Dear Sisters and Brothers in Carmel,
Here is the next meditation in the series of catecheses on prayer.
We've often had the experience of witnessing the impact of a tragedy
on others and having our hearts moved with compassion for them. We
would wish that their pain and suffering would just go away, but we
are often unable to reach out to them directly for one reason or
another. There is one way we can always reach out to others in
trouble - intercessory prayer.
Intercessory prayer is petitioning God to send His merciful love and
redeeming grace on the one we pray for. In the healing of the
paralytic (Luke 5.18-26), we see the faith of several men who brought
a paralytic on a stretcher towards Jesus. Since they could not get to
Him because of the crowds that filled the house, they removed some
tiles from the roof and lowered the stretcher before Jesus. Jesus not
only forgave the man's sins, He healed the man's paralysis instantly,
and the man walked home, praising God.
St James instructs us to pray for those who are sick, so that "the
prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him
up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5.15).
We should not doubt the power of prayer; on the contrary, we should
strive to pray as intensely as possible with our whole being,
realizing that "the fervent prayer of a righteous person is very
powerful." (James 5.16) He also explains the saving power of
intercessory prayer for the one who prays: "whoever brings back a
sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and
will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5.20)
Praying together with others increases the power of our prayer for the
one in need. Through the Communion of Saints, we have been granted
the gift of the angels and Saints as intercessors to pray with us
before God. When we pray together with one another we also know that
"where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in
the midst of them." (Matthew 18.20)
Our prayer of intercession should always be directed to Jesus, as He
is the one who stands at the right hand of the Father to intercede for
us (c.f. Hebrews 8.1). Jesus teaches us, as He did His apostles: "Amen,
amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will
give you." (John 16.23)
Through the power of intercessory prayer, we can help those who have
died before us, perhaps without the grace of complete forgiveness. We
can also reach out to those who are not in touch with Jesus in their
lives at the present time. Our Creator knows each of us intimately,
and His Spirit is much more capable of reaching a soul in need than we
ever could hope to be able to do with our own feeble efforts.
St Thérèse recounts the intensity of her efforts to save the soul of a
convicted killer through the power of intercessory prayer: "I longed
at any cost to snatch sinners from the everlasting flames of hell. I
heard much talk of a notorious criminal, Pranzini, who was sentenced
to death. everyone feared he would be eternally lost. How I longed to
avert this irreparable calamity! In order to do so I employed all the
spiritual means I could think of, and, knowing that my own efforts
were unavailing, I offered for his pardon the infinite merits of Our
Saviour and the treasures of Holy Church. Need I say that in the
depths of my heart I felt certain my request would be granted? .
Pranzini had mounted the scaffold without confessing or receiving
absolution, and the executioners were already dragging him towards the
fatal block, when all at once, apparently in answer to a sudden
inspiration, he turned round, seized the crucifix which the Priest was
offering to him, and kissed Our Lord's Sacred Wounds three times.
After receiving this grace my desire for the salvation of souls
increased day by day." (Story of A Soul, A.5)
This poem expresses the power of interceding for one another in
Lord, hear my prayer for this poor soul
In dire need of healing;
Your divine touch could make him whole -
Lord, heal him - I'm appealing!
Lord, hear my prayer for this lost soul
Who has not known forgiveness;
Reveal the mercy we extol -
Lord, save him in your kindness!
Lord, hear the pleas of your children
Entreating You in their need.
We come before You, once again --
We trust in You as we plead.
As You prayed for us from the cross;
Lord, lift us up -- let none be lost!
Holy Spirit, please intercede
For us before the Father's throne;
Do not forsake us in our need --
Take our petitions as Your own. Amen.
St Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of A Soul
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2634 - 2636, 2683
your brother in Carmel,
Paul Buis, OCDS