Intercessory prayer is an important, although many times unseen, part of every BCBP activity. In this article, we review intercessory prayer as seen in both the Old Testament and New Testament and the factors to consider when forming an intercessory prayer group in your chapter. This article is a summary of the Formation Talk on the BCBP’s “Intercessory Ministry”.
Intercessory prayer is prayer dealing with every situation in the world that needs the support and power of prayer. We are called to pray for our family, work, home, relationships, BCBP community, our parish and for temporal and spiritual leaders. Although many times it may be a prayer of petition for our own needs or for the needs of groups we are directly connected with, intercessory prayer is more than a matter of asking. It focuses more on generating spiritual support, invoking God’s blessings and the power of the Holy Spirit on those who are active in the Lord’s vineyard.
The Intercessory Ministry group carries out Jesus’ commission for us to be instruments of His love on this earth in our communities, families, workplaces, wherever we are. The members of this Intercessory group commit themselves to intercede for a person or a group “in absentia”, that is, the ones being prayed for do not need to be physically present during the prayer. In the church, the Priests and Nuns in the contemplative orders are the intercessor powerhouse of prayer for the concerns of the Church, the country, the world and for specific events and/or people.
In the Old Testament, prayers directed to Yahweh connote trust in Him. The prayer is humble and involves seeking forgiveness as well as help. Intercessory prayers involve the intercessor standing between God and Israel as intermediary mediator, to plead Israel’s cause with God. The intercessor is one who prays to God for someone else, in order to have God show mercy or favor to those whom the intercessor is praying for. Moses often had to intercede for the people that he led out of Egypt into the desert. Abraham, Amos and Jeremiah are also good Old Testament examples. All of them possessed an attitude of openness to God and a willingness to accept His Lordship.
In the New Testament Jesus Christ is the Intercessor in the Gospels. He prayed both as a Jew praying with the Psalms and quoting the prophets, while at the same time He prayed as the Son of God. Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John is the High Priestly Intercessory Prayer of Jesus. In all his prayers, Jesus is the true intercessor in that he is willing to lay down his life so that God’s plan and purpose may be fulfilled.
Therefore, if we wish our intercession to be fruitful, we should be prepared to enter into the sacrificial, all consuming commitment to act as instruments of prayer in the hand of God. As BCBP intercessors we pray to God as Father, we pray in Jesus’ name and in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete and Advocate. In the Acts and Epistles we are often reminded that we share in the Priestly, Prophetic and Kingly function of Jesus Christ and we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.
Qualities of an Intercessor
An intercessor can be likened to a pump of an irrigation system. He/She is the channel of God’s grace, an instrument of prayer. As such he must have a growing interest and personal relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, scripture readings, and other avenues of spiritual growth. He must be an active member of not only the BCBP but also of the Church.
An intercessor is humble, knowing who he is and who God is. He acknowledges his sinfulness and strives to always be reconciled with God. He is a person of prayer, has a listening attitude, knows from personal experience how God speaks and is a discerning person. He is also open to group discernment and prayer.
As an intercessor, whether individually or in the intercessory ministry group, he/she prays together with all the angels and saints in heaven, knowing that God is the bestower of His grace and he is only a channel. He is open to God’s direction in determining how to best use God’s grace given to him. He does not manipulate God through demanding prayer or other manipulative means.
An intercessor should be prepared to take active concrete steps to meet the needs of those he or she is interceding for. He knows how to exercise the spiritual gifts and is fully aware that intercessory prayer involves intense spiritual warfare. Thus he knows that he must be in God’s grace through the Sacraments, i.e. Reconciliation, Eucharist, in order to be fully effective in his intercessory ministry.
The Intercessory Ministry – its Formation and Operation
The basic considerations in forming the intercessory ministry in a BCBP chapter or outreach are:
1. Selection of a BCBP member/leader possessing all the qualities of an intercessor, someone with a strong and committed spiritual and prayer life.
2. The selection of both the leader and members is best done after Holy Mass and reception of the Eucharist.
3. Selection should be unanimous so that there will be harmony among its members and harmony in the group’s relationship to all chapter members.
4. All units in the chapter/outreach should be represented in the intercessory group.
Once the Intercessory Ministry group is formed, the recommended operational procedures are:
a. During First Friday Mass/Assemblies, prayer requests from the members and Governance Team should be handed to the Intercession Ministry group members to include in their prayers.
b. These prayer requests are then grouped into different intercessory topics i.e. healing, livelihood concerns, family/spousal relationship concerns, etc. Sub-groups of the Intercessory Ministry may be formed if necessary to handle different prayer topics.
c. Before meeting for intercessory prayer, the group members should attend Mass, Sacramental Confession, and partake of the Holy Eucharist.
d. The Intercessory group holds its own praise and worship to include a prayer for the concerns of the group members.
e. Either in plenary or sub-groups the members read over the prayer concerns and listen to God in prayer. The 7-steps method or look, listen, love method may used if desired. Or just sit quietly with the Lord: “Lord what are your views on these concerns? How do you want us to pray for them?” This step can also be done individually even before the schedule for the Intercessory Ministry group gathering.
f. Prayer petitions should be kept confidential so that only the leaders in the different sub-groups know the identity of those being prayed for.
g. The meeting should always end with praising and thanking God for His guidance, love, healing, etc.
There should always be feedback about the prayer concern/request, whether acted on or answered, from the person requesting the intercessory prayer.
Practical Hints for Productive Intercessory Prayer
• Never neglect the praise and thanks due to God.
• Learn to be silent within yourself.
• Words aren’t always necessary in prayer.
• Don’t be afraid to pray in images, to hold an image of the person, situation, or event before the Lord.
• Identify yourself with the cause for which you intercede.
• Do not be afraid of allowing your emotions to flow into your prayer.
• Have expectant faith and the boldness to approach God without fear.
• There will be times when we do not know how to pray. Whatever we do, we can be sure that our very action of coming before the Lord in intercessory prayer – even if we can find no inspiration – will bear fruit. God honors our faithfulness, and is not bothered by our negative feelings.
• Use scripture as a source of prayer.
• Set God free, do not limit His answer. Our prayer should not seek to explicitly direct God as to what action to take.
• Be ready to offer practical assistance to meet the needs for which you intercede.
• Take time to be alone with God for longer periods – in your own prayer time, in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, in contemplative prayer.
• Find a prayer partner.
• Pray for all other intercessors.
• Make a habit of regular intercession for others in your group; remember that they are also interceding for you.