Say One For Me...

Say One For Me – it’s the sort of remark that churchgoers sometimes hear as they set off for church on a Sunday morning, usually from a neighbour who’s engaged in gardening or washing the car. It also inspired the title of a book that sits on my bookshelf about the fact that there are some people who may not choose to attend church themselves but are nevertheless glad that others do.

For people of faith prayer is as natural as a conversation with a friend. Yet it can be surprisingly controversial. I have seen people bristle at the thought that someone might be praying for them. When Richard Dawkins, the celebrated biologist and outspoken critic of all things religious suffered a minor stroke a few years ago, the Church of England asked for prayers for his recovery on its website – only to be accused by some of ‘trolling’!

The discussion went on: if prayer works, great! If it’s all nonsense, where’s the harm? There are certainly those who are comforted by the thought that others are praying for them – we remember those who have asked for our prayers at our services, and others pray for them privately.

But we live in strange times, and I’ve recently noticed something that I haven’t noticed before: I’ve taken phone calls from people who I cannot recall ever having spoken to before, but who having been left stressed and anxious by the pandemic want to know that someone is praying for them.

And judging by some of the messages I’ve received from them, it seems to be working…