A mother looked helplessly as her only son gasped for air in one of his frequent asthma attacks.  Sensing his hardship, the mother turned to the crucifix and began to pray:  “Lord, this is just a small boy.  He cannot suffer more.  I am healthier and abler than he to endure such pain.  Please relieve his pain. I am willing to take all of it.”  The boy indeed got well and has not had an asthma attack since.  But the mother soon felt all the symptoms of the sickness and is now a confirmed asthmatic.
When is prayer powerful? Is it effective when it comes with offerings of eggs, as we normally do when we ask the Poor Clare nuns to pray for our intentions?  Is prayer guaranteed with positive answer when it is accompanied by sacrifice, like self-punishment or personal torture?  Will prayer be granted if we promise something to God in return for his favor?  There are many occasions we look at prayer as a business deal or negotiation, as if God’s goodness can be bought.
The gospel describes to us the secret of powerful prayer – one that guarantees favorable results.  A woman, who was a Gentile, living outside the Jewish circles of Jesus’ time, approached the Lord to ask him for the healing of her daughter.  Jesus at first, seemed to put her off.  But in the end, she got her miracle. Her daughter was healed.  How did she emerge victorious in her difficult dialogue with Jesus?
Well, the woman knew how to love.  She was not begging for herself, her comfort, or her welfare.  She came to seek healing and deliverance of someone she loved.  The Lord is not drawn to selfish prayers.  Selfish prayer will not be heard.  But if our prayers are for the good of others, made out of love, then the Lord listens and takes action. The response of the Lord may not be the same response we expect, but he will surely do something, do the best thing for our petition.
The woman loved deeply and that was why she knew how to persevere.  When at first she did not seem to get proper attention from the Lord, she did not get discouraged.  She cheerfully continued to ask, to bargain, to press on with her request.  She had such genuine love for her daughter that she was willing to draw all her energy so that she can obtain her heart’s desire.  She made her daughter’s misery her own.  She was willing to suffer like her, for her. Jesus, whose heart overflows with the same compassion for others, found in the woman’s love a resemblance to his own heart.
Recently a woman whose husband underwent cancer treatment came to tell me that the husband is now a survivor.  She stormed heaven telling God she was willing to suffer in his stead.  True enough, this woman is now experiencing many bodily ills but her husband is back to perfect health.
May we learn to pray genuinely for others – for their faith, healing and well-being.  Let us empower our prayers with true and persevering love, the wings that deliver prayers right to the heart of Jesus.