I often get prayer requests from friends or friends of friends similar to this one:

“A Co-worker of mine has a son Oliver who has been diagnosed with a tumor in his brain that is in-operable. Listed below is a description of his condition. He will most likely be starting radiation on Monday the 22nd, and will be (hopefully) outpatient, taking only 1.5 hours each day Mon-Fri for 6-7 weeks.  The chemo and other meds will start a couple weeks into the radiation treatment and continue on beyond. Please send out a request for prayers for Oliver.”

Typically, my immediate response is to send a quick reply of sympathy and an offer to pray, and then I offer up an immediate prayer for the intention I just received. I do this because I believe in the efficacy of prayer and because I know myself well enough to understand that if I don’t offer the prayer immediately on the spot, I will forget to include the intention later during my personal prayers. But I have friends who do much better and have the ability to offer more of themselves. Mike, a dear friend of mine, will often say a rosary and fast for people he doesn’t know, but for whom he has been asked to pray. Jim, the spiritual Godfather of our men’s group, recently commented that he writes down those he has been asked to pray for so he has the list ready when he prays. He said it is in those quiet, prayful moments that God speaks to him. God speaks by giving Jim an inkling of what the person needs, or what may offer the person comfort in their time of need, and Jim responds. Jim asks the Lord to help those in need, but also offers himself up as an instrument of God’s grace and love.

It is the response that I find telling. Jim and Mike offer more of themselves than just a hurried prayer. They openly offer themselves to God as humble servants for the benefit of their neighbor in need. It is a beautiful testimony to how we are called to be brothers and sisters in faith and to minister to each other. The truth is that they are not only helping the person in need more, but they are both getting much more in return by being true servants of Christ. They are great role models for me.

Scripture tells us that the efficacy of prayer involves the action of the Holy Spirit: Luke 6:13.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that:

“Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man.” [67] “The Holy Spirit who teaches the Church and recalls to her all that Jesus said also instructs her in the life of prayer, inspiring new expressions of the prayer: blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise.”[68] “Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him“. “The father gives us when our prayer is united with that of Jesus ‘another Counselor, to be with [us] for ever’, the Spirit of Truth.” [69] “The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sights too deep for words.” [70]
“One enters into prayer by the narrow gate of faith. It is the face of the Lord that we seek and desire; it is his Word that we want to hear and keep”[71] “Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to ‘seek’ and to ‘knock’, since he himself is the door and the way.[72]
I can only hope to learn from my brothers in faith and enter into deeper, more meaningful prayer. Christ himself prayed constantly; there is no better role model. In his book A Call to Joy, Living in the Presence of God, Matthew Kelly says that the change that had the greatest effect of his life was that he started to really pray. “Over time it became clear to me that the greatest act available to us is to be like God–to imitate Christ the perfect man. I had always been taught that to aim for perfection in whatever I did was good and noble. Why shouldn’t I aim to perfect my whole person?” (26). While we all fall short of perfection, Kelly is correct that the endevor for perfection is not only noble, but it is our calling. We are called to be Christ like. But only through prayer and the grace of God can we grow. “The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes.”