What does it mean to pray for someone or something?
If I pray to obtain control over someone or something, I am wasting my time.
Prayer is the expression of my desire to relinquish all control over persons, things, and circumstances into the merciful and loving hands of God.
Adoration of the Divine Will
If I pray to have some power over persons, things, or the course of events, my prayer is futile; it is, in some way, an anti-prayer.
Prayer is the struggle to let go of every desire to have power over others, over things, and over the course of events.
Prayer is adoration of the Divine Will in all its manifestations.
The Lord’s Doings
At Vespers this evening I chanted the utter perfection of all that God does: Magna opera Domini, exquirenda omnibus, qui cupiunt ea (Psalm 110:2). Knox translates: “Chant we the Lord’s doings, delight and study of all who love Him.” And then, in the following psalm, singing of the just man, I read, Ab auditione mala non timebit. Paratum cor eius, sperans in Domino (Psalm 111:7). “No fear shall he have of evil tidings; on the Lord his hope is fixed unchangeably.” Both verses enchanted me . . . and instructed me.
How Do I Pray?
How often do I bring to prayer a problem to be resolved, a person I would like to see changed, a suffering that I want to forestall? I tell God how best to resolve the problem. I advise Him on how best to change the person who is the object of my intercession. I bargain with Him in order to avoid the suffering that I fear: a suffering that may well be imaginary and that, more often than not, is merely the projection of an anguish lurking somewhere in my subconscious.
In Manibus Tuis
It is right to bring persons, things, and events to prayer, but the purpose of prayer is not to wrest control from the hands of God in order to assure that I get my own way, but, rather, to surrender all control in an act of childlike trust in the mercy, wisdom, and power of the Father. I remember the exhilaration I once experienced while standing in the middle of the choir singing the Offertory Antiphon, In te speravi. It contains the line, Tu es Deus meus, in manibus tuis tempora mea, “Thou art my God, my destiny is in Thy hands” (Psalm 30:16). The liturgy is an infallible school of what is essential in prayer.
There is another form of prayer that is admirably suited to “letting go,” and that prayer is the Holy Rosary of Our Blessed Lady. It is as if each Ave, recited with one’s gaze fixed on the face of the Blessed Virgin, relaxes one’s hold over things, be it real, or imagined, or even desired, in such a way as to make it easier to relinquish everything into the hands of God. I have been praying my Rosary before the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help during this her Novena. “Hold on to me just as the little Jesus holds on to my thumb,” she seems to be saying, “and let go of all the rest.”