24. The Mystery of Intercession
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Father Benson taught us to look always to the glory of the ascended Christ and find the meaning of all we do in union with him. We shall enter into the mystery of intercessory prayer only if we realize our oneness with Christ the great High Priest, who lives forever to make intercession for all the world. Christ makes this prayer to the merciful Father through the prayers of all the faithful who are baptized into his body. His voice does not appeal to God separately from theirs; “They are . . . so many mouths to Himself; and as they pray . . . His voice fills their utterance with the authority and claim belonging to Himself.” The Father hears the voice of his beloved Son in our prayers and accepts them as Christ’s.
It is the Spirit of Christ who stirs our prayer and weaves the movements of our hearts into his great offering. Because the Spirit moves so deeply within us we cannot always be conscious of the full meaning and substance of our prayer. Often our intercessions will feel weak and incoherent. Yet the Spirit is helping us “in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Through faith we see Christ not only in his majesty in heaven, but in his lowly presence in every creature. He suffers with and in everyone in need. Our intercession does not call down the divine presence to come to the place where we have seen a need, for the Christ who fills all things is already in that place. It is his Spirit who calls us to join him there by offering our love in intercessory prayer and action, to be used by God for healing and transformation.
It is a wonderful thing that God makes us his fellow-workers and uses our love, acting in intercession, to further the reconciliation of all things in Christ. We offer thanks with joy whenever prayer results in the transformation for which we had hoped. However, we must often suffer the pain of seeing no visible result to our prayer. But we should let no frustration wear down the trust that sustains our waiting on God. Every offering of love will bear fruit. “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
According to an ancient monastic saying “A monk is separated from all in order to be united to all.” The pioneers of monasticism believed that the monk was called to the margin of society in order to hear within himself the deepest cries of humanity, and to discover a profound unity with all living beings in their struggle to attain “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” In our intercessory prayer this solidarity will find its deepest expression. We shall also experience through faith our communion with all the saints in glory who pray unceasingly with us and for us.
The writer of the above comment has hit upon the essential element of prayer. By loving others we transform ourselves and offer through God love and strength to those for whom we pray. As God’s plan for each of us is a mystery, we may not change any circumstances by praying, but we enjoy the presence of God as we reach out in love. God knows when we have developed the skill of praying with unselfish love for others. Sometimes, when we speak to God, we get a reply. It is then, that we know – for sure- that God is with us always and everywhere. We learn to accept the plan that is so mysterious to us, knowing that we are in God’s embrace come what may. May you who read this feel that embrace and the love it brings to you.
I pray nightly for several friends who have cancer. I feel present to their lives in doing this. Tonight’s reading opened me to the idea that my intercession does not call down the divine presence because He is already there. Rather it is his Spirit who calls me to join him in that action. By offering love in intercessory prayer and action, God uses me, and others, for healing and transformation. This is a greater participatory role than I had envisioned. It is good. It explains why the prayers make me feel increasingly integral to my friends’ lives.