A thirteen year old boy in our neighborhood recently came down with cancer. The prognosis for him is good and with the proper care (and God's mercy) he will be fine.
His parents (understandably) asked that people in the neighborhood say Tehillim for their son. An effort soon arose whereby people were asked to say certain chapters of Tehillim every day and that, as a result, the entire book of Tehillim would be recited every day for this child.
A friend of mine, who was organizing the effort, called me up and asked me to participate. I immediately agreed to and was given a set of chapters to recite. I was told that there were two "rules" to observe:
1. That the chapters be recited every day.
2. That the chapters be recited exclusively for the recovery of the boy who is ill. One could certainly pray for the recovery of other people at other times; but these chapters, when recited daily, should be said exclusively for this boy.
I agreed to the rules, even though I don't agree with the latter one. The reason I agreed was simply because it wasn't my child and I certainly wasn't going to dictate to a set of worried, upset parents the conditions under which I would pray for their son.
The whole concept, nonetheless, troubles me. It seems to imply that God (so to speak) only has so much mercy to go around and that if you pray for someone else while you're praying for this boy, then the boy somehow loses out on God's mercy. The whole concept seems entirely wrong to me. I can't imagine God withholding a refuah shelaimah because the prayor (is that even a word?) had someone else in mind while praying.
When discussing the issue with my wife later on that night, I found out that she had the same reservations about this concept that I did. I instructed my wife that should (God forbid) the need ever arise, I don't mind having people say Tehillim for me; but I don't want the exclusivity restriction. I'd *rather* people pray for as many sick people as possible - and I'll do what I can to make it easier for people to do so.
P.S. The boy's name is Chaim Mayer ben Leah Miriam.