Often, we may read something on the news, or hear something from someone, which touches our heart and instills within us a desire to help; we might become aware of the suffering of another person, or of their need in a particular moment or in some specific way. There are times when we are able to help directly in one way or another. But there are also many times when we are left feeling powerless or unsure how we can help in any meaningful way.
In one sense, our inability to help directly can have a salutary effect – it can act as a reminder that we, as human beings, simply do not always have the answers, or that we are powerless in a particular situation; this, in turn, leads us to the One who is always able to help, in every situation and in every moment.
It is in this moment that we turn to prayer.
Prayer is not a replacement for those occasions when we can help directly; nor is it a salve for our consciences when we have been less helpful than we could have been; and neither is it a self-congratulatory slap on our own backs. Equally, it should never ever be done for the purpose of being noticed, or of soliciting the praise and admiration of another person. Our Lord speaks about this latter point in the Gospels, and His words are clear on the matter.
Rather, prayer is the support we seek from the Lord in all things; and it is our way of remaining constantly ‘connected’ to Him so that He is at the forefront of all that we are and all that we do. Prayer is our ‘spiritual blood’, sustaining and protecting us, directing and inspiring us, reminding us of our place – that is, behind everyone else – and of our responsibility to love the Lord and to love our neighbour for love of Him. Prayer is our communion with the Father who loves us and who gives us all we need.
In the Divine Mercy devotion given to us through Saint Faustina, the Merciful Lord reminded the young sister –
“I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbour. The first – by deed. The second – by word. The third – by prayer.” (Diary of St Faustina, para.742)
To pray for another in their need, then, is an act of mercy.
In those moments when our hearts are moved with pity or with sorrow for another, and when we are filled with a desire to do something to help even though perhaps separated by great distance or simple inability to do anything practical, let our first impulse be to pray.
Let our first impulse always be to pray.