By LINDA M. LINONIS
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
We pray in many ways as individuals and in congregations. Another way to pray is through prayer chains, prayer circles, prayer lines and prayer pages. And the power of prayer is felt by those praying and the prayer recipients.
"God does answer our prayers, but not always the way we want or in the time we want," said Susan Wessner, associate in ministry at Good Hope Lutheran Church in Boardman.
The church has a prayer chain that operates via phone. When a call comes into the church for a prayer request, one person calls five others who in turn call others. The whole group prays for the request but no certain time is assigned. Each person offers the prayer of his or her choice.
"We get many requests for prayers," Wessner said. "Many are about illnesses or relationship issues."
The church also posts a prayer page on its Web site, www.goodhopeboardman.org, where people can click on the tab for prayer request. Giving your name is optional; there's a text box to write the request then submit it. The invitation reads: "We invite you to tell us your prayer concerns and prayers of thanksgiving. We would love to lift you up in prayer."
Prayers after Katrina
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, prayer requests focused on the survivors. How does prayer help in the face of such great disaster?
"Prayer is beneficial because it calms you," Wessner said. She speaks from a personal experience of going through a heart attack. "I felt the peace [of prayer] ... and it was an amazing experience. I wish everyone could know that feeling."
At Poland Presbyterian Church, Jeanette VanBrocklin and Sally Covell are coordinators of the prayer chain that involves 21 people in three teams. The coordinators get the requests and then call the members on the chain.
"But people didn't have to be asked to pray for Hurricane Katrina victims ... they just did," VanBrocklin said.
Rescue workers figure prominently in prayers. VanBrocklin's son, Robert, serves in the Coast Guard stationed in Port Clinton, Ohio, and is in the New Orleans area; Kim Johnson, whose husband, Erik, works at the church, is a nurse on a Disaster Medical Assistance Team near Lake Pontchartrain, La.; and the son of another church member, Gordon Turnofsky, is with the National Guard serving in Baton Rouge, La. "We're praying for their safety and good health and that of others during this relief effort," VanBrocklin said.
From June 1 to Sept. 12, the prayer chain had 48 prayer requests, she said. Most dealt with illnesses, recovery hopes and good test results. "We get calls afterward saying how things were OK and the prayers worked," VanBrocklin said. "People have faith. It's abstract but it's still something they hold on to."
VanBrocklin said most of the prayer chain members are "up in years" and this is one way "they can help."
Ceil Schlosser, a member of St. Matthias Church in Youngstown, has been involved in the prayer line there since 1977. About 30 people participate. Two designated people get the prayer request then pass it along to the line. Prayers are on an individual basis.
"With the Katrina victims, praying for them was an automatic thing," Schlosser said. "Most of our requests focus on health. ... Others are about relationships or jobs."
Schlosser said she thinks people ask for prayers for comfort and support. "We sometimes know who we are praying for and other times we don't but the effort is the same," she said.
The requests for prayer, she said, attest to people's belief in the power of prayer. "I think prayers are answered. It may not be exactly the way we'd like but we have to live with that."
Knowing you are being prayed for, Schlosser said, lends support and comfort. Sometimes knowing that gets people through rough times and gives them the strength to move forward, she said.