"A lay Catholic perspective"

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The Power of Prayer

by Christopher Robinson


YOU ARE PROBABLY FAMILIAR with Jesus' parable of the unscrupulous judge and the importunate widow. "There was a judge in a certain town who had neither fear of God nor respect for man"; and there was a widow in that same town who kept pestering him to give her justice against her enemy. The judge refused for a long time, but he eventually changed his mind because he feared that "she would persist in coming and worry him to death."[1]

Her persistence won the day for her.

"Now will not God see justice done to his chosen [you and I are his chosen] who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily."[2] These words are not mine; they are the words of Jesus commenting on the parable of the judge and the widow.

It often seems that God delays in answering our prayers. When that happens to me, I think of it as a call to surrender the intention fully to God, and to trust him more for that situation. Usually this occurs when I have a particular response in mind as I pray, so God delays in answering my prayer. As I do surrender and move into trust, he comes through with a solution which is much better than mine.

Prayer derives power from our persistence. The more we pray, the closer we come to God and the more in-tune we become with his perfect will. As we put ourselves into his will through prayer he will see justice done, and done speedily.

Vickie is an intercessor who lives in our community: she prays to our Lord and intercedes for numerous intentions every week. Vickie has been doing this for many years and her prayers are very close to the heart of God. When she prays, she brings the power of the cross into the lives of those for whom she is praying. When she intercedes for people she is giving God permission to move in their lives — even if they do not believe in God or do not themselves pray. Being a conduit of God's love and mercy brings great joy into Vickie's life — the joy of the Resurrection!

Vickie readily admits that she can pray for something only if God is in it; that is to say, it must be in God's will. In her heart, she likes to see things the way God sees them. She also says that guardian angels can warn us of problems and ask us to intercede for someone in a particular situation. After asking her about this, she related an incident from some time ago involving her husband, Colin.

On a particular occasion, Colin was out with the car doing some errands. Suddenly, Vickie was inspired to pray for Colin that he might find a fire extinguisher; and so she prayed. When Colin arrived home a short time later, he was rather shaken. After one of his stops, he returned to their car and got in; however, as he was putting the key into the ignition he thought he smelt something burning so he got out of the car to look. His fuel tank was on fire! He ran into the store to get some help and there was a fire extinguisher right beside the door. He used it to put the fire out before there was an explosion. Praise God for guardian angels and a prayerful wife!

As much as Vickie always experiences great joy when she prays for people, she told me that some folks have the gift of suffering in prayer. When she said this, I immediately thought of Gary, another intercessor in our Community.

Gary's special gift of intercession is helping others to bear their crosses — a very wonderful gift, indeed. Unlike Vickie who is instinctively aware of her gift for intercession, Gary prays for people only because his close friends recognized his gift and told him about it. He said, "Praying and interceding for others is a step of blind faith for me," and he believes that when he prays for others, he gives them hope.

Gary sees his suffering for others only in hindsight. He says that now and then things will be very challenging for him at his place of work, and that it gets tougher each day as the week progresses. When this happens, he feels completely exhausted and worn out by week's end and he really does not feel like going to the prayer meeting on Friday night. However, being the good sinner that he is, he disciplines himself and comes to the prayer meeting. At the end of the prayer meeting, he ends up praying one-on-one with those who have special needs. During these moments of praying, he feels the burdens of the week lifted from him; it is as if he has spent the week being Simon of Cyrene for each person.

"I consider it a great privilege to pray with individuals," he said, "and God has given me a real reverence for the people who come to me for prayers." He also emphasized that the action of his prayers does not depend on his feelings; rather it depends on his "yes" to God in the same way that the Incarnation depended on Mary's "yes" when she responded to the Archangel Gabriel: "I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me."[3]

Gary's wife, Cecile, is also an intercessor. Her particular gift is carrying people in her heart until she sees an answer: then she praises God. If she sees only a partial answer, she thanks and praises God for it. Then she persists in her prayer and continues to carry that person in her heart. Cecile says that faith is the key for her — she is always looking for Christ in the situation.

What is Cecile's consolation when she prays? Her cross stands up by itself as she is interceding for others. Cecile does not need to be continuously worried that she has dropped her cross when she is carrying people in her heart.

Isn't that also our call and our challenge? We tend to be naturally afraid of the cross because of the pain associated with it; yet it always brings joy when we embrace it, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Let us therefore always and persistently pray ourselves into the centre of the cross, into the centre of God's will. Let us really mean it when we pray Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.[4] God bless you.

[1] Lk 18:1-5

[2] Lk 18:7,8

[3] Lk 1:38

[4] Mt 6:10