Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Mystery of Intercession

Jesus Christ is our great High Priest. Jesus Christ makes the great and eternal intercession for our lives and our world. Christ makes his prayer of intercession to the merciful Father "through the prayer of all the faithful who are baptized into his body. His voice does not appeal to God separately from theirs." Father Benson, the first brother in the Society of St. John the Evangelist wrote the following. "They are…so many mouths to Himself; and as they pray…His voice fills their utterance with the authority and claim belonging to Himself."

When we pray, God hears the voice of his Son in our prayers and accepts them as Christ's own. We reflect to God the beauty of his Son's sacrificial offering, we reflect the glorious resurrection that offers transformation. When we pray we bring those for whom we pray into the loving arms of the merciful Father. When Christians pray the merciful Father hears the beautiful words of Jesus Christ whispered into his heart. When those who are not Christians pray, God hears them too. God hears them and he hears Jesus whispering into his heart those words, those ancient words, those yearning words of Jesus, "How long have I wished to gather you in my arms, as a hen gathers her young."

It is God's Holy Spirit that invites us to join Christ in the "offering our love in intercessory prayer and action, to be used by God for healing and transformation." God delights in the work of prayer. God makes us partners in the restoration of the world. We are "fellow-workers" with Christ. It is through our intercession that we bring all things and all people to Christ. 

The work of intercessory prayer is an ancient tradition for those who followed Christ. We may read in diaries, fragments, and ancient stories how important the work of prayer was for those first Christians. Perpetua prays for her fellow martyrs, her family, her persecutors. In praying Perpetua declares her Christian faith.

Perhaps since the very apostles prayed at the foot of the cross of Christ, Christians have been called to the edge of culture so as to be poised to hear, with ears open, the "deepest cries of humanity" (SSJE, Rule 24). Again, I quote Father Benson: "In praying for others we learn really and truly to love them. As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal love and as we go to him who is eternal love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there" (SSJE, Rule 25)

We discover in our intercessions a deep and abiding kinship. I pray for my family, my friends, my coworkers, my clergy, parishioners. People give me their names and their causes because they know I pray for them. I pray for them by name and I imagine their faces. I believe God is at work in these prayers, and that my voice is part of Christ's voice raising each person to God, my father, who is in heaven. As we live in the divine community, dwelling with Christ, we discover that God welcomes all our work, our struggles, our afflictions, and our daily lives to bless and uphold the world (SSJE, Rule 25).

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball