- Intercessory Prayer
Intercessory Prayer is one of the vital elements of the worship in the Holy Church. Holy Qurbana, the crown of the Sacraments, begins with the �Maneessa� of St. Saverios, confirming the trust in intercession reciting, �Ninne pressavicha Mariamum Ninne mamodeessa mukkiya Yohannanum njangalkuventi Ninnodapekshikum, njangalodu karuna cheyyaname�, followed by the hymn � �Ninmathavu vishudhanmar ennivarthan prardhanayal�� . The prose version of this prayer is not much in use these days. In almost all churches it is lead by Choir, along with the sounds of hand bells and fans (Marvahasas). In addition to the importance granted to intercession, there are four more points to be considered in this prayer: (1) faith in the incarnation of Christ, (2) faith in the Holy Trinity, (3) faith in salvation granted and offered by Lord Jesus Christ and (4) belief in the community worship of the faithful. Remembering these, we pray to Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, for mercy. We do not pray to Mother Mary or to any other Saints for mercy/compassion. One could say that there are chains of intercessory prayer in our Holy Qurbana, like the supplication of Tubden, litany after the occasion we remember the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord, and the Kukkiliyon. It is a pity that the entire congregation considers the time of Tubden by mistake as an interval. People, by and large, are not particular or vigilant in responding with �Amen� and �Kurielison�, without which how the prayers offered could be of the congregation? All denominations and people of different faiths do intercessory prayer for the living, but only the ancient traditional churches offer that for the departed and to the departed Saints. .
In this message I would like to add a few Biblical references of importance in support of the intercessory prayer, as often many are skeptical of the vital faith, due to the influence of false teachings of the Protestants and Sectarian groups.
1. The origin of the intercessory prayer. . It seems that the first intercessory prayer is the one came out from Abraham as a prayer for Sodom. (Gen.18: 23-32). It was Abraham�s voluntary prayer for Lot, who lived in Sodom.
2. God demands intercessory prayer and regulate it.�He is a prophet and he will pray for you and you shall live� (Ge.20: 7) �My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly� (Job 42:8) As we study the background of these two incidents, we get a lesson that men should forgive each other before begging God for forgiveness and then both would reap the fruit. That is why Jesus taught: �Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt.5: 23- 24) And also He taught us to pray: �and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors�. Not only had He taught, He practiced it on the cross, praying for those who crucified Him Hope everybody will understand the importance of our �Subukono� and �Kai-kastoory or Kayyasoori (kiss of peace) and make use of them in right meaning.
3. God seeks the mediator�Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know, and see in your open places if you can find a man, if there is any one who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, And I will pardon her� (Jeremiah.5: 1) �So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads.�(Ezekiel. 22: 30, 31)
4. It is sin to cease intercession.�Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.� (I Sam 12: 23)
5. Prayer for the departed and intercession to the Saints A specimen of prayer for the departed in the New Testament is in 2 Tim. 1: 16- 18. St. Paul prayed for the deceased Onesiphorus and his family separately.�The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain; The Lord grant him that he find mercy from the Lord in that Day � and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.� This reminds us of the Biblical base of our prayer� �Anugrahangal niranjirikunnavane anukoolathinte divasathil�.� �Karuna niranjavane punarudhanathil�.� �Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow considering the outcome of their conduct.� (Heb.13:7). In Malayalam �Jeevavasanan orthu� � that is nothing but death, I suppose. St. Peter writes toward the end of his life on earth, �Therefore I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know them and are established in the present truth. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease� (2 Pet.1: 12, 15)
6. The Holy Relics, its importance and power The relics of the saints have the divine power even to raise the dead and to heal the sick.�So it was as they were burying a man that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood on his feet (2 Kin.13: 21) In the New Testament we read: �They brought the sick out into the street and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. (Acts 5: 15) �Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick and diseases left them.� (Acts 19:11, 12)
7. What God says about the departed?�I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob� (Ex.3:6) and Jesus explains this as �God is not the God of the dead, but of the living� (Matt.22: 32; Mark.12: 26; Luke 20: 37, 38 (That means Abraham Isaac and Jacob are not spiritually dead to the God.)
8. Intercessory prayer as a Mystery (Koodasha)�Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church (Kasheesho), and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sin, he will be forgiven.� (Jas.5:14, 15). This is the Biblical base and ground of the Holy Sacrament of anointing the sick (Rogikalude Thylabhishekam).
9. Do God refuse intercession? The answer is yes. God refuses intercession for the fall away, unrepentant and willfully continuing sinners.�Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or pray for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem� (Jer.7: 16, 17)�Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth� (Jer.15: 1)�Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness� (Eze. 14: 14). These verses are often quoted out of context by Protestants and Sectarians against intercession of saints and to win over the faithful with little or no knowledge of the Scripture. But the emphasize of the verses is that God would not accept the intercession of the prophet or Moses and Samuel who have been the mediators of the people of their time and Noah, Daniel and Job the righteous ones, for the people of Judah who fell away from their faith, do not repent and continue commit sin. �If you will return, O Israel�, says the Lord, �Return to Me and if you will put away your abomination out of My sight, then you shall not be moved� (Jer.4:1) �O daughter of My people, cloth yourself with sack cloth, and roll �For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries� (Heb. 10: 26). Read with Heb.6: 4-6.
10. The only Mediator�For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus� (1 Tim.2:5) For us, Lord Jesus is Lord and God. Mediator is not at all greater than God and Lord. �And if any one sins, we have an Advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous� (1 John 2: 1) Why, then, should we seek other mediators, ask those who oppose intercession of saints. This is a meaningless question without proper understanding of the �only mediation of Jesus Christ�. Jesus is the God incarnate sacrificed his life on the cross and reconciled the whole world with the Father, which no one else could do. �Who gave himself a ransom for all� (2 Tim.2: 6). �And Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world� (1 John 2: 2). Intercession of the saints is not for the sacrifice for the remission of sins. It is only the prayer and supplication that joins with the intercession of Christ, the experience of praying for one another. (Jas.5: 16). Church is the community of the living and the dead in Christ. �We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness� (Heb.12: 1).The living and the dead are together the members of the church, the body of Christ who can pray for each other when Christ advocate for all with the Father. �For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God� (Col.3: 3). �Whether present or absent (from body) to be well pleasing to Him� (2. Cor.5: 9).This is the state of �all those who are in Christ� (2 Cor.5: 17) and physical death does not make any change in their �being in Christ�. If those in body can pray for each other, then those gone beyond the curtain and �hidden with Christ� could also make intercession.
In the matters of faith and belief, we often hear the question, �all these are in the Bible?� Is it in the New Testament? Is it told by Jesus and so on? These questions are not truth seeking, rather the device of Satan to create doubts in the minds of the faithful, as the very first question in the Bible, from the serpent to Eve, �Has God indeed said? (Gen.3:1)
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