That April morning in Manhattan when I had coffee with my friend Lenny, we discussed many things. The state of the nation, the state of the world, Donald Trump, Pope Francis, the job market, the stock market and our families.
He said his wife Denise was an agnostic and this saddened him profoundly. (I’ve often thought an agnostic is someone too lazy or too proud to ask God for answers.) Lenny went to church alone, and it was a cause of great suffering in his life. Not even his three kids joined him because their mother believed they should make their own decisions about God. How many times have you heard that? Let the kids decide whether they want to believe in God, whether they want to be baptized, whether they want to be Catholics.
Let me tell you a secret. Left to their own, they’ll make the wrong decision, which is why they have parents to direct them. Otherwise, a secular society that worships celebrities more than God will influence their decision, and it will be the wrong one.
As Lenny shared his story of family squabbles, I did the only thing I could and said, “I’ll pray for her.” I knew if Lenny told her I was praying, it would be divorce court for him and outrage for me, because saying you’ll pray for someone is verboten in America, where people believe change only comes from passing laws. Grace, though, is far more effective than rules and regulations because it comes from God.
Months passed and whenever we met, I reminded him I was praying for Denise. Large prayers and small. Novenas, Masses, rosaries. I was sure his and my prayers would make a difference, if not in this life, then in the next. Changes that come from prayer are often imperceptible because God works in his own time and at his own pace, but you can be sure he’s always at work, so never stop praying, especially for conversions.
I lost touch with Lenny until recently, when we had a few minutes to catch up on our jobs, our lives and our families. As I was about to hang up, he said, “I forgot to tell you: Denise is coming to church with us.”
We all have personal stories about the miraculous blessings Jesus showers on us when we pray. And we should share them with others, especially our children and grandchildren, so they realize from an early age that God is listening — that God is listening all the time, even when we’re not talking.
Prayer works. You may not see the results immediately, but you’ll see them. All you have to do is ask; Jesus does the rest. He answers prayers far in excess of our half-sighted expectations. It doesn’t have to be a monumental prayer.
Jesus hears them all, even simple ones like, “Lord, please help that homeless woman begging for change.” You may forget her, but Jesus doesn’t. When you intercede for someone, the person begins to change. Heavenly graces begin to flood the person’s soul. There’s hope.
It’s very simple. Ask Jesus to send graces for people. He knows their needs even before we ask him. Ask help for family members, friends and strangers who are troubled or tormented, and your petition will set in motion a heavenly rescue operation beyond your human comprehension. Saints, angels, Our Lady and Our Lord will get involved.
Just think of the joy you’ll feel someday when you meet people you prayed for in heaven and discover that Jesus took your simple appeal and saved troubled souls wandering in darkness.
For many years, I was one of those people — until changes began in my life that I couldn’t explain. People crossed my path when I needed them the most, and they pointed me toward God. Only years later, when I heard someone sing the Gospel song “Somebody Prayed for Me,” did I understand what had happened:
“I was lost and alone in a cold dark world, no peace of mind, no freedom could I see, but little did I know I had a friend somewhere ... somebody prayed for me. They had me on their mind, they took the time. They fell down on their knees and prayed for me. They had no doubt that God could bring me out, that he could change my life and set me free. I’m so glad someone prayed for me!”
Joe Pisani of Orange is a writer whose work has appeared in Catholic publications nationwide. He and his wife Sandy have four daughters.