Prayers of Intercession

This is the second of two reflections offered in the Good Friday service yesterday at Hancock Health.

As a people of prayer, we know it to be true that prayer changes things. Prayer changes things in mighty and sometimes surprising ways. On our prayer chain at church we have so many stories of illnesses healed, circumstances improved, crises averted, decisions made, possibilities found, blessings received.

I believe God loves it when we pray and that God not only hears our prayers but embraces them and answers them faithfully, reliably, demonstrably, in ways that fit God’s vision and hope of harmony for us all. When we pray together—for each other and with each other—not only are our prayers strengthened, but it strengthens, affirms, and extends the faith of those of us who pray.

Every prayer we offer for another person is an intercessory prayer. Whether we are praying for their well-being, their protection, their healing, or asking God to move powerfully in their life, we are adding our voice, our energy, our faith to theirs. Jesus told us that our prayers together have power: Whenever two or three of us are gathered—he is right there in it with us, bridging the gap.

Scripture gives us colorful examples of great intercessors. There’s Abraham, who urged God to consider sparing the people Sodom. There’s Moses, who, over and over again, interceded for the children of Israel, asking God to be patient and forgive their hard-headedness. In Paul’s letters, he writes about the power of intercession, encouraging us to pray for one another, request things for one another, and lift each other up.

And Jesus, our Great Intercessor, not only interceded throughout his ministry, lifting people out of their suffering and drawing them closer to God, but even on the cross he prayed a prayer of intercession for the people who had caused his suffering. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” he prayed. We marvel at his grace, his love, his goodness, his divinity.

I think part of the amazing, reconciling, transformative power of Jesus’ intercession was that he saw what we could not—the essential spiritual nature of God’s children, the sacred potential God has planted in each human soul. Jesus reached out and touched that of God in us, and whatever was limiting us simply fell away in his presence. We stood up and walked, we began to see, we started to discover what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.

That’s intercession. Helping us see God beyond our blindness, beyond our circumstances. Claiming God’s presence in the eye of a pandemic. Praying God’s protection and comfort around those who doubt, those who hurt, those who struggle and are afraid.

Today, Good Friday, we remember the day of darkness when all seemed lost and the great hope Jesus brought into the world seemed to dissolve into despair. This is a day of great grief and as intercessors, we can open our hearts and pray for all who are grieving—and there are so, so many–in our world right now. But as people of faith, we also affirm and live the truth we know—that God’s life, eternal life, the loving Light of Christ—is with us still, healing and transforming and guiding, helping us live day by day into a fuller understanding of what it truly means to be made in the image of God.

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