Sometimes, during the Prayer of the Faithful, after the general intercessions the priest will ask, "And for whom or what else shall we pray?"
The answers are called out. For a niece preparing for an operation. For a sister-in-law who died overnight. For a son looking for work. For a chronically ill neighbor.
Some intentions are heartbreaking. Some by their very nature, but sometimes by the pain evident in the voice asking for prayers for something that, written down, sounds pretty run-of-the-mill.
Some intentions are too heavy to bear, perhaps especially when they become more general. An end to abortion, peace in the Middle East, the safe return of all our armed forces. Worthy things to pray for, certainly, but difficult to pray from that region between presumption (in the form of shallowness) and despair.
Some are curious. Someone asks for our prayers for her grandson who is traveling that day. Well, but traveling where and by what, that we should make room for him among the dead and the dying who have just been mentioned? Still, it's not for us to judge what weighs on the hearts of our brothers and sisters, but to help them bear the weight.
That's the great gift Christ gives us by giving us each other to love as He loves us. We can always help each other; we can always pray for -- on behalf of -- each other, and ounce for ounce that prayer, it seems to me, is more pleasing to God than our prayers for mercy for ourselves.