I had just finished speaking at a business meeting when one of the audience members approached me.

"I really enjoyed what you had to share with us," she said. "I have a favor to ask of you. Would you pray for me?"

I must have appeared shocked or confused as I struggled to answer her. "Who me?" I asked. For some reason I was overwhelmed by the simple request.

"Yes," she said, adding, "I'm going in for surgery next week. They tell me everything should be fine, but they won't know until they operate. They used the words 'contained' and 'spread' in the same sentence. I need to pray for 'contained.'"

She smiled at me and repeated her request, "Would you pray for me?"

"Well, yes. I certainly will," I replied.

What was it about her request that took me by surprise? I have often said a quick prayer for a perfect stranger as we passed each other on the street. "God, that man could certainly use your help." "God, watch over them on their journey."

Later that night, when I sat quietly in my room, I thought about the people who asked me to pray for them.

It was then I realized why I was so taken aback by the woman's request. I saw her as a happy, faith-filled person. I knew her as a strong businesswoman who is successful in life. When she asked me to pray for her, I thought, "What could you possibly want or need, and why would you ask me for that kind of help? What was it about me that made you feel comfortable asking for prayer?"

The answers that came to me were even more surprising. She saw God in me. And she felt comfortable enough to ask me to pray for her because she saw something of herself in me.

It is a regular practice of mine to ask people who are struggling to also pray for me. I always feel that in the midst of all the turmoil in their lives, giving them a request to help another strengthens their self-image. I know from my own experience that when I feel helpless and overcome by fear, doing something for someone else makes me feel useful and full of purpose.

When I visit my hospice patients, I often say, "Would you say a prayer for me? I will pray for you."

One day a family was visiting one of the patients. When I walked in, I found her grandchildren sitting on the bed next to her. It was a wonderful picture of love. Before I left I asked if I could hold the youngest child, an infant only months old.

When I was about to leave, I said to the baby, "Will you say a prayer for me? I will pray for you."

Her older sister, a child about eight years old, said, "Why did you ask her to pray for you?"

"Well, I figure she was just born and came from heaven a short while ago, so she was closer to seeing God," I told her.

She waited for a moment and said, "Will you pray for me?"

"Well, yes, I will."

Then she certainly put things in perspective for me when she said, "I figure you're closer to heaven because you're old."

Will you say a prayer for me? I will pray for you.

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