St. Anthony Messenger

Why Pray for Others?

I understand that my prayers for someone will not cause God to move that person to the head of the line or guarantee a desired outcome. Then why do we pray for other people?

We cannot pray honestly for someone else without at the same time growing in compassion toward that person in particular and indeed toward all suffering people. Through honest prayer, we become more like the God to whom we address those prayers.

I use the word honest here because Jesus’ revealing and powerful story about two men praying in the temple (Lk 18:9–14) is an example of an honest prayer (by the tax collector) and a dishonest prayer (by the Pharisee). The latter’s prayer is effectively a defense against conversion and thus simply sees God, the Pharisee, and the tax collector in a very selfrighteous way.

Did the people condemned in Matthew 25:41–46 ever pray? Almost certainly they did, but their prayer apparently caused their compassion to shrink instead of to expand. Honest prayer always enlarges our compassionÑeven if we are not ready to give God an A+ for answering a particular prayer.

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