The Generosity of Prayer
In many churches, fall means a focus on stewardship as preparation for the annual pledge campaign. St. Alban’s focus this year is a little different. Stewardship, by definition, says that we are responsibly managing what does not belong to us. In church parlance, all things come from God and we use the right portion of those gifts to fulfill the mission of the Church.
Rev’d. Geoffrey, however, is talking about generosity in its many forms. Generosity encompasses grace, virtue, service, goodwill, compassion, magnanimity and love. And while we certainly must be good stewards, being generous can mean changing who we are. I believe that prayer is part of the generosity package.
We’ve heard so many expressions of “sending thoughts and prayers” to the too many who are suffering from the current list of calamities. I’m hoping there is follow-through on those statements, but it can also be an easy thing to say before turning our attention back to the ball game. I imagine that each of us has been guilty of this at least once, I know I have.
On Saturday, my husband was going through a stack of papers and came across a treasure. Some years ago, our family went through a very dark time, and hope for a positive outcome was fading fast. Although we are private people, we spoke openly about our fears to others, and often they responded with a pledge of prayers. I soon started a list of the praying-people and kept it visible on my computer desktop—the same list that Rich found Saturday. The list continued to grow, and churches that included us in their prayers were added, churches in other parts of the country and one in Bratislava. I read over those names several times a day to feel their reassuring embrace, knowing that these friends would honor their promise.
I don’t believe for a minute that God counts the number of offered prayers and is swayed. But I know that this list of loving pray-ers and their prayers saved me. There was probably other saving going on, but I can only speak for myself.
The promise of dedicated, purposeful prayers for another is a compassionate, grace-filled act of generosity. It changes the pray-er and the one prayed for in the mystery of faith. Praying for others opens our hearts to even more ways to be generous. Sharing one’s vulnerability and asking another for prayer is a generous invitation to be in a new relationship, to be of service. When someone asks me to pray for them, I receive that request as a gift.
I will hold on to that list as a reminder that generosity can be transforming.