When we pray to God, a lot of the time we pray for things we think we need. Many Christians also make it a habit to pray for others and their needs – family members, friends, and even enemies. In the Orthodox Tradition, we call this intercessory prayer.
The power of intercessory prayer
Jesus Christ, in His resurrected glory, always prays to His Father on behalf of all mankind. As Scripture tells us:
. . . He holds His priesthood permanently because He continues forever. Consequently He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For Christ has entered, not a sanctuary made with hands . . . but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.Hebrews 7:24-25; 9:24
In and through Christ, we can intercede before God. He empowers us (and commands us) to pray for each other and for all creation (1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18). When we intercede for someone, we can ask God for any and every kind of blessing. Inspiration. Instruction. Visitation. Healing. Release from temptation. Forgiveness of sins. Salvation. Whatever we usually ask for ourselves, we can – and should – ask for all men, even our enemies.
To understand the power of intercessory prayer, we must remember God knows all things eternally, that He exists outside of time. For God, there is no before and after. He knows what we ask before we even ask it. Thus God hears all of our prayers, even for those who are dead, before we even make them. There is great power in prayer, and even greater power in making that prayer tangible.
Delivering your prayers
A farmer with a large family had an accident one day and broke his leg. Because of his injury, he would be unable to work for quite a while. A fellow parishioner in the church organized a prayer group for his family. And while they were together praying, a knock sounded at the door. A young boy stood there with boxes filled with harvested produce from the farmer’s fields. Potatoes, apples, corn, and wheat. And they delivered them to the man.
Some of us may think that simply praying for others is enough. But intercessory prayer is not a “Get Out Of Hell Free Card”. Instead, it is a seed, one that grows and motivates us to do everything in our power to help the people we pray for.
Make your prayers tangible
Take some time to make a list of people you want to pray for. Already have a list? Then think about ways you can deliver those prayers, in the form of tangible help and assistance. Perhaps a shut-in at your parish needs her house painted. Perhaps someone recuperating from illness needs some company or a hot meal. Or perhaps you can make a donation or volunteer your time at a homeless shelter or a crisis pregnancy center.
Remember Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, and think of ways you can give of your time, money, and talents to those desperately in need of your prayers.
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