Not long ago I had the great pleasure to attend Liturgy at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Sante Fe, NM. I communicated by email with the priest of this parish in the weeks before I planned to be in town for a writing conference called The Glen Workshop. Apart from my home church in Chicago and my home church in Nashville, I’d never attended Liturgy and accepted Holy Mysteries anywhere else. So, I emailed Fr. John and asked him the right way to go about it. He’s a remarkably kind and warm person. I liked him right away. In closing the email, he asked that I pray for him, not for anything spectacular or extreme but because that’s a thing we do. We pray for one another.
When we met in person, we spoke for a while after Liturgy during fellowship. It’s a lovely church, and it’s filled with lovely folks– welcoming, kind and incredibly tasty cooks, at that. I was grateful to be there, grateful to have made that the capping point of my trip. It was as if the whole week built to that Liturgy and that fellowship meal with these lovely people.
As I was leaving, Father John asked that I convey his greetings to my priest back in Chicago. He asked for my prayers on his behalf and for prayers from my priest. “Pray for me,” he said, and I responded, “I will. And pray for me, please.” It was humbling to ask just as it was an honor to be asked.
The words, “pray for me” are old hat to a lifelong believer such as myself. No matter what one’s particular flavor of Christianity, “pray for me” is a common thread. I’ve been asked for prayers over and over, and I’ve asked for them over and over. In Orthodoxy, though, it is a little different. The request coming in this way, not as a petition for a certain condition or situation but as a matter of course, is a new way for me to experience the phrase and the thought that prompts the phrase.
Pray for me becomes an expression of daily, continual care. Pray for me because we are all, always, continually in need on one level or another. Pray for me becomes a better ending to a meeting than, “Nice to meet you” or “see you soon.” Pray for me.
It’s humbling to ask for prayer. It’s an honor to pray for another person simply because they, like me, are human and in need, always. I remember this in the morning when I stand before the icon stand and kick off another day of walking and stumbling and breathing. I launch into prayer for my family, my children and my friends and my priest and that becomes a waterfall of prayer- my godmother, my priest’s family, my church friends, Father John, Father Parthenios, my bishop, my metropolitan, my president, my senator, my congressman, the grocery store clerk, the woman on the train next to me with a crying toddler, the man sitting at the bus stop wearing headphones and an expensive suit, the neighbor whose dog barks all night, the child who sits next to my son at lunch, the friend of my daughter who is navigating her second year of college…there are too many, so many, everyone, all of us.
And then, a breath, I make the sign of the cross, three times, Lord have mercy, deep metania
with my fingertips brushing the floor as I lay it all down here and I get this whole “pray without ceasing” thing once again before the crush of living life rushes back in.
Pray for me.