CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
I pray a lot for Mary Jane these days. And nights. She’s in hospice care. She did such a good job of taking care of her husband as he declined that she just never recovered.
As I pray for her, I remember one morning when I had breakfast with Mary Jane and Ron at church, before worship. We had a friend about whom we were both concerned and started talking about intercessory prayer. I said, “The only thing I know for sure about intercessory prayer is that I have to do it.” Mary Jane, usually a clam and self-possessed woman, blurted out excitedly, “That’s just the way I am, too.”
What are my prayers for Mary Jane “doing?” I don’t know. But I know I must pray them, asking God to bless her with mercy and the sure knowledge of the divine presence.
Prayer is not magic. The most insidious problem of intercessory prayer is thinking it is magic, like that athlete I saw on TV who claimed he was saved from death in an auto accident because he called out the name of Jesus when it happened, and the people who died had not called the name of Jesus.
Poor Jesus would be confounded at that. Sympathetic and forgiving, but still confounded. Look at the prayer he taught us, the one we call the Lord’s Prayer. Nothing magical about it at all. No getting what you want by saying the right words.
Mary Jane is going to die. No amount of praying is going to change that. But as Dr. Rachel Remen reminds us, we kiss the booboo not because the kiss takes away the pain, but because it takes away the loneliness.  Often, taking away the loneliness also takes away the pain.
Because Mary Jane and I had that conversation about intercessory prayer, understanding that we must do it, I am sure that she knows I am praying for her. I’m sure she knows many others are, too. She has to die alone, but she is not lonely.
“All we ask [in old age] is to be allowed to remain the authors of our own story.” Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p. 140.
1] Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom
Each day I read a paragraph in a book by my late, great friend, Bill White.  It makes me feel close to Bill, reading words he wrote, seeing those words on a page. Today he noted that in regard to intercessory prayer, C.S. Lewis says that God uses the works of people to accomplish the divine will all the time—in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, assuaging the loneliness of the sick and imprisoned, etc. If God is willing to use the hands and hearts of people, why would God be unwilling to use the prayers of people?
2] Wm. Luther White, The Image of Man in C.S. Lewis
I talk more about prayer in my book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them is published by AndrewsMcmeel. It is available in paperback, ebook, audio, Czech, and Japanese.