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Intercessory Prayer

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Petitioning God to help someone else is one of the greatest gifts we can give to those in need.  Intercessory prayer is very powerful. 

Many of us include in our daily prayers, requests for help, healing, or mercy for those we love and care about.  We pray for those who need help in this world and for those who have died.  Those who have died continue to need our prayers until they are safely in heaven with Our Lord.  Then once they are there, they, in turn will pray for us and be advocates for us with God. 

In your prayers of intercession, I encourage you to enlist the Saints for their help.  Especially enlist the help of Our Blessed Mother.   

I think some of us, including me, under appreciate, or maybe just under use, this great resource of intercessory prayer from the Saints.  Each Saint and each one of our loved ones who has successfully passed from this life to the next are potential advocates for us with Christ.  Do not overlook these resources.  Ask them to pray for you and for those for whom you pray. 

You may wish to develop a devotion to a particular Saint.  At baptisms of children, I generally look up their birth date in the church liturgical calendar to see if they were born on the feast day of any saint.  If so, I share a little about that saint with their parents and godparents and encourage them to consider beginning a special devotion to that saint.  They could then pass this practice on to the child once they are old enough.  That is a good place to start.    

My Mom had a special devotion to St. Anthony of Padua.  I think she and he were real buds.  He is that Saint that many people, even non-Catholics, often pray to help them find things that are lost.  When we were kids and lost something, Mom would first pray to St. Anthony for help and then proceed to very quickly find what we had lost.  It was uncanny the number of times she did that. 

I used to think of St. Anthony as a finder of things.  That changed one day after I went to the Gretna Community Living Center one Sunday to distribute Holy Communion.  One resident there was a blind, faith filled South Omaha Polish woman named Joanna.  That day she told me about her petition to St. Anthony the previous night.  She was having a lot of difficulty sleeping; so to St. Anthony she made this plea: “St. Anthony please find me some sleep.” 

She slept like a baby that night.  Joanna taught me that St. Anthony can help us find more than tangible items; he can even find sleep for a weary elderly woman.  Saints’ intercessions on our behalf are very powerful. 

In today’s Gospel, the Canaanite woman petitions Jesus for healing for her daughter.  Christ responded in four ways.  First, he was silent.  Then he refused.  Then he seemed to rebuke her.  Finally, he rewarded her. 

Her eventual success likely hinged on the fact that she identified her need with that of her daughter.  All she wanted for herself was the healing of her child.  Jesus’ final statement to her was: “O woman, great is your faith.  Let it be done to you as you wish.”  That statement suggests that the basis for his willingness to heal the daughter stemmed from his recognition of the mother’s great faith.  The daughter’s cure was won by the mother’s faith.

We don’t really know where the daughter stood with respect to faith in Jesus.  Being the child of a Gentile, she may have known little of Jesus.  But, the mother knew of Jesus and through her dialogue with him she came to understand that not only was he the Messiah of the Jews, but he was the Messiah of all people.  With that knowledge she pressed her efforts to interceded for her daughter with Our Lord.

The bestowal of Christ’s blessings, not on the basis of the needy person’s faith, but on the faith of the petitioner, gives us cause for hope.  We have hope that our prayers for our children, our spouses, our brothers and sisters, and our grandchildren who may have fallen away their faith, or do not actively practice it as they should, can yet benefit by our intercessory prayer. 

Our Lord listens and responds to prayers of his faithful.  In this gospel story he encourages us to pray for all who need his blessings; regardless of their current status with him.  This story teaches that there is love in Christ’s heart even though there may be a frown on his face.  It encourages us to petition him on behalf of all who are in need of his grace.

The Canaanite Woman came to Jesus with a passionate hope and a refusal to be discouraged.  Prayer for her was no ritual form.  It was the passionate outpouring of her soul, which somehow felt that she could not—and must not—and need not—take no for an answer.

Our prayer should have those same qualities of faith, trust, perseverance, and humility.  We must persevere in prayer; persevere even when our efforts seem barren.  Prayer is always fruitful. 

Intercessory prayer is very powerful.  Pray daily for all those who are in need of God’s love, grace, mercy, and peace.  Pray that others may receive needed blessings, forgiveness, or healing.  Draw on the power of the Saints as you pray.  And, please remember to pray for those who have died.  Speed their journey to heaven where they can be advocates for us all with Our Lord. 

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