I have written before on the subject of intercessory prayer. I talked of the three areas of this type of prayer that seemed to be of interest:
• Who/what to pray for?
• How to pray for them?
• Why pray for them?
The first post talked about 'Who/what to pray for'. The second of the three was about 'How we pray for people/situations.' And now for the third - why intercede?
It will probably seem obvious to some why we should pray for the welfare of others but there are some who puzzle over this. These are some of the questions that are asked:
This is one area where looking at the word 'intercede' might help us. The English word for intercession comes from the Latin 'intercedo', meaning 'to come between', 'mediate' and 'to interpose on behalf of'. Intercession is a form of representative prayer where we represent other people or situations before God. It doesn't mean that we dictate the outcome of something, but rather we bring the issue/person before God and then pray as Jesus taught us - that 'your kingdom come, your will be done'.
- If God is all-knowing, why should we have to ask for help for others or for difficult situations?
- If God knows the desires of our hearts, why should we need to communicate them?
- If our prayers are not always answered, how can we go on praying in faith?
- Can God have a change of mind if we intercede? What does that say about God's nature?
- Does intercessory prayer affect the destiny of other people?
Of course, the chief reason for engaging in intercessory prayer is because Jesus interceded for us and taught us to follow his example. In John's gospel we read:
Christ prayed to his Father on the night before his Crucifixion, "May they all be one: as Thou Father, art in me, and I in Thee, so may they also be one in us" (John 17:21).
Jesus then goes on to pray for all those that would believe through the testimony of the disciples - you and me!
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
So if its a good practice for Jesus, I guess its a good practice for us!
Also, the fact that we are interceding for others - bringing them before God - means that we must ouselves be open to God and what God requires of us. It is often through us that God's will is done in the world. So we have in Proverbs:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
We are called not only to prayer but to action - that must surely be the full meaning of 'to intercede' - 'to interpose on behalf of'.
For me it also helps to think of the doctrine of the Trinity when thinking about intercessory prayer. God is three persons in one God. God is communion - there is sharing and communication within the Godhead. This communication existed before we did - before there was communication between humans (and other creatures, come to that). God does not actually need us to communicate to - God is complete and perfect in communication within the Godself.
And we are created in God's image. Not that we have more than one person within us but that we are called to the same type of communication as exists within the Godhead. Intercession is one form of communion - sharing a common life - being connected to one another through Christ and to God through Christ.
And finally, we have the teaching of the early Christians to guide us. In Romans, Paul speaks of how Jesus continues to intercede for us, even after his death and resurrection:
It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34)
And the writer of Timothy encourages us to pray for those in positions of power and influence:
James has a slightly different - somewhat personal - way of putting it:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:l-2)
Pray for one another that you may find healing yourself. (James 5.16)
At the risk of going on for too long, I'd like to leave you with the following quote by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia:
…Isolated, self-dependent, none of us is an authentic person but merely an individual, a bare unit as recorded in the census. Egocentricity is the death of true personhood. Each becomes a real person only through entering into relations with other persons, through living for them and in them. There can be no man, so it has rightly been said, until there are two men in communication. The same is true, secondly, of love. Love cannot exist in isolation, but presupposes the other. Self-love is the negation of love. As Charles Williams shows to such devastating effect in his novel Descent Into Hell, self-love is hell ; for carried to its ultimate conclusion, self-love signifies the end of all joy and all meaning. Hell is not other people, hell is myself, cut off from others in self-centeredness.
Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, pages 27, 28.
May God's blessing be with you as you intercede for others.