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The Power of Prayer

The deacon’s call to pray daily

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KramerSt. Thérèse of Lisieux once said, in response to the question of what is prayer: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2558). The Catechism notes that prayer has a covenantal component, and it is the whole person who prays, both in words and gestures. “Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain” (No. 2562). And, “The heart is our hidden center. … The heart is the place of decision. … It is the place of truth. … It is the place of encounter” (No. 2563).

There is a distinct reason I share this correlation of heart and prayer. In late February 2023, I had some serious pain in my chest while blowing snow off my driveway. Typically, I would dismiss this pain as something temporary that would just “go away.” However, something deep inside said it should be checked out. Thanks be to God, I knew a cardiologist who recommended we do a catheterization. As it turned out, I had several blockages where stents were not able to be inserted, and within a week open-heart surgery was performed.

During my four-day stay in the hospital, there were many visitors. My wife was with me every day and prayed with me. My children came and also prayed. A Eucharistic minister from a local parish visited, brought me Communion and prayed. The hospital chaplain, a Catholic priest, also brought Communion and spent time with me in prayer.

When I returned home for a six-week recuperation period before returning to my work at the seminary, every day there were at least two or three cards that came in the mail from the parishioners of the two parishes I serve: “We are praying for you.” “We give thanks to God for guiding the hands of the doctor and nursing team.” “We love you and look forward to your return to the parish.” “Praying for a speedy recovery.”

The faculty, staff and students of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, students in the Milwaukee archdiocesan deacon formation preaching program, members of the presbyterate and diaconate community, family, neighbors, friends and my pastor were all praying for me! Those prayers lifted me, were a considerable part of my healing and brought me closer to Jesus. I knew that God had given me a new lease on life. My prayers turned constantly into a conversation with God, thanking him for his grace, the gift of life and the recognition that the distance between this life and eternity is quite close.

Over my 30 years of diaconal ministry, which has included four years of full-time nursing home/hospital ministry as a director of pastoral care, numerous people have asked if I would pray with and for them — that is, pray for their healing, for a peaceful death, or for restoration of relationships. How often, my brother deacons, has someone come to you after Mass and asked you to pray for them? They have an upcoming surgery. Their relatives are dying. Their jobs are in jeopardy. Their children have rejected God’s call.

Prayer is a conversation between us and God. At times, we do all the talking, and we hope that God is listening. Other times, God speaks to us, and he hopes that we are listening to him. Deacons are called to pray daily, both personally and communally. Often, we can be the conduit of a conversation with God. Never forget the power of prayer!

DEACON STEVE KRAMER, D.Min., is director of homiletics and associate professor of pastoral studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

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