“Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did.”
One of the things about reading Catholic social media is that there are a great many requests for prayer. Now, that is a good thing – it is always good to ask for prayer. But for those reading such requests, it can sometimes leave us feeling that we are in many ways helpless to ease the burden of another in practical terms – for example, the person asking for prayer may be in a different part of the world, or they may be asking for something we have no experience of, such that we cannot offer ‘real’ help.
Needless to say, if we are able to offer practical help, then we should do so – faith proves itself in good deeds. And such deeds are corporal works of mercy, which are always good.
But prayer is a spiritual work of mercy – and it, too, is good. And it may be that in a particular moment or situation, prayer is all we have available to us.
Throughout His earthly life, the Lord prayed for various people and intentions, so we have His own example to follow – and the Catechism reminds us that “intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did”. So we couldn’t have a better model. The Catechism goes on to tell us. –
“Since Abraham, intercession – asking on behalf of another – has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ’s, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks ‘not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,’ even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.”
Pope Francis said something about this yesterday –
“Our prayers are fulfilled and completed when we intercede for others and take care of their concerns and needs. Prayer does not separate us or isolate us from anyone, as it is love for all.“
Intercessory prayer, then, is very real – and every bit as real (albeit in a different way) as any practical help we might be able to give. It’s power comes from it’s union to the prayer of the Lord, with Whom and to Whom we direct those prayers. Offering prayer in this way implicitly accepts our personal limitations – what we can do is always finite – and it hands everything over to the One who is without limit.
And so, if you are asked for prayer – give it, both willingly and joyfully. And in doing so, know that what you offer in charity may well be the prayer that obtains for a soul a particular grace of whcih they stand in need, or even final salvation itself.