This past week I visited a friend of mine in the hospital. She had just gone undergone back surgery to correct her scoliosis (a curve in her spine) and was still recovering; she was still in intense pain. I visited her with her family, and they had tears in their eyes as they watched her struggle to whisper out a conversation. It was her birthday that day.
I ended up sitting by her side as she slept. Her family had gone down to the cafeteria to eat dinner; they had invited me along, but I declined. I figured they needed their family time, and I wanted to be able to help my friend and give her water when she needed it. She was tired, and fell asleep quickly. I sat by her side for almost an hour in the perfect, sterile silence of the hospital room, the lights dim and the sunlight fading as she stirred painfully in her shallow sleep.
I tried to fill my time as I watched over her by reading the newspaper, but that soon bored me. I looked around the room for other things to do, but found nothing. I paced a bit, and tried to call a friend of mine on my cell phone. She didn’t answer. I returned to my sleeping friend’s bedside.
Somehow I found myself praying. I don’t remember exactly how, but I do know that I needed the comfort. When I really and truly pray—not the detached, emotionless prayers borne from a sense of Christian “duty”, but real prayers that spill from me so honestly and so completely unchecked that they are nigh nonsensical-- the experience is immensely cathartic. I feel drained, emptied; it is not that my problems have disappeared, but the suffocating burden of my own thoughts is no longer mine alone to bear.
This is why Paul urges us to make supplications, prayers, and intercessions. The problems of the world do not have to be shouldered by us alone. No one is so strong that they do not prayer, even the “kings and all who are in high positions” of whom Paul speaks; if these powerful men still need prayer in order to have quiet and peace, how much more do we frail, weak, ordinary humans beings need the same intercession? Through this act of prayer Jesus Christ does take on the act of mediator between God and humankind, and there is a release in knowing that our problems and worries are heeded and listened to.
It is not that the burden no longer is ours to bear. It is that the burden becomes no longer ours to bear alone, and sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.