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Feb 13, 2015 | The Rev. Patrick Miller

Praying for One Another Is Holy

As he entered hospice, a childhood friend told me that he was sad about leaving his wife and two daughters. I remarked that we never really leave; the way we relate simply changes. Those we love and no longer see are still re-presented in our minds. The particular and peculiar human gift to name and be named is a gift that is eternal. We literally carry each other in our minds. Even as our own mind fades, names of those we love float in and out of our consciousness.


Last summer, I walked the traditional Via Dolorosa in the old city of Jerusalem. This is a revered route that represents the holy walk Jesus took from his unwarranted condemnation to his dreadful crucifixion and proceeds to the location of his sacred internment. It has been walked by centuries of pilgrims. I carried the pictorial directory of my parish as I walked. Between the stations I would read the names of the people I serve and love to myself, and to my God. In a small way I was carrying these people with me as I walked, prayed and remembered the events that we proclaim saved the world.


Re-presenting the names of the people we love and care for is as old as human language. Jesus did this for his disciples. We have intentionally done this as a part of our piety as Christians. In our prayers, we voice the names of those we love and even those we do not. Our prayers are interceding, mediating and simply remembering the people in our lives and those known to God alone. We use our gifts of memory and voice to stay in relationship with each other when we are one pew away, a few miles away, an ocean away or hidden between the earth and heaven. Our re-presenting prayers for each other keeps us tethered to each other in a holy and life-giving way. 


For a myriad of reasons people forget themselves and each other. Life is a series of relationships, some grand, some obscene, some lovely and some obscure. When we are born, we are given a name. This name acknowledges our being. When we die, many of us have our names etched in stone to declare we existed. Sometimes we forget that we are human, that there are other humans with us and God knows each of our names. There is holy work to be done in re-presenting each other to God. Saying each other’s names in prayer celebrates the gift that God gave the world, the gift of our life and the lives of each other. In this small but important way we remind ourselves that we are holy beings made by a Holy God.


As my friend dies, I am buoyed by his name. His name invokes fond memories of growth and maturity, camaraderie and candor. He is alive even though he is dead. When we intercede, mediate or remember each other in our prayers we do holy work. Angelic work. We send the message to the divine that we are grateful for so much, but especially grateful for the gift of each other. We use the gifts of God to glorify what God has made, either silently or aloud. As we walk our own Via Dolorosa, our own way of the cross, through our own unwarranted condemnations, dreadful crucifixions and sacred internments, we are buttressed by the prayers we say for each other. We celebrate our souls in the prayers we offer for each other as we walk through our own creative gardens, amazing new days and glorious lives. In all things, the practice of praying the names of fellow humans in gratitude, in hope, in despair, in love, is a most holy act that re-presents God to the world and re-presents ourselves to each other as children of God.


Miller is rector of St. Mark’s, Houston.