Which is true. Sometimes it's right in that moment, when I am praying as hard as I can as I listen to the story.
But stories linger. They don't vanish after one prayer, or even one week of prayer. Some of the stories stick with me, especially the hardest and most intractable ones.
The place I pray for these people and their stories is at our 5 p.m. Vespers service. As we enter the chapel, there is a place to write prayer concerns and place them in a basket, and the worshipers each take a slip of paper at prayer time and read those concerns aloud. In between is silence, and after every three petitions, we sing O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer. Come and listen to me.
I put my heart's joys and aches on those slips of paper...always in a way that protects the anonymity of those I am carrying into the chapel with me. And then as the basket goes around, and we sit, and we pray, and we sing, all of those stories inside me -- whether written as prayers or just carried in my thoughts -- get taken up into something larger. And my load is lifted.
I did not expect -- when we began the Vesper service almost a year ago -- that this small, quiet, candlelit space would become my prayer refuge. It is hard for clergy to let down and pray during worship ... there is too much to stay focused on so that others can worship. But in this largely lay-led service, I can pray and worship along with my brothers and sisters.
And that has blessed me. And I am profoundly grateful.