God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). There are many ways that we can be generous with one another; for example, we can share our time, talent, and treasure in such a way that it benefits not just ourselves and our families, but also our friends and the other members of our community. We can also be generous in the way that we interact with people we meet each day by offering them kindness and a smile, even when it is difficult to do so. Finally, and most importantly, we can be spiritually generous by offering prayers for one another.
Prayer on behalf of another person is called intercession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Prayer of intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It knows no boundaries and extends to one’s enemies” (CCC 2647). Intercession is distinct from other kinds of prayer, which include petition (asking for our own needs), blessing and adoration, thanksgiving, and praise.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). This means that as Christians, followers of Christ, we are called upon to intercede even for those people who treat us very badly. Jesus himself provides an amazing example of this when, dying on the cross, he cries out for God to forgive those who have crucified him, saying, “They know not what they do.” Praying for people we do not like or are angry with can take great humility, because it requires forgiveness in order to be sincere.
While it is important to pray even for our enemies, more often we find ourselves in an opportunity to pray for our friends. You should never be afraid to ask for prayers, nor to commit to praying for someone. You can fulfill your commitment right away by offering a short mental prayer for them, but it is better if you can write down that person’s name – perhaps on a weekly prayer list that you keep in your pocket or wallet – and be intentional about praying for that person when you say your evening prayers, your daily rosary, etc.
The more prayers you say during the day, the more prayers you can offer up for others! Don’t worry, you will not lose any graces by praying for others instead of praying for yourself; remember, God loves a cheerful giver! I once read that Pope Saint John Paul II kept a whole stack of prayer intentions next to his kneeler in his private chapel. As the Pope, I’m sure he had many people asking for his prayers, and many of his own intentions for the peace and sanctity of the world as well! We can learn from his example, because he took seriously his obligation as the Holy Father – and as a Christian – to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) through prayer.
As a parishioner at my parish assignment was reminding me in a conversation last weekend, none of us is a Christian alone. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church), we have an obligation to support one another spiritually, and this is done primarily through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Do you think you could make a small sacrifice today, or this week, to help a friend in need? You can offer up any small suffering in your life, such as an illness, or giving up dessert at meals, as a mortification which becomes a prayer you can offer on another person’s behalf. Maybe you can say an extra rosary this week, or learn another prayer such as the Divine Mercy Chaplet which you can offer as a prayer of intercession for another person you know, or for the holy souls in Purgatory! You can keep a special intention close to your heart in prayer during the Mass, which is the most powerful prayer of the Church, or even ask your pastor about having Masses said for your intention. The possibilities are endless! So remember: pray at all times; when necessary, write it down.Tags » generosity, intercessory prayer, Mystical Body of Christ, prayer, prayer intentions