Friday, February 23, 2018, is not to be a Friday like any other Friday.
Pope Francis has proclaimed this Friday a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, in particular for the populations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
The Holy Father also invited the members of other religions to join in the initiative, in the forms they consider most suitable: moments of prayer, fasting, and reflection. He pointed out that religions can contribute greatly to obtaining and consolidating peace.
Seeing how the Pope reaches out to the peripheries, my guess is he won’t mind if atheists try praying on Friday. I don’t think God rejects prayers from people who are out of practice or never learned in the first place. In fact, I’m pretty sure he is happy when new prayer warriors appear.
I am not a prayer expert. I am, however, an expert on how I pray. My approach is imperfect, although well-intended. My prayers fall into four categories:
- The “heroic minute” first thing in the morning when I jump out of bed and start my day. (OK, I guess if I’m writing about prayer, I should be completely honest; I don’t jump out of bed but more or less slouch out from under the covers and drop to my knees to start the day.
- Then there is the end-of-day prayer of gratitude for God helping me get through the day. (OK, to be perfectly honest again, while I never fail to do the morning prayer, I only manage the night prayer about half the time – but I’m working on it, OK?)
- There are formal prayers (sometimes in church or adoration chapel) such as the rosary and formal written prayers.
- Finally, there is my most common type of prayer, which occurs often during the day and is totally spontaneous:
- Please God, don’t let me be late to the meeting.
- Thank you, God, for leaving that open parking space by the front door.
- OK, St. Anthony, where did I put the car keys?
- Oh, my Lord, what a beautiful sunset!
I’ll do my best to work “peace” into all the categories on Friday. Prayers really aren’t complicated, but remembering to do it can be a little tricky.
Some folks may wonder about the “in particular for the populations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan” request from the Pope. He has repeatedly asked for our prayers for those two devastated places and held a special prayer service for them in November at St. Peter’s Basilica. The suffering of people in those places clearly has touched his heart – and it should touch all our hearts.
Sad to say, the list of places to pray for Friday is long and seems to get longer by the day: Syria, Iraq, North Korea, Myanmar, the hall of our public schools, some neighborhoods of our major cities, and a multitude of other places. I’m pretty sure the Holy Father will be fine with you praying for whatever war-ravaged part of the world you want to pray for.
I’m going to pray for them all and I’m not waiting until Friday to start.