When I really bring my friends and the many I pray for into my innermost being and feel their pains, their struggles, their cries in my own soul, then I leave myself, so to speak, and become them, then I have compassion. Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings.
Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary
Pretend for a moment we apply the words of Henri Nouwen above. Pretend you know a young single mother named Nikki who has two children. She is struggling with finances, her job,and adequately caring for her children. As you seek to fulfill these words, you think about her constant tiredness, because she has little time to rest between working her job and spending time with her children. There might even be tension at work with the boss, because her tiredness is affecting her performance. You meditate on what it must be like to barely make ends meet; or to say "No" to her children because they want an ice cream cone or a toy, and she cannot afford that. You might even ponder how to survive on a minimum wage job. Finally, you think of her loneliness; she has no one to share her thoughts and feelings. So, as we pray for Nikki and all the different issues she is facing, we begin to put ourselves in her shoes. We cry out to God, because we now are praying through each of these issues as if we were in them. The three second mention of Nikki's name in a machine gun prayer now becomes minutes of praying passionately for her. The simple "bless Nikki" prayer begins to disappear.
As we learn to pray more fervently and more thoroughly, I would think we would see God intervene in her life more. Why? First of all, because we are praying more, we are also probably caring more and thus, we are watching and listening to her more to know how to pray or help. And then, we see more results, because we are paying attention. Secondly, I believe God would intervene more, because when we slow down and ponder people's needs, we truly recognize God as the only one who can rescue them from their situation. We don't blame the people as much for their circumstances. Thus, we ask God more to show us how to pray- to unravel their mess (if not ours) that has "snowballed." This leads us to a place where we come more desperately to God. We stop offering our own solutions and seek God's solutions. We seek God. Who else could resolve the issues? God often steps in when we stop trying to solve life on our own.
I have a sense, not a scientific study, that as we fulfill the words of Henri Nouwen, we will develop the heart of God for people. As we do so, and as we pray with compassion, we will see God do more amazing things than the hit and miss machine gun prayers. So I challenge you and I to open our heart and truly learpray for people. Put yourself in their shoes, and see how God works within you and within them.