Mr. Rodgers and prayer


Neighborly Prayer

Some of you may be familiar with a story by journalist Tom Junod. It is a

true story of a young man afflicted with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy

did not affect this young man’s mind, but it affected his motor skills and

his ability to speak. The boy could only communicate through typing on his

computer. In addition to his physical disabilities, the boy suffered

emotional problems after some of his care givers callously abused him.

Overwhelmed with self-hatred, the boy often hit himself. Using his

computer, he wrote to his mother that he wished he could die.

There was one thing that seemed to bring the boy comfort: watching “Mr.

Roger’s Neighborhood.” The kindly, mild-mannered Mr. Rogers emphasized

that all people are valuable and worthy of love. His calming demeanor and

accepting message touched the boy’s heart and gave him hope.

One day a children’s foundation set up a meeting between the boy and his

hero, Mr. Rogers. Upon meeting Mr. Rogers, the boy became so nervous that

he began hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room

to calm him down. When he returned, Mr. Rogers carried on their

conversation as if nothing had happened. And then Mr. Rogers ended the

conversation by asking the boy a very special favor: would this boy pray

for him? The boy was floored by this request. Would he pray for Mr.

Rogers? He had always been the object of someone else’s prayers. But from

that day forward, the boy began praying for Fred Rogers, and he

experienced a new sense of hope and self-esteem through this act of

praying for a man he so admired.

When Tom Junod complimented Fred Rogers on this idea, Rogers reacted with

surprise. He had been sincere in his request for the boy’s prayers. As he

said, “I didn’t ask him for his prayers for HIM, I asked for me. I asked

him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that

must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

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