How do we “pray to end abortion?” There are very specific contours to this multi-faceted intention, and in this fourth part of this series, we continue to explore what they are.
Nobody sees abortion walking down the street. When we talk about praying against abortion, we’re not praying against something abstract. We’re praying against an evil that certain people are permitted to do by the law, which of course, is wrong when it permits that. Certain specific people, moreover, are in danger of losing their lives. Now, therefore, let’s begin considering who the different people are for whom we pray when we pray to end abortion.
Praying to end abortion is praying for something very specific, the ending of the killing of the children in the womb, and we are praying for a specific group of people when we do that, starting, obviously, with those children. “You will hide me in the shadow of your wings. Lord, you are my protector.” This is a basic theme of the Word of God and of salvation. And so when we pray to end abortion, we are praying specifically for the protection of these children in the womb, that they would be protected from the abortionist’s instruments, from the deadly suction tubes and forceps that tear them apart and end their lives.
Each of these babies has a guardian angel. Each of these babies is someone from whom God has had a plan from all eternity. Each of these children has been entrusted not only to his or her mother and father, as the immediate guardians of their lives and, in fact, as cocreators with God. But each of these children has also been entrusted to all of us. And this is another framework of understanding when we pray against abortion: we are praying for our brothers and sisters.
It’s not like we’re interfering in somebody else’s business. It’s not like we’re treading where we should not go or trespassing into the domain of somebody else. Not at all. These are our brothers and sisters who have been entrusted to us. A fundamental understanding of the culture of life – and St. John Paul makes this clear in the Gospel of Life — is that God, indeed, has entrusted us to the care of one another, and, therefore, it is our business when somebody else is in danger or in need. Those are our brothers and sisters.
We have responsibility for them as well, especially if the mom or the dad are tempted to forget or abandon that responsibility. In that case, it’s all the more incumbent on us to pick it up again, and to affirm that this child has rights and deserves love and protection. So the prayer is specifically for the children.
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Then, of course, there are others about whom, and for whom, we have to direct our prayers when we’re praying to end abortion.
We think, first of all, of the mother. That mother needs courage. That mother needs light.
In my conversations with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom I knew in the early years of my leading Priests for Life (the last three years of her life, ’94-’97), we communicated fairly regularly. We would talk about a fact that she also enunciated publicly, namely, that stopping abortion means teaching that mother how to love, how to sacrifice her own plans, her own desires, and put the child first. So the prayer for the mothers is not simply that they not commit abortion. The prayer is, again, very specific. Lord, give them the love necessary to put the child before they put themselves, their own convenience, desires, and plans. Fill them with love. Fill them with the understanding given by the Holy Spirit of the dignity of that child. Fill them, furthermore, with confidence. Fill them with the “be not afraid” that the Holy Spirit brings us. Because as they look to the future, they see – when they’re attempting to abort — they see only loss. They see only confusion. They see only something they cannot handle. Let them know that they can handle it because God is already in their future.
Lord, let them know that you never give us something to do, a requirement to fulfill that is impossible. You always give us the grace to fulfill it. So we pray that these mothers will have that kind of confidence and trust. And we pray in a particular way against isolation because isolation leads to the temptation to abort. They might be isolated by the father, by those around them who are saying, “Oh, there is no other way to handle this situation except by abortion.” They feel alone, trapped, and desperate.
We need to pray for hope in their heart, and we also need to pray for a sense of solidarity, communication, the awareness that there are other people ready to help them — the thousands of pregnancy centers, the church, the Pro-Life Movement, the sidewalk counselors — so many people ready and willing to help them.
There are many others included in the intention of praying to end abortion, and we will continue to consider them in the next part of this series.