Prayer People finding strength in numbers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2011

“I don’t really think about prayer that way,” said Alma Smith, when asked if members of her small prayer group have experienced significant or obvious answers from God. “Usually what happens is the individual is able to adjust to the situation — they experience a relieving or an enduring.”

Smith, a member of Vicksburg’s Baha’i community, has been involved with door-to-door, neighborhood prayer. In June, she started a small group in her home called Share-a-Prayer.

“It’s done on an individual basis,” said Smith. “We contact our friends and ask if they have things to pray about.”

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Smith’s group gets together every three or four weeks, she said .The meetings last about half an hour, with members reading a Bible passage, spiritual meditation or devotion.

“Our prayers are often about illness or troubles that children and young people are experiencing,” Smith said.

Share-a-Prayer and other small groups reflect the many ways people “talk to God,” one prayer group member said — formal, spontaneous, men’s, women’s, home groups, church-centered. Most who attend the Share-a-Prayer meetings are not Baha’i but include Christians of different denominations as well as Muslims, Smith said.

At St. Michael Catholic Church, 10 to 15 parishioners meet to pray the Rosary daily before Mass, said the Rev. P.J. Curley, pastor of the church off Fisher Ferry Road.

“When we pray the Rosary, we pray to Jesus through Mary,” Curley said.

Praying the Rosary is considered a perfect prayer, said Helene Benson, St. Michael’s director of religious education, because, “We go through all the major events of Jesus’ life as we go through the Rosary. As we pray the ‘Hail Mary,’ we are reflecting on an aspect of Jesus’ life.”

Their focus alternates among four aspects or “mysteries” of Christ’s life, she said: joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous. As they say the “Hail Mary,” they are also praying for the needs of the priest, bishop and pope, as well as the larger church’s need for men to be drawn to vocations as priests, said Benson.

“I go because it’s developing my relationship with Jesus and God,” Benson said. “It also develops a very special bond with the parishioners that are there every day. We’ve become like a small family.”

Many St. Michael parishioners also meet in home groups, called Why Catholic?, which bring together five or six people and include more informal and spontaneous intercessory prayer, said Curley.

At St. Alban’s Episcopal in Bovina, a small group meets weekly from fall through spring, using the Daily Office for meditation and prayer, said the Very Rev. Billie Abraham, rector.

The readings include passages from the Psalms, Old and New Testaments and Gospels, as well as written prayers and devotional writings. Abraham said she reads the Gospel lesson twice, pausing after each reading to incorporate periods of quiet.

“The quiet allows it to turn into a prayer,” Abraham said. “It is a beautiful way to enter Scripture.”

One of the smaller congregations that gets together for prayer is Ridgeway Baptist, set in northeast Warren County near the Redwood Road-Oak Ridge Road junction.

The prayer group has been around “a long time,” said Jean Cole, and meets Tuesday mornings at 10. Some members are widows, but men, including the Rev. Gene Jacks, pastor, also attend.

“It encourages us older folks,” said Cole. “We pray for what’s heavy on our hearts, discuss ones in need of prayer and lift them up to the Lord.”

Their prayers are also for local and national leaders and members of the military, she said. “It’s a wonderful thing to know you can get together as a group and pray for our country and our soldiers that have given us the right to do that.”

“We pray for our church to be built up, but we also pray that God will help people see their need for Christ,” Jacks said. “We are looking to open up a door, help our church and help our community. Some of the kids, especially, are involved in some terrible things.”

Cole said her prayer group means “everything” to her, and treasures the opportunity to “talk to God.”

“We just rest in our belief that he’s going to do whatever it is that we need,” she said, “whether it’s what we want or not.”