Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #19
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason. This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.
Intercessory Prayer (281-283)
While there are many ways to live out our prayer lives, Pope Francis calls our attention to one particular form of prayer: Intercession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Intercessory prayer as “a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did.” Though he is the “one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men,” we can be united with him in this form of prayer (CCC, 2634).
For a concrete example of intercessory prayer, the Holy Father points us to St. Paul, who shows us that prayer is “full of people” in its concerns (no. 281). Paul tells the Philippians, “I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you…because I hold you in my heart” (Phil 1:4, 7). Authentic intercessory prayer is marked by an attitude of attentiveness and gratitude that recognizes God’s work in the lives of others (no. 282). While intercession can often be misunderstood as “suspicious, negative and despairing,” Pope Francis teaches instead that, “when evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed from self-absorption,…desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others” (no. 282).
Because Jesus Christ is the true intercessor, our union with Him in prayer is a special way to gain access to the heart of the Father. And yet our prayer must always be offered in humility. When we intercede for others, “God’s heart is touched”—our prayer has true power—and “yet in reality he is always there first” (no.283). Intercessory prayer is not about what we want or what others want; instead it brings to light the love and work of God that is always already present there.
Our homes should be a fruitful place where this prayerful openness, gratitude, and concern for others abides. As a family, foster awareness of the needs of those around you—at work, at school, in the neighborhood, and around the world. Come together to pray for them, holding them in your heart, as St. Paul did. Then be sure to discuss the ways in which you notice God working. This is a wonderful way to unite as a family to Christ, to turn towards others, and to become ever more aware of God’s constant, loving presence.