It's one of the things I like most about social media, its ability to bring together a community of believers for common good. These requests are non-denominational. No one posts "If you're Catholic, please pray..." And often the poster will ask for prayers or positive thoughts, acknowledging that not everyone subscribes to the same belief system.
I try to respond to most of these requests in some way. For the "lost keys" category, I might just click the "like" button. For others, I respond "JMJ+" which is my own shorthand for "Jesus, Mary & Joseph, pray for us." The particularly heartbreaking requests will often elicit a unique response, letting the poster know that I will be keeping them in my prayers.
That's the easy part.
The hard part is actually praying. Between the requests that are posted via social media, the prayer intentions that are delivered daily via my parish's email prayer tree, and those personal encounters I have with people who share need for prayer, sometimes I feel like Jim Carrey in the movie "Bruce Almighty."
Jim Carrey is a frustrated news reporter turned God. In one scene, he is overwhelmed at the volume of prayers being sent to him. They crowd his thoughts and when he tries to organize them onto post-it notes, his entire apartment is blanketed in tiny slips of yellow paper. Sometimes the need for prayer in my world is overwhelming.
I don't have a formal system by which I handle prayer requests that come to me, but lately I've become more conscious of the commitment I'm making when I tell someone that I will keep them in my prayers. One woman I know kept a journal with lists of people she was praying for written down. Her family found it after she had passed away.
Though the idea sounds like a good one, I'm not a great journal keeper. What I'm finding works for me is silently saying a prayer immediately after I'm asked for it, praying it as I'm typing my assurance of prayer. For some requests, that's all that I feel drawn to give. Sometimes the people in need of prayer will float to the top of my mind during the day and, again, I silently lift them and their concern up in a quick prayer. Other needs for prayer weigh heavily and I find myself spending more time in dedicated prayer for these needs, often during weekly Mass.
As Jim Carrey learned in "Bruce Almighty," a blanket YES is not the appropriate answer to all prayer. I don't expect magical or even miraculous resolutions just because I prayed. But as overwhelming as the needs may be, I try to be thankful for those people asking for prayer because when I agree to pray for their need, I am gaining another opportunity in my day to be in contact with God.