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SPIRIT MATTERS: What’s a person to do with all those ‘thoughts and prayers?’

What do you do when you tell someone you will pray for them?

What do you do when you tell dozens of people you will pray for them around the same time?

Do you send out a prayer right then and there and then forget about it?

Or do you keep a list of people you know of who need prayer (don’t we all?!) and add to it as needed, praying over the names each day until the issue is resolved?

Sometimes when a national tragedy happens, such as *another* school shooting, we hear from all sorts of politicians and regular folk on social media saying they are sending “thoughts and prayers.”

Well, what does that mean?

For some, it truly might be just a way to say “look, I’m sorry this happened,” because they don’t know what else to say, and then they move on from there, never thinking about it again.

For others, they might sincerely mean those words and be burdened in their hearts for an indefinite time to offer “thoughts and prayers” for whomever or whatever was the victim.

I’m the kind of person whose thoughts are always going, so honestly it is difficult for me to pray for someone in real time with any credibility.

And I am really not much of a list maker.

However, as a contemplative, who regularly practices silent prayer time, I try to live mostly from my heart when I am with or among people. So, when someone is hurting or suffering or needs “thoughts and prayers,” their need immediately enters my heart, where it stays and grows in a mysterious way.

For me, and I imagine for most people, It is impossible to keep track of everyone you promise you pray for; but by receiving their need into your heart, it is invariably assured, that when you do pray, their needs rise up along with every other need you pray for.

This is how I have come to ensure all those I promise to pray for, get prayed for and continue to be prayed for: I pray the rosary.

With all the beads strung on the rope, or wire, or chain, or whatever, it is a great way to pray as you offer, say a decade of the rosary for your best friend’s marriage, your heartfelt prayers to God through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. (This seems like a good place to insert this thought: yes, Mary is called upon a great deal for prayerful intercession, with any number of millions or billions of needs *in a single day*. Somehow, someway, every single one of those petitions passes through her heart in a most intimate way, as she offers them, with her maternal love, to The Holy Trinity.)

As I have prayed the rosary over the years, I have used the beads in different ways. Sometimes I offer a decade for each of my nieces and nephews. Other times, I offer a different intention on each of the 50 beads of Hail Mary’s that make up the five decades of the rosary. Sometimes, as I begin praying the rosary, I will say a simple prayer like “Mama, you know all my needs, you know all the needs of those whom have asked me for my prayers or to whom I have promised my prayers. Please receive those heartfelt prayers now and give them to your Son.”

As I pray this way, regularly, I experience a deep trust and reassurance that all of these prayer intentions, held deeply in my heart and passed on to Jesus through his Blessed Mother (who better to pray for those in need, than Jesus’s own mother, right?) are received in the innermost realms of Jesus’s Sacred Heart to be answered and resolved in his way, in his time.

If you have never prayed the rosary, or if you are skeptical about it, I encourage you to look into it, to consider it as a regular way to keep those near to and far from your heart in constant prayer.

And you can trust that those prayers will be heard and lovingly answered in time and in unimaginable ways.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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