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The Prayer Bowl

Having trouble remembering everything you’d like to pray for? Try this simple solution.

By Lisa Biedenback, Hamilton, Ohio

People are always asking me to pray for them, and I always say yes. I mean, how do you say no to prayer? But with so many requests from coworkers, family and friends, colleagues and fellow parishioners—not to mention my own prayers—sometimes I lose track of all their prayer needs. I’m on prayer overload.

One day I was chatting with my friend Sister Bridget, an Ursuline nun. I mentioned my prayer overload problem to her. “I can’t remember who and what I’m supposed to be praying for!”

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“Try a prayer bowl,” she said. She told me that she keeps a small bowl in her home, and whenever she gets a prayer request, she writes it down on a slip of paper, and drops it into the bowl. “A couple of times a day I put my hand into the bowl and read through a handful of requests.”

I’ll have to give that a try, I thought.

Several months later, on a trip to Assisi and Rome, I found the perfect bowl, carved out of an ancient olive tree, full of beautiful swirls in shades of olive and brown.

I bought it and brought it home, and put it on my desk at work where I can see it every day.

Now, whenever I receive a prayer request or hear of someone in need, I write it on a slip of paper and put down the date. Then I drop it in the bowl. Lord, I pray, please remember everyone in this bowl. Some of the prayers have been, “Katie’s son in Iraq,” “Judy’s breast cancer” or “the sale of Bob’s house.”

May your will be done, I add.

My bowl is always full. But I never feel overwhelmed anymore. Just the opposite. After a month or two I take out the slips of paper and see how many of those prayers have been answered, and I add one more prayer of my own: Thank you, Lord.