The Power of Intercession and Intercessory Prayers

Rebekah discusses all about this important aspect of the Catholic prayer life.

The Power of Intercession and Intercessory Prayers
Young people praying for intercession (Photo: WYM)

The power of Intercession

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32

From the days of Moses, through the Early Church, and even to today, prayer and intercession have been at the heart of what it is to live as a Christian. We pray, because we know that through us the Spirit of God can move and accomplish many things. We pray for those who need it, for those who can’t pray for themselves, and for those who need our strength and support as the Body of Christ.

What is Intercessory Prayer?

“If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honoured, the whole body will be happy.” 1 Corinthians 12:26

At its heart, a prayer of intercession is asking God, in his grace and mercy, to intervene in a particular situation. It is often prayed for others, but can include praying for one’s own needs too. “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” CCC 2634.

It’s about coming to Jesus with our wants, needs and desires, and hopes and fears. About asking Jesus into the messy everyday, and ask him to be present with us, and so redeem our situations, to bring light to the darkness.

Intercessory power recognises the reality that God is alive and active in the world today. It trusts that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the works of God are still manifested today, in the here and now situations of ordinary life. It believes that those who seek find, and those who ask, shall receive.

What Intercessory Prayer is Not

“He’ll be coming and going” he had said. “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down – and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” – C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Intercession is not like magic. Prayer is never a matter of just asking for what I want, or even what I need, and expecting it to magically happen. Prayer is also a great matter of faith and trust. Trust that God hears and that he cares. Faith that what I see is not the full picture. Trust that God is good, and will work all things for good. Faith that what I want and what I think I need are perhaps not what is good for me, or that I need to wait for them.

Intercessory prayer also requires humility, and submitting our will and desires to God. It’s this submission, to allowing ourselves to be the vessel God uses, that’s really powerful.

What does Intercessory Prayer look like?

“In him you have been pleased to renew all things, giving us all a share in his fullness. For though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself and by the blood of his Cross brought peace to all creation. Therefore, he has been exalted above all things, and to all who obey him, has become the source of eternal salvation.” Eucharistic Prayer 1

There is no ‘one-way’ of what this looks like. In Mass, we see the prayers of the faithful, or the bidding prayers, as a prayer of intercession. In a very profound way during Mass we see the intercession of Jesus on behalf of us, the Church, to the Father. In a more individual way, we can pray by just recalling people and situations to mind, and asking God to be present, and to being his grace and mercy.

Structured prayers like the Rosary and the divine Mercy Chaplet are both very powerful ways of offering intercession for people. You can recall to mind people and situations as you start, or offer each bead for a particular person or situation. Other structured prayers can be little learned phrases that you learn to pray as you go about your day, or in response to anger or hurtful situations. Some examples can include: ‘Lord have mercy’, the Hail Mary, the Our Father.

To pray for a person in front of you can be another great way to offer intercessory prayer. To speak aloud to them in prayer words of encouragement and blessing, asking God to heal, protect or bless them. It’s a very tangible way to let them know that you are praying for them. Sometimes people will place their hands on the person they are praying for as a sign of their standing in solidarity with them.

Intercession also builds up community by binding people together who support and care for one another in their needs. The Christian journey is not one we can do alone; we need each other. Families should pray together and for each other, the parish community prays together and for each other, and friends can pray together and for each other. It’s a great strength to know you are not alone.

There is also great power in praying for those you don’t know, or even those you don’t like. Prayerful intercession is not limited to those we know. All of humanity is important to God, and therefore should have a place in our heart.

We can also ask for the intercession of the angles and saints already in heaven. This is a huge gift. Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world (CCC 2683).

Why is it powerful?

“My secret is simple – I pray.” Mother Teresa

To storm heaven with prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do because it is a weapon that has divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). It is a great gift, and can be used to much influence in the world.

It’s powerful, because it has been given the authority by Jesus: “Jesus openly entrusts to his disciples the mystery of prayer to the Father, he reveals to them what their prayer and ours must be, once he has returned to the Father in his glorified humanity” CCC 2614.

The disciples were sent out on mission, with the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons, and to tell others of the glories of God. This is what we, as Christians, are called to do. When we are baptised, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed on us, later strengthened in confirmation, are the gifts we need to carry out this mission in the world today.

We are already given the gifts to powerfully influence the world around us though our mercy and forgiveness, our charity and love, our hope and faith, our joy and courage. We access and grow in these gifts though prayer and intercession.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.