Judy Beauchemin, a member of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community in the Finger Lakes, leads a group of 60 warriors.
These people are not armed with spears and swords, however, but with computers and Internet connections.
Beauchemin is the coordinator of Prayer Warriors, an online prayer group with members throughout the country, although many of them are concentrated in the Rochester and Penn Yan areas, with another cluster in Florida. Prayer Warriors e-mail their prayer requests to Beauchemin, who in turn passes those requests along to the rest of the members. If members respond to specific requests, Beauchemin often forwards those responses to the member who initially made the request.
"Most of the prayers go out with first names only, and some are anonymous. God knows who we are praying for," she said.
Beauchemin saves every request in a folder on her computer and keeps track of the requests and any updates and responses that may follow. All told, she said she spends about three or four hours a day managing the prayer requests.
"I get on the computer first thing in the morning just to check and see what came in (during) the night," she said. "Then it’s off and on during the day. I just check and forward the messages."
Beauchemin is the primary caregiver for her ailing husband. As such, she has been mostly confined to her home since the early 1990s, when her husband had a stroke. At the time Beauchemin knew God wanted her to retire to take care of her husband, and God eventually brought the prayer group to her to fulfill her need for involvement with others and with her church, she said.
In the early 1990s fellow Catholic Harvey Dorren, who was living in California at the time, began Prayer Warriors. During a visit to a family member in the Penn Yan area some years later he met Bob Coombs, another Our Lady of the Lakes parishioner. Coombs soon began a Finger Lakes chapter of the online prayer group and linked it with Dorren’s Prayer Warriors, promising Dorren he would take over the entire group if the founder were to pass away.
In the meantime, Beauchemin joined and became an active member of Prayer Warriors. Eventually Coombs became so involved with various Our Lady of the Lakes committees that he had to offload some responsibility and asked Beauchemin to take over the Finger Lakes group. She accepted, and when Dorren passed away in 2007, she kept the promise Coombs had made and became coordinator for the entire group.
"It was smaller at one time, and the group keeps growing and growing. It’s just so wonderful to have seen it grow," Beauchemin said.
Prayer Warriors is open to anyone, regardless of faith or location. The group includes Catholics, Protestants and Jews, and one of Beauchemin’s Prayer Warriors partners, Lucia Bayne, is a Baptist who lives in North Carolina. Bayne keeps a log of each prayer request and sends out weekly summaries of them each weekend. Prayer Warriors can choose to either receive all the individual requests or the weekend summary only.
"Some people sometimes are overwhelmed with the number of requests we have, and some situations are sometimes so sad that people can’t handle that, and they prefer to read a summary," Bayne explained.
Although Prayer Warriors often read about heartbreaking situations, Beauchemin and Bayne said their work is not depressing.
"Actually I think of the times when we hear of the wonderful healings. We have seen miracles happen. That’s what keeps us going," Beauchemin said.
For this reason, each weekend summary begins with comments of praise and thanksgiving from people who had made prayer intentions and had their prayers answered. God always answers prayers, Bayne said, although his answer might not necessarily be the one we pray for.
Bayne joined Prayer Warriors after meeting Dorren 14 years ago when her 15-year-old daughter, Luciana, died in an accident. Prayer became an integral part of her life only after Luciana’s death, she said.
"I was the kind of person that prayed just when you needed something. Unfortunately a lot of Christians are like that. They have God in a box on the shelf, and they go and pick up the box when they need something," she said.
After Luciana’s death Bayne was very hurt and scared by a woman who remarked that Luciana died because Bayne did not pray enough. Bayne began to spend all day, every day praying for her two surviving children, but her views on prayer gradually changed after she became friends with Dorren, who often comforted and supported families who’d lost children.
"I even stopped praying for things that I want, because he knows that already, but I just pray for his will in my life," said Bayne, who also stopped worrying about things beyond her control. "When you worry it shows that you don’t trust (God), and we need to trust that he will answer."
Carole Miles, a Presbyterian Prayer Warrior from Rising Sun, Md., said she derives great comfort from the knowledge that others are praying for her requests. Somehow, she noted, her prayers seem more real when she types them out and knows other will be praying. These prayers don’t have to be fancy or formal, but rather heartfelt and sincere, said Miles and fellow Prayer Warrior Marilyn Connelley of Clear Lake, Calif.
"We’re pounding on the gates of heaven knowing that the Lord does hear," Miles said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To join Prayer Warriors, e-mail Judy Beauchemin at firstname.lastname@example.org.