Yes, you’re right: we should know how to pray! Most of us have been praying since we were children. We grew up with, and continue to teach our children, the Angel of God prayer, the Our Father and Hail Mary, and many other prayers as well. However, living on Cream of Wheat isn’t all the diet that we need. We can only survive on something more “meaty!”
There is much discussion about the many types/kinds/forms of prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Please do follow and read this link! It’s very interesting and worthwhile!) lists five kinds of prayer: Blessing and Adoration, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and Praise. (So “Petition” is not the same as “Intercession”!) We know that Intercession is first of all praying for someone else, but also—and here is the important difference: praying for someone else as Jesus! [CCC ¶ 2634ff, “Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” referencing Hebrews 7:25, Rom 8:26-27, Phil 2:4; 2 Cor 9:14, Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4].
In Exodus chapter 17, we see Moses on a hilltop with his arms raised in prayer that his troops might win the battle against their enemy, the Amalekites. As Moses’ arms grew heavy, his aides, Aaron and Hur, supported them. In this way, Aaron and Hur joined Moses in interceding before the Lord.
In the 17th chapter of the gospel of John (titled The Prayer of Jesus), Jesus tells us, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world.” Jesus is praying “for them,” that is, for us, his disciples. Later in the same chapter (verse 20), Jesus does add, “I pray not only for them [that is, for us, his disciples], but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
Saint Paul, in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 2), with no distinction made at that time between prayer and intercession, tells us: “First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all.” [my emphases]
So this is Paul’s main point: When we intercede, we do so as Jesus, that others might believe in him through our word. Jesus is the one mediator with the Father. I don’t know about you, but sin often raises its ugly head in my life! How can I myself or you yourself intercede for a need in someone else’s life when a beam of sin(Matthew 7:5) still hangs over our lives? It was rather Jesus, the one mediator and redeemer, who gave his life, not only for us (the “good guys,” hopefully), but for the “Amalekites” as well. [Note: A “mediator” is one who brings two sides together, not one who “meditates.” Intercession is certainly not meditation; rather it is very active and often demanding!]
As Jesus, we are called to pray especially for the “Amalekites,” in our lives, for those difficult-to-love, for those with whom we disagree, and especially for perpetrators and those who seek to harm us, that they might also “come to the knowledge of the truth.” However, it is important to note that it is only Jesus Who has triumphed over sin and death. You or I certainly have no power over sin and death. As a matter of fact, when it’s you or I, by ourselves, attempting to counteract the power of Satan, the Prince of Darkness, we put our own spiritual health at risk. However, the Lord Jesus made it very clear: “Anything you ask in my name, I will do!” (John 14:13-14)
As an interesting aside, let’s go back to the Gospel of John: Count up the number of times the word “world” is used in his 17th chapter. I counted that word 18 times! And this is John’s final chapter before Jesus is arrested in Chapter 18. It seems to me that John is trying to tell us that “the world” is extremely important to Jesus!!
So let’s look at “the world” and for what—or whom—we might choose to intercede. The EM Prayer Ministry occasionally receives deeply personal requests for prayer. Some are very brief and anonymous requests, such as “intercession to change behavior.” (Yes, that is what RECLAiM is about.) Some are more detailed and include heartfelt grief, regret and confusion that result from the use of porn and its resulting behaviors. There are many real individuals who rely on our prayer. We could say, “What would Jesus do?” He would reach out in compassion. He would touch discouraged souls who cry out for direction and hope. He would enclose them in his arms and reassure them of his deep love. He would give them the hope that their lives could change and that they might “sin no more.” It is this work of intercession that is primarily our work: to be praying for the world and loving the world, as Jesus did, as he would, and as He does, through you and me!
Sometimes intercessors are called to weep for the sorrow that our brothers and sisters experience. Sometimes one physically feels the heaviness of their hearts and the pain of their helplessness. Even Jesus wept!
Intercession is not for wimps. It requires dedication, reliability and discipline, objectivity and empathy, humility and love. Elizabeth Ministry and RECLAiM Sexual Health need intercessors. We need YOU. Please consider the call!
May the Lord Jesus bless and multiply our efforts in behalf of others!
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