PRAYER in its wholeness is relationship with God. Our part in all prayer is to be the ‘good ground’ out of which the seed can grow and, if we will let it, be multiplied a hundredfold by our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. We must not break up the activity of prayer into different compartments, but our particular subject here is intercession.
The Unity of Prayer
Worship and intercession are both acts of our will. In worship we give ourselves to God in the simple humility of being what we are, his creatures, and that means we give everything, our past and present, our desire for the future, our relationships and all the circumstances of our life, and in them offer all to his loving care.
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
The True Involvement of Intercession
In intercession we are giving our will to be united with his purpose in all circumstances in which we are or may be involved. This is where the future comes in—and where the right ordering of our desire is the essential part of intercession.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
If we are deeply involved, for example, in the pain of the friend who is suffering, in the anxiety of a mother whose son is fighting in battle, then how are we to pray?
Worship and intercession are both founded in perfect trust, and this is the meaning of faith. We can trust perfectly in the goodness of God. He wills that all people are to be healed, made perfect in Christ, which is salvation. We can therefore trust him in all circumstances and in that trust hand over our care for our loved ones, and our concern for the world in its needs, to his loving will. And this, willing our will with his, is our prayer of intercession.
This act of trust will not take away the pain we may feel, but it uses the pain and turns it into a positive act of love, which is a continuing intercession. It stills the anxiety, which is the reflection of the bit of our will which is not really in union with God’s. Let’s be honest! When we are caring most deeply we often still hold on by our emotions to some bit of possessiveness in our prayer—that beloved son and what we think is best for him—we cannot completely let go of him into God’s purpose. It is so understandable, but really to intercede we must give up our wills to be transformed into one energy with God’s creative purpose. As creatures we shall only truly be what he means us to be as we let go of our own human standpoint. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’
Perhaps, therefore, much of our prayer time will have to be spent in this struggle of one-ing our wills with God’s will. We may be tempted to despair and to give way to a sense of our own poverty and self-concern. Actually the reverse may be true. Prayer is God’s activity in us and our impotence may be a far-off echo of Christ’s perfect intercessory prayer in the garden of Gethsemane: ‘Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done.’ We must not be surprised if our prayer seems largely to be that of conflict.Give us this day our daily bread.
This, in its widest sense, is the prayer of the surrender of each moment to God’s divine mercy.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Intercession is always a challenge to our egoism. Pride sometimes leads us to think, perhaps unconsciously, that by our prayer we shall be able to do something in the circumstances about which we are praying. We want to help so much, we want to do something, so we turn to our prayer and get very busy with our own desires. What, then, should we try to do? Truly to hold the situation to God, but solely that he may—
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us [and those for whom we pray] from evil
We Pray As We Live
Therefore, great purity of heart is needed, and so we cannot separate our prayer from our life. We pray as we live, in the true humility of dependence on God’s love. Humility is the true basis of intercession, a humility which walks before God moment by moment during the day, trying to carry out everything we do in faith and love, so that when the time of testing comes we do not have to seek his will in a special act but just continue to be in the flow of the divine purpose and to bear our share with others in the suffering of Christ’s reconciliation. So shall we be a strong centre of God’s peace and light for those who turn to us for comfort and strength.
This means, for most of us, a deeper surrender of ourselves, as we thankfully come to the mystery of the Holy Passion in the knowledge that all prayer is God’s work and that it is his Love that draws all men to the knowledge of his will.