Use this article to develop the habit of praying for others.
Optional Lectio Divina Prayer
- Read Luke 5:18–26.
- Meditate on the words.
- Speak to Christ about this passage.
- Rest and listen in God’s presence.
- Discuss together.
In 1887, France was gripped by a murder mystery involving the grisly deaths of three women in Paris.
After the investigation had taken several twists and turns, the police arrested Henri Pranzini, a known criminal with a sordid past. Pranzini denied the triple murder and tried to provide an alibi, but the evidence gradually mounted against him. His trial lasted just five days and, at its conclusion, Pranzini was found guilty and sentenced to death by guillotine.
Despite the evidence, Pranzini showed no remorse or shame. He refused to repent of his past life or of the crime he committed. On the morning of his execution, a chaplain came to his cell to offer confession. With bravado, Pranzini walked past the priest and up to the scaffold to face his death. As he arrived, he changed his mind; he turned to the priest, asked for a crucifix and kissed Jesus’ wounds three times as a sign of faith and repentance.
While all of France watched the fate of Pranzini, one fourteenyear- old girl took particular interest in the case. Upon hearing of Pranzini’s death sentence, she felt a specific call to pray for the man so that his soul did not fall into hell. While she was confident that God would hear her prayer no matter what, she asked for a sign, even a small one, to show her that her prayer was answered. While we’ll never know the full story, Pranzini’s kiss of the crucifix seemed to be a sign that the prayer of this fourteen-year-old girl—later known as St. Thérèse of Lisieux— was answered.
Thérèse’s intercessory prayers for others was one of the hallmarks of her life. She prayed not only for lost souls like Pranzini and people around the world who did not know Christ, but she also always prayed for family members, religious sisters in her convent and the novices entrusted to her care. She had a particular mission of fervently praying, fasting and making sacrifices for missionary priests, empowering their work in evangelization to bear much fruit and help save souls. One of these priests wrote to Thérèse’s convent asking for a nun to pray for his soul and his mission. Thérèse responded, “Let us work together for the salvation of souls. We have only the one day of this life to save them and thus to give Our Lord some proof of our love.”43
Thérèse has continued her mission of interceding for others
while in heaven. Shortly after her death, her autobiography,
Story of a Soul, was printed and distributed in France, then
Europe, and then the whole world. Over time, hundreds of
letters poured into Thérèse’s convent, telling of the miracles
that occurred through the intercession of this incredible saint. In
1927, just thirty years after her death, Pope Pius XI named this
powerful intercessor the patroness of missions.
Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God’s heart.
St. Thérèse had an incredible desire to win souls through
her intercession in prayer. Do you have this same desire to
intercede for others? What is your current relationship with
intercessory prayer? Do you feel comfortable sharing the
power of this prayer method with others?
A Vision for Intercessory Prayer
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that intercessory prayer “consists in asking on behalf of another” (CCC 2647). What kind of power does this prayer hold? As Pope Francis tells us, “Intercession is like a ‘leaven’ in the heart of the Trinity. It is a way of penetrating the Father’s heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them”44
When we practice intercessory prayer, we imitate our Lord. While on earth, Jesus prayed for others and he continues to be an advocate for us in heaven. As Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Not only does Jesus intercede for us, he also responds to our intercessory prayers for others. In Luke, chapter 5, we see what happens when people bring the needs of their friends to Jesus: The crowds are beginning to follow Jesus because they hear of his healings. Several men carry their paralytic friend up to be healed by Jesus, but they can’t reach him because of the crowds. Unwilling to be stopped, they decide to lower their friend down through the tiles in the roof. What happens next tells us something incredibly important about the power of intercessory prayer: “And when [Jesus] saw their faith he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven’” (Lk 5:20). Notice how Jesus forgives the man because of their faith.
The faith of this group of friends is what moves Jesus to action.
They loved their friend so much that they were willing to work
and sacrifice to bring him to Jesus. Are you willing to do the same
for the people in your life? You know people who are suffering,
who don’t know Christ or who are not practicing the Catholic
Faith. Do you bring them to Jesus through your fervent prayers
for them? If Jesus sees your faith, he may work a miracle in their
lives as well.
Do you believe that your personal prayers can actually make
an impact in the lives of others? What, if anything, holds you
back from being open to the Holy Spirit in this way?
As you consider praying for others, your conviction in the power of prayer is key. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare to pray:
• God truly hears our prayers. Don’t underestimate how vital and powerful your prayers can be.
• Intercession is a reminder that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization. It lets him do the heavy lifting in our work of bringing souls closer to Christ.
• Our reliance on God in prayer banishes fear and allows us to place situations and people in his hands. Sometimes we feel small, weak and helpless, but all our requests and feelings can be given over to Him.
• Intercessory prayer makes us less self-centered as we step outside of our own lives to pray for others and their needs.
Intercessory prayer can take many different forms. Each time you go to Mass, you can offer that time for a particular person or intention. You might consider gathering a group of people together and praying out loud for the needs of others. You could even make little sacrifices, like not putting cream in your coffer or drinking only water, as prayers for people’s needs. The ways to intercede for other is endless.
Most of us know that intercessory prayer is important. Unfortunately, sometimes it can become just a “good idea” or something we do sporadically, whenever someone comes to mind. However, it’s important to make it a part of our lives each day. Missionary disciples ought to spend time every day talking to God about people and spend the rest of the day talking to people about God.
One tool that FOCUS has developed to help with intercessory prayer is the Spiritual Multiplication Depth Chart. The depth chart is a simple way of writing down the names of people in our lives, recognizing where they are in their journey of faith and remembering to pray for them. To create your own, you can use the Spiritual Multiplication Depth Chart on focusequip.org or you can set up a depth chart by using the Acts 2:47 app.
Throughout the history of the Church, intercessory prayer has played a vital role in the work of saving souls. As a disciple, make intercessory prayer a daily habit in your life.
Finally, as you begin to pray, keep these tips in mind:
• Pray specifically – What do you want God to do?
• Pray out loud – Let others hear your prayers and join in prayer with you.
• Pray boldly – Don’t think anything is too big for God. Often, we ask for too little, not too much!
• Pray with faith – Trust that God will answer your prayers in
his way, in his time.
You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him.
What keeps you from praying for others more often? How
can you make intercessory prayer a daily habit in your life?
Take some time right now to pray for a person who is not living
out the Faith or is struggling with a serious problem. Intercede
for this person and ask for the Lord to work powerfully in his or
Modeled by Jesus and the saints, praying for others (intercessory prayer) is a key part of the Christian life (Heb 7:25; 1 Tim 1:3-7; CCC 2647f).
The parable of the paralytic (Lk 5:17–26) reveals two vital points for intercessory prayer:
• First, like the friends of the paralytic, we too should bring our friends to Jesus through our prayers for them.
• Second, Jesus’ response reveals the impact our prayers can have on others. When Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic man’s friends, he forgave and healed the man.
Missionary disciples ought to spend time every day talking
to God about people and spend the rest of their day talking
to people about God.
43 Ahern, Patrick. (2001). Maurice and Therese: The Story of a Love. New York, NY: Image Books.
44 Pope Francis. (2013). Evangelii Gaudium, 283 [Apostolic Exhortation]. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html