“Could we come to pray over you?” The words were spoken by four women who had shared various levels of acquaintance and friendship over the course of many years.
We found ourselves gathered around a woman of deep faith who was enduring a time of physical suffering like never before in her life, listening, laying on of hands, a breath of the Holy Spirit when we could utter no words. And then, “Could we come again next week?” So it began, our routine during the Hour of Mercy on Wednesday afternoons.
Often, we left behind a bit of chaos at home or snuck out of an appointment a little early to arrive in time to gather together. Always a little rushed upon arrival, but never less focused in the moment, a humble offering of petition and thanksgiving was given with the joyful expectation that God’s will would be fulfilled in His time. The requests and needs would change each week and there was some slow progress and relief for our friend.
The Lord had much greater plans for a friendship built on prayer than we could have ever imagined that cold afternoon when we first gathered to pray.
In the beginning, it might have felt as if we were there to show support for our friend. What we began to see was that this suffering mother had more to offer us than we could ever offer her. I began to listen and ponder the expression of prayer and the unique sense of need perceived by each individual woman gathered. It was a roomful of bold and uncommon charisms hand-picked by Our Heavenly Father.
“For a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances,” remarked C.S. Lewis in his work The Four Loves. Christ “who has said, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.”
Weekly, we would leave her home, our friend resting quietly on her sofa, never forgetting the intentions close to her heart as she understood very profoundly the value of redemptive suffering. A young adult far from his faith. A couple hoping to conceive a child, another discerning their vocation. Weeks and months passed. The couple joyfully welcomed their first child. Another joined in Holy Matrimony. The young man began to reconcile his relationship with Jesus. Our friend grew in physical strength and we were humbled to witness the miraculous ways in which the Lord used her suffering.
After a break during the most uncertain times of the pandemic, we began to meet regularly again, for now there were new intentions on our hearts, in our homes, and in our community.
Still often rushing in from our busy families, we unite in an hour of sacrifice and petition before Our Lord, marveling at His goodness. A couple of years ago, if someone had told me it would be these women I’d be so ardently praying alongside, I’m sure I would have been puzzled by the idea. It may have seemed like random happenstance, these women with such a focused mission. But with our Lord, nothing is accidental. I am humbled knowing I did not choose this prayerful friends for myself, but that the Lord chose them for me, and I will be forever grateful.