Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on the theme, “The Power of Intercessory Prayer.”
I pray for them . . . . I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (John 17:9, 20).
Jesus spoke these simple words on the night before he died. He was sharing a Passover meal with his disciples, and just before going out to the garden of Gethsemane, he turned to his Father in prayer.
On the face of it, there is nothing particularly striking about this. Jesus was constantly at prayer. He always stayed close to his Father, keeping himself open to his Father’s will and immersing himself in the love his Father had for him. But if we look a little deeper, we would find something very important in Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper. It’s not that he prayed; it’s how he prayed that is so striking. Jesus actually prayed for his disciples—and he prayed for each one of us!
We don’t often think about Jesus as praying prayers of intercession. After all, he and his Father are one. So why would he feel the need to pray for us? If he knew God’s mind so fully, why would he have to petition God for good things to happen to us?
This article, and those that follow, will explore the way of intercessory prayer. We want to see how our own prayers of petition can unite with Jesus’ prayers for us to release God’s blessings on the people we are praying for. We want to see how our prayers of intercession can become just as powerful and effective as Jesus’ prayers. And along the way, we want to get a closer look at Jesus’ own heart of love and concern for us.
As Little Children. If we want to see answers to our prayers of intercession, it is important that we come to God in the same way that little children bring their needs to their parents. Who among us, when we were small, didn’t go to our parents and tell them every problem? We told them about our scraped knees, our fights with our friends, and our troubles with homework. In the same way, Jesus invites us to bring all of our needs to our Father, confident that he will not give us a snake when we ask for a fish, or a scorpion when we ask for an egg (Luke 11:11-12).
It’s interesting, however, that as much as children run to their parents for help, they also try to resolve things on their own. After all, isn’t that the cause of so many playground fights or brother-and-sister spats? As parents, we know that if they rely on their own too much, they will miss out on good solutions, and that’s why we intervene. At the same time, we know that if our children become too dependent on us, they won’t learn how to take responsibility for themselves, and they won’t learn how to become peacemakers with their friends.
Again, the similarity in our relationship with the Lord is clear. God gave us the gifts of intelligence and intuition so that we could grow and learn how to help ourselves and make this world a better place. He wants us to work hard to try to resolve the challenges we face in life. But at the same time, our heavenly Father wants us to bring these same issues to him so that he can offer us his help and guidance. Sometimes he will make everything right again. At other times he will let us work through the problem so that we can grow and mature.
Most of the time, however, the solution is a mixture of both our human work and God’s divine help. For instance, if we need a new job, we should ask God for help. But we still have to do the work of filling out job applications, putting together our résumés, and going on job interviews. The notion that I have to do it all and God can’t or won’t help me is wrong. But so is the notion that all we have to do is pray and then see what God gives us.
Our Great High Priest. In ancient Israel, it was the role of the priest to intercede for the people. His calling was to stand in, or to intervene, before God on behalf of the people. The priest performed his duties by offering the blood of sacrificial animals as a means of atonement and intercession.
Then, in the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be.” It tells us that Jesus “entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11,12). Jesus fulfilled the work of the Old Testament priests, and now he sits at the right hand of God, where he “lives forever to make intercession” for us (7:25).
How blessed we are to have Jesus as our mediator! He brings us, with all of our sins and needs, before our holy and perfect Father. With Jesus as our advocate, we can approach the throne of God with confidence and pour out our hearts. Because of who Jesus is, because of the redemption he won for us, all of us can now “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Hebrews 4:16).
( Joe Difato is the publisher of “The Word Among Us” devotional magazine. To contact him, go to his website at www.joedifato.com . Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ) for allowing us to use his articles from their October 2009 issue. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. In reflecting on how Jesus prayed, the article states the following: “We don’t often think about Jesus as praying prayers of intercession. After all, he and his Father are one. So why would he feel the need to pray for us? If he knew God’s mind so fully, why would he have to petition God for good things to happen to us?” How would you answer the two questions posed in this text?
2. The article challenges us with these words: “If we want to see answers to our prayers of intercession, it is important that we come to God in the same way that little children bring their needs to their parents.” What does coming to God as little children mean to you? Is this how you come to God in prayer? If not, what steps can you make to change this?
3. The article states that when we pray for specific challenges and problems in our lives, often “the solution is a mixture of both our human work and God’s divine help.” Why is this so?
4. The article says that Jesus now “sits at the right hand of God, where he ‘lives forever to make intercession’ for us (Hebrews 7:25). What impact does this reality have on your expectations as you pray?
5. The article ends with these words: “Because of who Jesus is, because of the redemption he won for us, all of us can now ‘confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help’ (Hebrews 4:16).” What are some areas of your life that need God’s “mercy” and “grace”?
6. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to “confidently approach the throne of grace” and pray for these areas. Also pray for others you know facing major challenges that they too would receive the mercy and grace to overcome them.
(The discussion questions were created by Maurice Blumberg, a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/ ), and currently the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners , (http://www2.wau.org/partners/ ), a Ministry of The Word Among Us to the Military and Prisoners . Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)