We were sitting in the shade at a playground watching our preschoolers dash from slide to slide when my best friend turned to me and my husband and said, “We have something we’d like to ask you. Will you be our baby’s godparents?”
Overjoyed, my husband and I immediately said yes. Then, my friend said sincerely, “I know you’ll pray for this baby.” She was right. I had been praying for this baby, and I would certainly continue to do so. But now that I had agreed to be this little girl’s godmother, I knew I wanted to be more intentional about my prayer for her. What could I do to ensure that praying for my goddaughter was part of my daily routine?
When someone asks for your prayers or you tell a loved one, “I’ll pray for you,” what happens next? Do you say a quick Our Father and then move on with your day? Do you, like me, sometimes forget to pray at all?
Intercessory prayer, or prayer that we say on behalf of another person, is both powerful and comforting. Scripture and tradition are filled with stories of miracles that happen when people come together to pray. Even if a miracle does not occur, a prayerful friend or family member can be a great source of peace and strength in challenging and joyful times alike.
Here are five ideas that can help you keep your promise to pray for others and strengthen your own spiritual life at the same time.
1. Learn a prayer that’s new to you.
Recently, I’ve learned that novenas are especially adaptable and powerful. Praying a novena prayer each day for a prescribed length of time can help you strengthen a habit of prayer while also benefiting someone in need of companionship and grace. When praying a novena, I like to choose a specific time each day that I will use to say the prayer. Linking a daily prayer to a daily task or setting a reminder on your phone can help you keep your commitment.
As we were awaiting the birth of our goddaughter, my husband and I selected a novena and made a few small adjustments to some of the wording so that it better fit with our intentions: that our goddaughter would have a safe delivery and grow into a strong woman of faith. I taped the novena to the inside of our bathroom mirror so my husband and I could pray it each night as we brushed our teeth.
2. Choose a Scripture verse.
Scripture, and especially the book of Psalms, is full of prayer. Try searching for a verse from the Bible that captures the intention you have promised to pray for. Select a short verse that speaks to the situation at hand, then read it every day with your loved one in mind. Try setting your phone or computer background with an image that contains this Scripture verse so that you will see it and read it several times a day.
I returned to Romans 8:28 each time I prayed for my high school students throughout the pandemic: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” A computer background with this verse reminded both myself and my students that God could bring good for them out of this incredibly challenging experience.
3. Write your own prayer.
Consider writing your own prayer that articulates the specific intentions of your friend or family member. Write it neatly or type and print it out, then tape it to a place where you will see it every day. After praying this prayer for a few days or weeks, you could even send a copy of it to your loved one to remind them that they’re in your heart.
4. Fast for your special intention.
Fasting, or giving up something for a designated period of time, is an ancient way of prayer that most people associate with Lent. However, you can use this type of prayer any time of year! Could you avoid social media on the day that your friend has a big interview? Can you give up chocolate until your sister finds a new apartment?
In my own life, I have found that fasting helps me remember those who have asked for my prayers. Each time I’m tempted to break my fast, I call to mind the reason for my sacrifice. Indeed, these small sufferings not only remind us of our promises to pray, but also strengthen our own hearts as we learn to rely on God’s mercy and grace.
5. Choose a saint to be your prayer companion.
In the Catholic Church, saints are often assigned as the patrons of certain groups of people or situations. Do a little research to find a patron saint who could walk with you as you intercede for your friend or family member. For me, St. Dymphna and St. Michael have been powerful and supportive spiritual friends as I have prayed for loved ones who are struggling with their mental health. See if you can find a prayer card with an image of a patron saint — or simply print a picture of them that you find online! — and keep it in a place you will see every day for a week, a month, or as long as the special intention lasts.
No matter how you choose to pray, standing in spiritual solidarity with someone is a powerful way to love and serve those God has placed in our lives.