By Tom Quiner
“Would you pray for me?”
Have you ever asked someone to do that for you? Most of us have at some point in our lives. Why would we do that? Why not just pray directly to God ourselves?
I broach this topic because of a thoughtful response I received from a faithful Quiner’s Diner reader. She’s a Southern Baptist. I’m a Roman Catholic. Catholicism believes in the veracity and power of intercessory prayers.
My Southern Baptist reader wrote:
“I certainly have no problem with anyone going at Christianity as they see fit. I just can’t get past the fundamentals. I haven’t read anything in The Bible about praying to anyone but The Father.”
She represents a lot of Protestants who wonder the same the thing. This provides a good opportunity to respond from a Catholic perspective. A lot of Protestant misgivings about Catholicism are simply based on a lack of information.
Catholics not only believe that the living can pray for us, but so can those who dwell with the Lord in heaven because the bible tells us so, in Revelation 5:8:
“8 When He had taken the [a]book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the [b]saints.”
This passage reveals that the saints are aware of our prayers and offer our petitions to God Himself. That’s why Catholic high Mass uses incense. It is a symbol of our prayers.
The bible tells us to intercede for others through our prayers elsewhere in the New Testament. St. Paul, who was taught by Christ Himself through revelation, urges us to intercede in 1 Tim. 2:1–4:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and pleasing to God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Clearly, sacred scripture acknowledges the legitimacy of prayerful intercessions, both of the living and the saints who reside in heaven. But my Southern Baptist reader, I think, really suggests an important point: why bother? Why not pray directly to God the Father and avoid the middleman?
But intercessory prayers must be important. After all, St. John and St. Paul, writing in the scripture passages cited above, reveal that it is good and pleasing to God to do so.
Look at it this way: praying for someone else is an act of love. What is love but willing the good of the other. Since God is Love, willing the good of the other is a Godly act. It is so very pleasing to God Himself.
Do you remember what happened in Matthew: 8:13? A Roman centurion had a beloved servant who was very ill. He had faith that Jesus could heal the servant, so he interceded and took his prayer for the other to Jesus. What happened? His prayer was answered:
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.
When you ask someone to pray for you, you are asking them to love you.
When someone asks you to pray for the them, they are asking you to love them.
Intercessory prayer is a profound act of love that draws us all closer to the family of God, which has the Trinity as its core.
It is a beautiful reminder that we are not alone. We are joined, not at the hip, but at the heart, by the Blessed Trinity’s boundless Love for each of us.
My, how prayer matters.