Intercessory prayer not only aids others in need, but can also bear fruit in our own lives.
One of the most common types of prayer is intercessory prayer. In it, we intercede for another person, praying to God for their particular situation. We might be praying for the healing of a loved one, or the conversion of a wayward child. Whatever the case may be, intercessory prayer benefits all parties involved.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that intercession “is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners” (CCC 2634).
This type of prayer is fundamentally other-centered, focused entirely on the good of another person. It is for this reason that intercessory prayer has at its core the “characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy” (CCC 2635).
Furthermore, “In intercession, he who prays looks ‘not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,’ even to the point of praying for those who do him harm” (CCC 2635).
Praying for one’s enemies is an example of intercessory prayer at its perfection. This type of concern for others, especially those we don’t like, reveals a “heart attuned to God’s mercy,” desiring God’s graces to fall upon everyone. It might be difficult to pray for our enemies, but by doing so we cut down our pride and learn how to love according to the Gospel.
Jesus showed us by his life and death the ultimate example of intercessory prayer, giving up his life for the sake of us all. If we desire to grow in prayer, we need to intercede for others, both those we love and those we hate. In this way we imitate Jesus’ prayer and show to God how our lives are other-centered, instead of self-centered.