If you have moved beyond the idea of prayer as some sort of cosmic slot machine – where you put in a request and hope that a combination of piety, good will and divine mood will line up and discharge a favourable response – then what do you expect happens when you pray – particularly the prayer for others that is known as intercessory prayer?
This is the kind of prayer that I as a pastor will offer when visiting the sick and afflicted and which my congregation is committed to when it prays for comfort for those affected by disaster, wisdom for those who rule us, and strength for those who serve us. Recently my church committed itself to participation in Project 54, an inter-church exercise in prayer focused on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be hosted in this city (Perth) in October. We have been allocated the Seychelles as our “intercessory” task.
We don’t know a lot about the Seychelles. One or two of us have briefly holidayed there. Some interesting things have happened, however, before we have got under way.
- We are trying to find out as much about the Seychelles as we can, looking for connections we can establish both within our own denominational tradition and ecumenically.
- It has caused us to consider enhancing our participation in the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, the World Council of Churches aid to prayer that covers all countries in the course of a year.
- It has heightened our contemplation of the global nature of the Church, hurting where it hurts and rejoicing where it rejoices.
Someone recently remarked when visiting our church that there are not too many churches that have a globe of the world at the front.
Our globe is a reminder of the importance of intercessory prayer and its function of raising awareness and fellowship and solidarity with those for whom we pray.
A self described non-praying person remarked this week “I just hold them in my thoughts.” I might contend that if this person’s awareness, sensitivity, compassion and knowledge of that for which they hold in their thoughts is enhanced, they might, in fact, be praying! I would add, however, that to do so from a perspective of faith broadens horizons and expands heights and depths beyond our awareness.
When we think of the Church as the Body of Christ, we might think of intercessory prayer as its circulation system, uniting the whole organism to function as one in the things that matter, love of God and neighbour.