How many times a day are you asked the question, “How are you?”

Each time you’re asked, you likely respond, “fine.”

Really? Are you always fine?

We go to church, support groups or mother’s house for Thanksgiving and proclaim that we are fine. Then we turn to the next person to repeat the question.

What a coincidence. Everyone is fine.

Recently, I’ve begun substituting that question with a new one.

This past week, I challenged audiences in Florida, Colorado and Ohio to make the same substitution and ask, “What have you been praying for?”

If the word prayer is too religious, the alternate would be to ask people what they are hoping for (or visualizing.)

I first started asking the question earlier this year with the encouragement of a hospital colleague named chaplain Gerald Jones. When visiting patients, he gives them a chance to breach the mundane and to share their heart’s desire.

There are a few who’ll respond with the stereotypical answer of a beauty contestant and proclaim they are praying for world peace.

But most will answer it with the kind of honesty I heard earlier this year from a woman facing her pending death.

She was leaving high school-age children and was praying everyone would find some kind of meaning in her death.

After our visit, I went to my computer and paraphrased our visit into a prayer. After I wrote it, I offered this prayer as a gift.


There may be those who think I should be mad at you; I need you to know it’s nothing like that. I know things like this happen in a world you created, and there is no purpose in being mad at you.

In fact — and this is the crazy thing — I actually think you’ve given me a gift. It’s the gift of seeing. I now see what was always there. Now I see the wonderful network of friends and family you have put here to help me. I feel your hands through their caring hands. I know your love through their protective love. Thank you for this gift.

There’s a road ahead of me that I cannot see, and that’s OK. It’s OK because you can see it, and you’ve got it taken care of. It’s OK because my life has always belonged to you. You created me and you sustain me. You take care of me the way I love my children.

Speaking of children, that’s my only worry. I know they cope with things differently because you blessed them with their own individual personalities.

But, I also need to know that you take care of them. Hold them in your hands and help them to cope. Help them see the blessing of family that you have given us. Help them see that this blessing is the only thing that will sustain us through this difficult time.

Thank you for your love for me. May I be a light that shines with your love.


I left our visit with a new perspective.

So, today I challenge you to ask one person what they are praying for. I think, you’ll find what I found. In an election year that finds us so divided, this simple question has a powerful potential to bring us together.

Go ahead, ask.

Then, take a moment to tell me what you are praying for. E-mail me at or write me at P.O. Box 19522 Sacramento, CA 95819-0522.