Some days I am overcome with gratitude, when I think of all the people who are praying for me. 

I have been reflecting on this a lot lately — how much I depend upon people’s prayers, and how much of my own prayer is devoted to praying for people in my life and ministry.

As Catholics we should be souls in continual conversation with God, confiding in him all day long as we carry out our daily work and duties. We can talk to God as a Father and a friend, entrusting our worries and joys to him, asking for guidance, thanking him for his goodness.

But our conversation with God should never be only about ourselves. We need to talk to him about our loved ones and colleagues, about the concerns we have for our culture and society.   

Jesus told us to pray always, and he gave us that example of constant prayer in his own life.

He prayed before raising Lazarus from the dead. He prayed for his disciples and the Church, and for his enemies who killed him.

Our Lord’s first disciples followed his example, offering petitions and prayers “for everyone,” even their persecutors. They prayed for secular authorities. One of the most beautiful images from the Church’s early days is that of the apostles gathered in prayer with the mother of Jesus.  

When St. Peter was in jail, “prayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.” I think of this passage often, when I think of our prayers today for persecuted Christians around the world.

Pray for one another,” the apostle St. James said. And so we should.

In the Church, no one is a solitary individual. We are united to other believers, living and dead, in a mysterious solidarity of charity, the communion of saints.

None of us lives for ourselves, St. Paul tells us. If one member of the Church is suffering, we all suffer together. And what we offer in charity for our brothers and sisters — our prayers, mortifications, and sacrifices — in a mysterious way, helps them.

Get in the habit of spending time each day, calling to mind the people in your life — your family, friends, loved ones. These are your first responsibilities.

Pray for their health and happiness, pray for them to stay close to Jesus and persevere on their journey to heaven.

We can pray for “hard cases,” too. We all have them in our lives. From the biblical example of Abraham, we know we can plead with our Father, beg his mercy. We can ask him for miracles, healings, and conversions.

In our prayer for others, we can ask holy Mary and St. Joseph, and the various saints to intercede. Many Catholics have the custom of praying a daily Memorare for the member of their family who needs God’s help the most that day.

We also need to pray for the world and the Church, that God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

I find that intercessory prayer helps us not to lose hope. Sometimes, as we know, the people we pray for do not seem to want our help. Or we look at conditions in the world — poverty, injustice, violence, the degradation of the environment — and we wonder how things will ever change.

Prayer tells us that we are not helpless. Our prayer is always fruitful, it makes a difference, even if we cannot see the results, or if the results are not what we prayed for.

Our life of prayer is never a monologue. We need to always be listening for his voice, always asking what he is saying to us and to the Church. We persevere in prayer, knowing that the Lord hears the prayers of his faithful ones, and that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

We will never know, this side of heaven, how important our prayers have been, or how much our own lives have been influenced by the prayers of others.

My own belief is that we will discover that history turns, not so much on the decisions of world and national leaders. We will find that so much depends — and it always has — on the prayers of simple, ordinary people.

In the Bible’s last book, we have that intriguing image of golden bowls filled with “the prayers of the holy ones,” being offered before God’s heavenly throne. I like to think that those are the humble petitions that we make for our loved ones and the world.

Pray for me and I will pray for you.

And let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother to help us to pray always and to bring all souls to her Son, Jesus Christ.