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`PRAYER CHAIN' GIVES STRENGTH TO BLESS LIVES OF OTHERS AND SELF

This week, Barbara Maughan and members of her "prayer chain" are praying for a 22-year-old woman who will be undergoing a bone marrow transplant. The young woman wanted the additional support of friends - and their collective faith in God - to support her in her final hope to conquer cancer.

Maughan believes there is a special power in group prayer."The scriptures promise that whenever two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ, there he will be also. That's the foundation of our belief in praying as a group for others," said Maughan. "But you don't need to be standing by each other to be gathered in the name of Christ."

The prayer chain is not a group of people who stand holding hands offering up prayers. The prayer chain does not even meet in the same room at the same time. The linkage between those who belong to the prayer chain is intangible but powerful - forged through prayer and faith in God, says Maughan.

They pray in solitude - in their own ways, at their own time. But they are united in their hearts and purpose. The chain of selfless purpose unites them and provides a concentrated power in blessing the lives of others, says Maughan.

The prayer chain was initiated about five years ago when Maughan was serving as the support minister at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Sandy. She had received many requests from members of the congregation for personalized prayers. Many individuals facing challenges did not feel comfortable having their names mentioned before the congregation in Sunday services, but they felt a need for group support.

Prayer chain members contact each other by phone, sharing the names and circumstances of those who desire spiritual help.

Currently, there are about a dozen members of the prayer chain who consistently dedicate a portion of their daily lives to pray for others.

"The prayer chain has changed my life," said Maughan.

"Before I became involved, I didn't realize there were so many people with special needs. When you find out the kind of challenges other people handle, it makes you realize that sorrow comes to everyone - the wealthy, the educated, the righteous. What seems to make the difference is the way you handle what comes your way - whether you become bitter or whether you continue to believe in God."

Praying for others has increased Maughan's awareness of the blessings in her own life and made it easier to accept challenges and disappointments.

The prayer chain is praying for a 23-year old man who has an inoperable brain cancer. "We pray that he will be healed. But if healing is not God's plan, we pray that God will comfort him."

A 16-year-old girl who has an alcohol problem is also on their prayer list. At her request, they are praying the teenager will resist temptation and receive treatment. "She tells us she's had a more positive attitude toward overcoming her addiction since we've prayed for her. Before we began praying for her, she had a fatalistic idea that she was not in control of her own life."

When prayers are answered affirmatively, the prayer chain members share in the joy. They had prayed for a man who had lost his job. After he was included in group prayers, the man found a new and better job.

And when the answer to prayers isn't what was desired, the group shares the sorrow and offers comfort.

"When you pray for someone else, it's a deeply personal and rewarding experience. It creates a unique bond between people. When you can help someone else through your prayers, you gain strength from it, too."