us as well.

And why not? If she can hear what we ask, we can ask her to pray for us. And we can ask her to ask others to pray for us.

The way I have personally included this within my own prayer life is to ask certain Saints to ask those most like them to pray for me. And so, for instance, I ask my Patron Saint Andrew to pray for me and I ask him to ask his Brother Apostles to pray for me. I could theoretically ask each of the Apostles by name to pray for me. But each of us has only so much time in the day to pray! Through the Communion of Saints, God has given us the ability to multiply our petitions, always, of course, praying for ourselves first, but also asking other to pray for us. And even asking others to ask others.

I ask St. Irenaeus of Lyon to pray for me every day. He is a character in my time travel adventure novel In Saecula Saeculorum. Because of that, I have a particular relationship with him. I ask him also to ask all his Brother Bishops to pray for me.

That's the idea. Now, keep in mind, asking others to pray for us is meaningless if we are not primarily praying for ourselves. My prayer time is overwhelmingly spent in direct prayer to God. I pray for my beloved dead. And I do ask them and certain Saints to pray for me. And I ask them to ask others. But that time is a fraction of the time I am directly in Communion with my Creator.

And so, as you pray to God, as you ask others to pray, consider whether, based on what I have shown here, you could not also ask those in the presence of God to ask still others, that our prayers may thrive and multiple before our Loving God.

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