THE PRAYER SPACE

My LEAST Favorite Kind of Prayer

I don’t always enjoy praying — but I do it anyway

Orthodox prayer rope. Image by author.

If I did not pray, it would be for me an act of spiritual suicide. That said, I do have some prayers that I just don’t enjoy praying. Are you ready for the the big one? The one I dislike the most?

drumroll please…
suspense music…
wait for it…

The winner is: Intercessory Prayer.

You know, the prayers I pray for others. For your Uncle Joe because he has cancer, for the lady across the street whose car is broken down, for a friend who is going through a rough time.

I love my people, and I pray for them because I love them, but I am not comfortable with intercessory prayer. I just do it anyway.

One of the reasons I dislike intercessory prayer is that God is not someone who shows up and grants three wishes, nor is he a lucky charm, nor do I want to presume to tell God what to do.

I have a friend who is Orthodox, and one day she gave me a great idea for my intercessory prayers that I have used ever since.

Praying the Orthodox prayer rope. Image by author.

I have a 100 knot Orthodox prayer rope that I enjoy praying, and the prayer rope is exclusively for the Jesus Prayer which is:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The prayer rope is held in my left hand as I run the knots through my fingers. With ten knots each (I go around the rope multiple times), I pray

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Justin, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Justin, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Justin…

Ten times, ten knots.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Elizabeth, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Elizabeth…

This method works for me and has several advantages.

The first advantage is that I don’t have to think of requests that sound like I think God is at my beck and call.

The second advantage is that I can keep up as I pray for the same person on the same set of ten every night. I know by where my fingers are on the rope which person I’m praying for at the time.

The third advantage is that I take some time praying for each person. I don’t just rush through the requests like a checklist. The Jesus Prayer is meditative, and I can truly think about the person while I pray for them.

The fourth and I think greatest advantage in my mind is that I can pray without prejudice.

I have a confession: I do not like everyone who is on my prayer list. Some because they have hurt me, some because they have hurt someone I love, some because they are hard to get along with, and much more.

The thing with using the Jesus Prayer is that the prayer is the same for those I like and those I don’t. I can’t insert my judgments on a person using this method.

I do occasionally pray extra prayers that aren’t the Jesus Prayer for people, but it’s not often. If someone is grieving, I will pray for comfort after I’m done praying on the rope.

The intercessory prayers that I don’t use the prayer rope for are the prayers I pray for the dead. I pray specific prayers for those who have died, including a nine day novena that when I’ve completed the nine days I start again.

I don’t wait until I get back to day one to add people, I add them whenever I find out they died, and continue with whatever day I’m on. There are other prayers I pray for the dead also.

Praying for the dead isn’t a common practice for those who are not Catholic, but I do it anyway because it’s something I’ve been called to do.

Intercessory prayer in church is something that, as a woman in a church with a liturgical tradtion, I can handle. I am on the list of intercessors which means that sometimes I am the one who leads the Prayers of the People in church.

These prayers are prayed responsively, which means the intercessor (the person leading the prayers) makes a request and there is a response from the people. This is a beautiful way where the community of Christians prays together.

For me, this is so much more meaningful than having one man stand up and pray a prayer on behalf of everyone on the spot. For instance, in Form VI, found on pages 392–393 of The Book of Common Prayer, the person leading the prayers says:

“For the just and proper use of your creation;”

and the people respond with

“for the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.”

There is this back and forth throughout the entire prayer.

There is a section where the needs of specific people in the parish or those they love are prayed for. The liturgy for Form VI, says for the special needs and concerns of this congregation,” and it’s followed by a list of names that are read aloud.

In the Episcopal Church, there are six different forms for intercessory prayers, and one of the six is used in each service. If you are unfamiliar with these prayers and would like to take a look, you can find them in The Book of Common Prayer on pages 383–393.

Thankfully, there are many and varied ways to pray intercessory prayers, these are the ones I’ve found useful.

“Let us pray.”

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MaryClare StFrancis, M.A.

She/her. I write memoirs, feature articles, essays, poetry, and more. I aim to humanize troubled people through my own stories. bio.link/maryclare