Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Within a Prayer

by Ann Cavera


Remember poor Job from the Old Testament? Job was a good man who did nothing to merit his terrible suffering. Instead of offering him support, friends stood around making comments about how his troubles were his own fault.

How did Job respond? A line in verse 10 of the epilogue says: "God restored Job's fortunesafterhe prayed for his friends." The same line in an older Jerusalem translation reads: God restored Job's fortunesbecausehe prayed for his friends. Either way, it seems God looks kindly on those who pray for others who treat them poorly.

Not long ago, a friend came to us nearly in tears because of a difficult work situation. No matter how hard she tries, her efforts are met with misunderstanding and rejection. We asked if she had been praying for the people who are working against her. She shook her head. A few minutes later she said, "I wouldn't know how to pray for them."

Who hasn't had people in life who, for whatever reasons, didn't like them; people who worked against them? Like Job, we are called to pray for others whether they accept us or not. Our friend asked, "Do I pray for what they want, or what I want?"

We told her there is no need to pray either way for specifics. What seems most useful is to lift them up and for God's love, grace, peace and joy to prevail. We pray that God in his wisdom will work his own great good in their lives and in our lives as well.

People who develop a consistent prayer life can relate some remarkable answers to problems that seemed to have no solutions. Other times, prayers might be offered for many years with no visible signs of change. What use is prayer if nothing changes?

Regardless of whether prayer changes anything or anyone else, prayer always changes us. We are no longer helpless victims when we choose to will the good of those who treat us unkindly. By placing those who work against us in God's hands, we hold open channels through which grace can flow.

When we pray for others, our perspective shifts. Hearts soften. Tensions subside. We become less self-absorbed. Through prayer, we come to understand it isn't about us anymore, and perhaps it never was.

Sometimes, we may be called to stay in a difficult situation, while other times, grace may open a door and lead us to a new place. Even then, we can continue to pray for those who have caused us pain. Prayer knows no distance.

Letting go of our expectations, we are content to leave the future in God's hands. Prayer is about making space for the coming of God's goodness into our lives and into the lives of others. Prayer creates a room where Advent can happen. Prayer makes space for Christ.

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.