I'm deviating slightly from my normal thankful Tuesday to talk about something very powerful in my life that I have to share. The power of prayer.
For the past five Mondays of Lent, I have attended a discussion on prayer at my church. It has been an interesting and educational experience, but I never felt "the power." Until last night.
Last night, the deacon spoke about intercessory prayer -- praying for other people and being prayed for by others. I have witnessed some powerful intercessory prayer, mostly in saving a friend's life, however, I never really realized the fulfillment of someone else's prayers FOR ME.
Allow me to delve into the past and share a personal story. Eleven years ago, I was a Catholic high school student. I attended Mass out of necessity, not because I wanted to or believed I needed to, and I was seriously questioning my faith and whether it was for me. I developed a close friendship with a guy in my class, who was a firm believer. We spent a lot of time talking about faith, the Church, God and catechism, but I wasn't sold. He kept trying, though, and he involved me in his faith as much as he could, but above all, he prayed for me -- and told me he was doing so. I thanked him for that, but I never gave it much thought. Part one.
Part two... For every holy day the Church celebrated and on the first Friday of every month, my school gathered us into the auditorium for Mass. Most of the time I passed notes to friends or took a nap, needless to say, I never really paid much attention. One day, one usual day, I happened to pay attention while the priest consecrated the host (maybe I was trying to make an honest effort to believe). He lifted the host to signify the consecration, and as I looked, I saw a flame burning in the middle of it. It was one of those moments that happens in a second but seems to last forever. I shook my head, looked around to see if anyone else showed signs of seeing, but everyone else looked pretty uninterested. All of a sudden, I realized, it was a sign. I started to be sold; I got my "proof." I started believing. I started developing and studying my faith. I've only ever shared that story with my friend who tried so hard to get me to that point.
That image, vision, sign -- whatever you want to call it -- has always been with me in my times of doubt. I remember that gift from God, and it strengthens my faith again.
Finally, the two parts go together. Last night, the deacon shared a story of attending Mass and seeing a similar vision: beams of light around the altar during consecration. This reminded me of what I saw so many years ago, and it confirmed that I wasn't crazy, that it was a sign.
Then, through all I've heard and prayed and reflected on over the course of Lent, I had a revelation. That sign I received -- that gift I believed I received from God to help me believe -- was actually the direct result of my friend PRAYING FOR ME TO BELIEVE. Whoa. I started shaking. I felt humbled. I felt grateful. I felt somewhat stupid for never realizing that until eleven years later, but at the same time, so incredibly joyful that I finally made the connection. I found my faith because a friend prayed for me and God heard, and not only did God hear, but God granted that prayer and gave me a gift. Wow.
I had to share this with the deacon, and I did. Then I drove home, shaking, close to tears. I walked in the house, gave Jed a kiss and told him I love him.
Because that friend, who prayed for me back in high school, was Jed.