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How to Pray for Others When You’re Scared

A mom’s prayers during a Coronavirus scare

Praying for others when you're scared
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My youngest, a junior in high school, went with his Model UN team to Yale last weekend for a big conference. He called home on Saturday bubbling with excitement. “This is more fun than anything!” he exclaimed. He’d made friends with a kid from the Czech Republic, with someone from Thailand and with a guy from Taiwan now living in Canada. The program was well-planned, and his committee sessions were superbly run. He’d been engaged and thinking and talking and strategizing for eight hours. He was exhausted and ecstatic.

Then on Sunday came the text: All activities for the day were canceled due to the virus. The coronavirus. A student delegate from China had developed a fever and cough, and though he (or she) had tested positive for regular flu, out of an abundance of caution the last day of the conference was canceled. My son was sad. and suddenly world events were very real and close to home.

He forwarded the official email from Yale, which was extremely sensible. But even though I am supremely rational, I had to work hard at tamping down my sense of alarm. The reality that my child may have been exposed to a deadly illness was hard to process. My thoughts returned and returned again to the scariness of the situation.

It occurred to me to pray… but for what? If the student delegate did indeed have the coronavirus and my son had been exposed, the virus was either in him or not. The prayer I needed wasn’t “Make it not happen!” but something else.

When I’m stuck like that, I find it usually helps to try to look at the situation from someone else’s perspective. So I asked, “Show me another way to look at this, Lord!” A few moments later it occurred to me that the mother of this sick teenager was half a world away from her child. How terrifying! She was helpless. Her child was quarantined, maybe fatally ill and may have infected up to 1400 other people. 

That mom’s fear was almost certainly ten times mine. She became my prayer focus: each time my fear reared up, I hunkered down in prayer on behalf of a mother I would never meet.

Three eternal days later the CDC announced the student’s coronavirus test was negative. I breathed a sigh of relief. I also continue to breathe prayers of thanks on behalf of that mother and her child. They will be reunited soon, and what a homecoming that will be!

That mom will probably never know that for a brief period of time we were connected through God. 

All of us receive graces and blessings of which we are unaware. More to the point, our prayers can also invoke graces and blessings upon others. I think this is especially true when we feel fear and direct our hearts outward rather than inward. Praying for others heals us as well as them.

Show me another way to look at this, Lord! Show me who needs my prayers.

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