Interceding as Prayer

My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as one pleads for a friend.
Job 16:20-21

In Richard Foster’s book Prayer, he introduces the topic of intercession by saying, “Intercession is a way of loving others.” In praying for someone else’s well being we join our spirits with their spirits, our hearts with their hearts. We are in solidarity with them, sharing their suffering, their longings, their needs. We are expressing the truth of their value and worth. We are desiring their well being. We are loving them.

In this text Job is telling his friends. “I want God to see my tears. I need you, my friends, to also see my tears and to go to God on my behalf.”

The prayer of intercession requires something from us. It requires our heart. When we hear and see the news, and our hearts want to turn away from the pain and suffering we see, the prayer of intercession calls us to stay present to the pain and to pray for those who are suffering. The same is true when we hear and see the pain of those near us. Our heart may want to minimize or turn away, but the prayer of intercession calls us to open our hearts, to share in this suffering, and to pray for God’s help, strength and comfort.

We may wonder why we should bother to pray in this way. God already knows, yet God does not seem to be stopping the suffering. What good does it do to pray for others?

Some people talk about intercession as if the work of intercession was the work of begging an angry, distant, demanding God to somehow behave better than this and to show some mercy and kindness. Intercession then becomes a desperate attempt to convince God to do something God does not really want to do. It is no wonder that when this is our view we find ourselves quickly giving up on this kind of prayer.

But this is not the prayer of intercession. Intercession is God’s invitation to join in active love for all of creation. God is a loving, merciful, powerful, generous, tender God whose work in this world is to heal and free and bless. In intercession we join the flow of healing grace and participate in God’s loving work in this world.

When we pray, we pay attention to God’s desire to heal and free and bless. We do not need to convince God to do this. God is already at work in the world in this way. And, amazingly, God invites us to join in this work through intercessory prayer. Doing so opens our hearts to others. It joins us to others near and far, to their suffering, to their needs, to their value, and to God’s unfailing love for them.

Bring to my attention
those for whom you would have me intercede.
Give me the courage
to open my heart and mind
to their suffering and need.
Help me to sit with you in spirit,
as you sit with them,
pouring out love and compassion,
bearing their burdens
carrying their sorrows.
May I participate in the flow of your healing.
and blessing in their lives
as I pray for each one.

Prayer suggestion:

Sit quietly, breathing slowly and easily. Ask God to open your heart and mind in love and to bring to your awareness anyone for whom God would have you intercede. Allow yourself to “sit with” this person, to get a sense of what they might be feeling and needing. Allow yourself to be aware of God’s active, tender love for this person. Join God’s love and valuing of this person by praying for their healing, strengthening and blessing.