Is there such a thing a boomerang prayer?
Last night my husband and I attended a Christmas party for the staff of a college ministry for which he serves on an oversight committee. One of the highlights of this party is hearing various stories from campus and from the lives of the ministers, their families, and the interns, as to how they see God at work in the work they do each day. At the end of the dinner as a closing prayer, each staff member is prayed for by someone at the table. I was asked to pray for a young woman who is finishing her first semester as an intern and whom I’d just met last night for the first time.
I knew very little about her and my turn to pray was near the end, so as we bowed our heads, I silently prayed, “What do I pray for her?” What came to mind was this: that she will see Me meeting all her needs, often through the hands and feet of others, that she will know how present I am.
I hope something like that came out of my mouth. If if didn’t, Romans 8 promises that the third person of the Trinity can translate our prayers into what they should be. The power of prayer does not depend one iota on whether I get the words right or not.
It seems this morning there may be a power in prayer I’ve not noticed before: a boomerang effect. I went to bed realizing I had over-scheduled my upcoming Thursday and thinking I needed to cancel a regular prayer group that meets at my house - just in case I’m not back in time to unlock the door. I dreaded doing it, for I love this group of women and they love me; and the power of hearing them pray and knowing those prayers linger in the crevices of my home long after they leave is one of my sweetest treasures. But practically speaking, for this week anyway, I did not need to have this on my calendar.
I awoke to a text message from a member of the group. “Are we having prayer group? You want me to have it at my house?”
Wow! Yes! Look at that! —all floating through my head as stood by the coffee maker watching it brew. I didn’t have to cancel it. I didn’t even have to ask someone else to host this week. I didn’t even ask God for help! I’d just decided what I needed to do before I crawled out of bed. But He had already handled it before I awoke.
Then I remembered my prayer for the intern - that she would see Jesus meeting all her needs, sometimes through the hands of others, that she will know how present I am. My prayer for her had come right back to me. I stood at the kitchen sink, staring out at the morning sunrise and the leaves that have finally turned yellow in Central Alabama. It was both a “Wow” prayer and and “Thanks” prayer, as Anne Lamott calls them.
I couldn’t help but wonder if prayer works this way, like a boomerang. Does what we pray for others become prayer for us at the same time? My curiosity led me backwards in my journals to see what I had prayed for others lately and if those prayers were being answered in my own life.
What is needful, Jesus said, is what Mary chose. “The good part” He called it. She was looking at him and listening to him. I suspect this boomerang prayer thing is real.
Make me a Mary, one who is looking and listening