The Prayer of a Stranger

by Jana
Cross-posted from

Interfaith Prayer March by John Remy

Interfaith Prayer March by John Remy

Upon waking in the recovery room from my recent surgery, I realized that I couldn’t breathe. I gasped and gasped, trying to scream to let someone know that I couldn’t get enough air. Soon a nurse was at my bedside, placing an oxygen mask over my face, asking me questions about my asthma history that I couldn’t answer. Apparently she added a breathing treatment to the flow of oxygen and I was soon able to draw in air without so much struggle.

After about 10 minutes on the oxygen I was relaxed and the nurse was working around me to disconnect the breathing mask. As she stooped by the head of my bed she whispered to me, in such a way that I’m not sure if I was meant to hear it or not.

She said, “I’ll be praying for you.”


For all of my openness in the blogging sphere, I’m actually a fairly private person in real life. I find it somewhat embarrassing to have strangers take such an interest in my life merely because of my physical disability. Yet at the same time, I’m continually surprised by those like the nurse, and my many religious friends, who are willing to be so kind as to pray for me.

In the past I’ve written some posts about the ways I feel pitied and demeaned because of my disability. I still feel that way much of the time–especially when someone’s action seems to be more about making themselves feel good than about offering aid. But even as I feel uncertain about the actual power of prayer, I am not ambivalent about the power of human connection. There’s something beautiful and courageous, and curiously intimate, about a stranger or a friend offering a prayer on my behalf.

Though I ceased praying in the Mormon fashion awhile ago, I still spend time each day in silent meditation. Doing so gives me perspective on my life. It helps me to remember what I believe and to put my actions in line with my core values. I can’t claim that my prayers or my meditations have improved anyone else’s life, even though I think often of others as I sit in silence.

I suspect that I won’t ever approach a stranger and tell them that I praying for them. But in my own way I am saying a prayer each time I write a blogpost–sending my thoughts, hopes, and intentions out into the ether. Hoping that each of you will know that I care about you and your trials even if I no longer have the faith to couch my intentions into the form of a prayer.


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is

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  1. Alisa says:

    My father recently held a large family home evening with all of his adult kids. I was a little apprehensive about it, as my way of worshiping has changed quite from the rigid way I was brought up. But to my delight, things have changed.

    He mentioned an experience with his Pakistani nurse that is very similar. He remembers that he had just been diagnoes with cancer and was going to be moved out of her care to the “cancer wing” of the hospital. For some reason, he thought, “I don’t know what her faith is, but I wish she would pray for me.” At that point she turned to him and said, “If it’s all right with you, I would like to pray for you.”

    It’s four years later, and my dad is a ward mission leader, a calling that as an old-time seventy he knows all too well. But this time around, he’s different. His detailed ward mission plan that he wrote up for the bishop surprised me in its inclusiveness. It includes befriending members of all faiths with no agenda and listening to what we can personally learn from the spiritual experiences of others in different faiths. Nothing about targets, handing out BoMs, etc. The bishop loved this plan so much he had my father share it with everyone at ward council. I think he’s truly been inspired by the prayer of a stranger.

  2. gladtobeamom says:

    Sometimes it seems that Mormons think that God only hears our prayers. I think he listens to anyone who pours out their heart to him believing he is listening.

    I have a dear friend who’s daughter has a brain tumor and will not live more then a few more months. She is awed by all the people who offer prayers on their behalf. They are from all faiths. They have helped to sustain her through this most difficult time.

    I am not to good at understanding prayer myself. I struggle with it. I have had people tell me they would pray for me and you can always tell when they are sincere . I am also very private so usually if someone feels this way about me I think they must be inspired because I dont share all my difficulties.

    On the other hand I think I have discovered that action is a very important part of prayer. so it is one thing to pray for someone or ask what you can do for others if you never act. Maybe that is why for some they are not sincere because they think they are serving by praying without being willing to help out in any other way.

    Though I don’t understand prayer I appreciate when others sincerely pray on my behalf because I know it is done with love and usually it is not all they are doing to serve me or others around them.

  3. Caroline says:

    Lovely post, Jana. And lovely picture too!

  4. Kiri Close says:

    so beautiful.

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