I have been thinking a lot about intercessory prayer. Like many of you, I am often called upon to pray for others, and I also deeply appreciate the knowledge that others are praying for me. But what I've found is that, although my inner life and my practice of prayer have grown and changed markedly since I began to use centering prayer and moved into contemplation, my intercessory prayer is pretty much where it always was...and it feels pretty lame and ineffective to me. How do some of you do this kind of prayer? With words? Visualization? Asking for specifics? Or staying very general?
I also struggle with the theology of intercessory prayer. How does it work? Does God help those lucky enough to have intercessors more than those who are isolated? What is my responsibilty as a Christian? Walter Wink says, "History belongs to the intercessors." So is it OK just to pray for some and not others, as I feel moved by the Spirit? Or is our responsibility much greater than that?
I'd love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.
I have different kinds of prayer periods each day. The first one in the morning is quiet sitting, mostly offering myself and my day to God. I do very little reading or intercession then, but if something is heavy on my heart, I will "pray it through" using intercession or petitions. After breakfast, I pray the liturgy of the hours, part of which includes times for intercessory prayer. I try to pray these prayers conscientiously, joining my own intercessions with those of the Church. Then I pray for family, friends, spiritual directees, national leaders, special intentions -- just speaking them mindfully and holding them before God. I don't have a big, long list, and it doesn't take long to do this. I do the same for evening prayer using the readings of the divine office.
What I've found is that intercessory prayer brings me into deep relationship with the kinds of concerns I hold before God. We are, after all, relating to the people we pray for during intercessory prayer, and to the other issues we voice. The first fruit I notice from this is that God touches my own mind and will to order the relationships and issues I pray for. It feels as though I'm given to engage in them more from a perspective informed by the divine instead of my own conditioning. This is especially true when, in my prayer, I pray "with open hands" rather than asking God to jump through my hoops. So that's one way these prayers are answered: through the changes in me that are carried forth in relationships and engagement with a wide range of issues.
I've seen others helped by prayer beyond what can be effected through our relationship, and that part is a mystery. I do not know how this works, but I suspect it has something to do with a deep, underlying unity of the human race -- that we are, in a sense, a social organism, held together by a common human nature and animated by the Spirit. In this sense, we might think of the Spirit as the energetic medium Who conveys to others the love and concern we express in intercessory prayer, multiplying and amplifying our offering with God's own abundant care and concern.
Revkah, Following is an article I wrote about prayer in 2003. I copied and pasted it here.
Some Thoughts On Prayer
I once had a web page titled HSPrayer. HSPs (highly sensitive people) make good pray-ers . I still do have a Prayer Page at the www.holystic.com website with a list of people who have requested prayers. Not only HSPs of course, but so many people are hurting in the world. In fact the majority of the world's population is suffering, either from illness, poverty, troubled relationships or any number of other maladies that plague humanity in these critical times.
But here is the good news! It doesn't have to be that way! We have enormous, unused power within us that is just waiting to be unleashed... This power is commonly known as prayer.
There are many different kinds of prayer and many different ways to pray. Does anyone ever ask you to pray for them? Or as some say: "send positive vibes". Actually this might be more accurate and a more powerful "prayer" than a more formal prayer. Did you know that your thoughts can be prayers? The thoughts that you think all day long, whether you are aware of it or not? Thoughts and words carry ENERGY and POWER. They can be compared to electricity.�
The Bible says, "pray without ceasing". Now how can anyone do that!! But yes we can do that or Jesus would not have told us to. When I was a child I asked a wise Christian neighbor lady how she prayed. She was always telling me that she did a lot of praying. Seems like she prayed for everybody and everything! She said, "Honey, I pray all day long... my thoughts are my prayers." Her answer left an impression on me. Since then I have read many books on prayer, "mind" power, and positive thinking, and I realize that she was right.
It can be a life long "project" getting into the habit of "praying" without ceasing. What are some steps you can take ? Be aware of your thoughts. The real you inside (the "inner witness") can observe the "thinking" part of you... the activity of your brain, including the imagination, interpretations, reasonings, reactions, ponderings, wonderings and so on. When you catch yourself THINKING or saying anything unkind, destructive or negative, immediately STOP and substitute a kind and positive thought.���
Then there are prayers of thanksgiving and praise. Someone was once asked how they prayed. Their answer was that they never asked for anything, but gave thanks for what they already had. And we all DO already have everything we need. We just need to REALIZE it and as some say "claim" it. Faith is the substance of things unseen.... the SUBSTANCE. Faith is substance.... think on that.
Prayer is also and mainly communion with God... awareness of God's presence... sustaining a higher consciousness as we go about our everyday lives. And prayer is RECEIVING what we already have....what is already existent in the unseen realm.
Prayer is too great a subject to cover in one short newsletter. I had hoped to give you a "magic" formula.... I hope I have given you a few things to think about. Above all I urge you to pray... pray any way you can, ... whatever feels right and effective for you. Pray and keep on praying and thinking "positive". Prayer IS the mightiest force in the world.
Please educate yourself on this MOST IMPORTANT subject. Below are some books that I highly recommend.
"Prayer, the Mightiest Force in the World", by Frank Laubach
"Pray and Grow Rich", by Catherine Ponder
"God's Transmitters", by Hannah Hurnard
"Praise Releases Faith", by Terry Law
"The Healing Path of Prayer", by Ron Roth
"All Things Are Possible With Prayer", by Charles Allen
And don't forget to be STILL and LISTEN for your answers!
This little sister Menendez is a most powerful intercessor:
The anamchara post reminded me a bit of a way one of my closest friends told me she would pray for me and other people. She would imagine me sleeping, then pick me up and carry me to the foot of the cross, and lay down there herself and pray for both of us.
She told me this during a time when there was some conflict between us. I was really touched that she would pray for me like that, as we were together in her mind in silence (and me asleep, presumably so I couldn't talk back and tick her off again ) and the commonality of being two people in need of forgiveness at the cross. I began to pray like that myself, moreso during rough patches in relationships.
Praying like that greatly lessens any sense of self-righteousness or need to be right I may have, and it also lessens my desire to try to manouver that person into meeting my needs, as we're both lying under the abundant grace of the cross.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
What a pleasant surprise to see your here!
Yes, I'm the same Katy. I think this is where we "met"? I have thought of you often and wondered what became of you, and how you were. :-)
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