Shirley Finch knows firsthand the power of healing through the dedicated service of both monastics and lay disciples participating in the Self-Realization Fellowship Worldwide Prayer Circle.
One day in June, the Coordinator of the Encinitas Temple’s Prayer Circle Committee of 65 devotees woke up with unsettling symptoms.
“I was dizzy. I was uncoordinated. My cognition faculties were not functioning,” Shirley said. “I was freezing cold. I couldn’t see out of one eye.”
She went by ambulance to a hospital where doctors found nothing wrong except a low thyroid level, and ordered an overnight stay while they figured out what was wrong.
In the meantime, Shirley’s daughter asked the Temple’s Worldwide Prayer Circle Committee to pray for her mother and the devotees got busy.
The next morning, the symptoms were completely gone and Shirley felt just fine.
“After a battery of tests all day long, the team of doctors could find nothing wrong except low thyroid!” she said. “I was released from the hospital after a 24-hour stay. To this day, the doctors are still shaking their heads!”
In addition to members of prayer circles at Temples, devotees around the globe serve through the power of prayer by participating in the SRF Worldwide Prayer Circle, conducting services featuring Paramahansa Yogananda’s technique of sending healing, uplifting vibrations for those in need of help and for the world.
Confidentiality is important, Shirley and group leaders at other Temples said.
“Sometimes people will ask to be added to the prayer list as ‘Master knows who’ and not their name,” said Kaye Stambaugh, chairwoman of the Prayer and Charity Committee of 12 at the SRF San Diego Temple. “If someone says ‘Can you add my name?’ we never ask why.”
The group leaders email their group members the names of those added to the list. Often, they don’t know the results of their prayers.
“What I get is a lot of appreciation,” said John Hogue, chairman of the circle of 45 members at Phoenix Temple. “I don’t usually hear back. It’s kind of a private thing for a lot of people.”
Kaye said she sometimes receives emails expressing gratitude with messages such as “I could feel your prayers. I feel like it’s really helping me.” She passes those along to group members.
Twyla Baldwin joined the prayer committee at Hollywood Temple about five years ago because “I wanted to learn how to pray for people.” She’s now leader of the group, which includes eight core members and ten more who are “friends of the committee.”
In southern India, devotee Vivekanandhan said that members of the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS) circle in Coimbatore post prayer requests on WhatsApp, and ten devotees have committed to pray for those who have submitted prayer requests during their regular meditations.
Members of the small, tight-knit SRF Firenze group in Florence, Italy, often pray for each other. One member recalled that devotees prayed on their own for a young member who had a terminal illness, and continued to pray for his widow after his passing and offer her support.
SRF Boston devotee Swati Mukerjee started an informal prayer circle in October 2017 that holds a 15-minute service by phone every night. About 12 Kriyaban devotees, drawn from the SRF Boston Center, the SRF Asheville Group in North Carolina, and the SRF Bloomington Meditation Circle in Indiana, take turns leading, and it attracts an average of 30-40 devotees from all over the country as well as Canada, she said.
“Except for a couple of emails sent to a devotee distribution list at the beginning, we haven’t really publicized it,” Swati said. “Now it’s more word-of-mouth.”
The service begins just after 9:05 p.m. Eastern Time and can be reached at +1 (515) 606-5383. The access code is 373185#.
“The Lord responds to all and works for all, “ Master wrote in his Autobiography of a Yogi. “Seldom do men realize how often God heeds their prayers. He is not partial to a few, but listens to anyone who approaches Him trustfully.”
The prayer group leaders said the number of devotees serving in their prayer groups remains fairly constant.
“It’s a commitment,” Shirley said. “Not everybody’s ready to do that.”
Those requesting healing prayers typically stay on the prayer list at Temples for 90 days, and members pray for them twice a day. However, this year, the global coronavirus pandemic has prompted a change at the Phoenix Temple.
“Ever since the pandemic, I haven’t taken anybody off the prayer list,” John said. “I don’t like it to get too long, but in this case it’s kind of a unique situation.”
Shirley noted that because of the pandemic, many devotees are going to several SRF Online Meditation Center services each day and participating in Master’s healing technique at the end of each meditation service.
“There are thousands attending these online meditations,” she noted.
In a letter to devotees introducing SRF’s Worldwide Prayer Circle booklet in 1984, then-President Sri Daya Mata noted that news accounts of new diseases, disasters, or international crises makes many people feel a deep sense of insecurity.
“Today, perhaps more than ever before, it is imperative that we counteract that negativity,” Daya Mata wrote. “If we aspire to more than an uneasy existence on this earth, we must renew our connection with the divine Source. That is the purpose of the Self-Realization Fellowship Worldwide Prayer Circle.”
Her words certainly ring true today.
To find out more about the Self-Realization Fellowship Worldwide Prayer Circle, please visit the SRF website.
The Power of Prayer
“One of the reasons I joined the Prayer Circle was a personal experience of the power of prayer. When I was being aggressively treated for cancer, it took a toll on my body and I was quite ill, and sometimes so without energy that I didn’t want to get out of bed. During this time, my friends and family would send cards and email messages with prayers or positive words about my healing that I saved in a basket.
“When I was feeling too weak to get up and get going, I’d place the basket on my chest where I could feel the prayers and well wishes energizing my body. Then I’d be able to get up and keep on.
“When needed the most, prayers literally filled my body and lifted me up. God is good!”
Chairwoman, San Diego Temple Prayer Circle