From a friend. He passed in August. His wife approved of me writing this piece. And when I told her that I thought of my friend when I saw the Mr. Rogers' movie, she approved the essay. She saw the movie, too. "He prayed just like Mr. Rogers. Same way, exactly. And he never knew that."
In explaining people for whom he prayed, my friend once said:
"When I got laid off, my wife was working so we survived, but I couldn't get a job. Age, experience, all seemed to work against me. It was a struggle."
"You don't know this, but I did something that changed my life, and you know what I think of organized religion, but I did it anyway. (note: my friend hadn't been in a church since he was a kid, and felt organized religion was a product of the devil himself.)
"I prayed for people. And, no, that wasn't my intention. I've got a reputation to maintain, you know."
"But check this out: I was scrolling through my sites (another note: my friend liked to gamble, so he always got information about the daily sports odds) and I saw this ad for being a "prayer partner" to people in need. Here I'd lost the job, but I felt good because I'd just won a big trifecta that morning, and I figured, what the hell, I'd check it out. Spread a little of the wealth, you know (another note: I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. This was as incongruous a comment I think he'd ever made.)
"I thought about my pain a whole lot, but I felt that if I could think about others and get the focus off myself, I might feel a little better. In the beginning, I thought this would help me, not them so much. And, as I said, I was in a good mood. So, I went with it. I mean, that day I went with it. Mother Teresa I'm not, and I didn't want this to be a habit."
"Thing was, that's exactly what it became. See, these people put their intentions up on this prayer board. You scrolled through them, and they wanted somebody to pray for their stuff but-and here's the catch-you had to tell these people in an email response that you had their prayer, that you were praying for them, and you truly hoped God listened and helped their situation."
"I gave them my email address. We talked. But they really wanted prayers. So I kept praying. I mean, I knew how to pray, right? I did that every time I made a bet, particularly on a long shot! (another note: I told him it was a lousy joke.)
"Yeah, I know, but I wanted you to get the idea. I just kept praying. Remedial prayers, but I just did it. Then I expanded it to people in my life. I just would say their names, then offer something up. Did that every day. I wrote down their names, and I would say each name after I told God I wanted him to pay attention because I had added a few people to the list (yeah, another note: His wife said he would talk about this, saying that he "told God to get ready tonight" because his list just got a little longer.")
"Shortly after that, I got a job. People seemed to feel better. I got positive emails. I would write people's names down in my folder and I kept saying them, one at a time, with the prayer in my heart, every night before I went to bed.(last note: if you knew this guy, hearing him say the words "the prayer in my heart" would literally be the last thing you'd ever dream of coming out of his mouth.)
After his funeral, I went to my friend's house. His wife showed me is "folder." She counted over eight hundred names he'd collected in twelve years of prayer.
Practice this: Think of whomever you consider as God, ask that these prayers be considered for the highest good of whom you're praying and say the names of each one individually. Write down their names so you remember. Add to the list as you feel appropriate.
Repeat. Daily. This Year.