cropped-dreamstime_xxl_228894191-copy.jpgA WORKSHOP ON INTERCESSORY PRAYER

By Cliff Garvey

As a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit, our mission is to bring our brothers and sisters closer to Christ, closer to the Church, and closer to each other through the life, witness, and intercession of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. To belong to our fellowship is to make a personal commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus, to live as a follower of Saint Francis, and to share in the good work of building up the Church. That sharing is our contribution to the life of the local parish.

Some among us are catechists. Some are lectors or altar servers. Some work with the poor and the sick. Some volunteer with a service organization. Some serve as ministers of the Eucharist. Some serve as ministers of hospitality. And some help to repair the Church by praying for their own souls and for the souls of others. All of us, in fact, are called to pray.

Our prayer is what unites these different ministries. Our prayer is what builds and strengthens bonds of friendship and fraternity among all members of God’s family. Our prayer together is our work together. Our prayer is also the fuel and foundation for all that we do. “As food is to the body, prayer is to the spirit of God’s friends (CCC 318).” Prayer inspires us; it nourishes us; it strengthens us. Prayer prompts us to love; it motivates us to serve. Prayer brings us together and prayer keeps us together. Even when we pray alone, we are praying together.

Karl Rahner (1904-1984), the great German theologian, explains that God is constantly reaching out to us: every second of every minute of every hour of every day. God reaches out to us in love, mercy, and friendship. Our job is to reach back. Prayer is our reaching back to the God who reaches out to us. Prayer brings to life our desire to touch the face of our Creator; our longing to grasp the hand of the Good Shepherd. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about different types of prayer: Blessing & Adoration (e.g. Divine Praises); Praise & Thanksgiving (Canticle of the Creatures); Prayer of Petition (Asking for ourselves); and Prayer of Intercession (Asking for others). Our focus here is on the prayer of intercession.

Each week, members and friends of the Assisi Project all around the world receive an e-mail message that includes a request for prayers. Sometimes this message features a general request that we pray for all who need our prayers and for all who ask for our prayers. Most often, it includes a long list of names — men, women, and children. Some are sick. Some are suffering in body, mind, or spirit. Some are well on their way to better health. Some are actively dying. Some are addicted to sex, drugs, sugar, or alcohol. Some are in recovery. Some are not. Some are alone in the world. Some are surrounded by people who love them. Some are people we know. Some are people who live on the other side of the world. Some are young. Some are old. Some are rich. Some are poor. Some are everyday saints. Some are bruised and broken by life. All are in need.

When we pray for them, when we lift them up to heaven, when we entrust them into the Lord’s care, we practice the prayer of intercession. The Catechism teaches us that the prayer of intercession is as old as faith itself and it requires hearts that beat with God’s love and mercy. The Catechism says: “Since Abraham, intercession, asking on behalf of another, has been a characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy (CCC 2635).” When we pray for others, we pray from the heart, from the core of our being. We pray not in anger, pity, or judgment, but out  of love, friendship, and concern. We pray with God’s style of closeness, compassion, and tenderness.

When we pray for others, we grow close to them. We learn about empathy and understanding. And we build and strengthen the bonds of community that keep us together during the toughest times. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) says: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” So when we pray in this way, we may not change the mind of God, but we may experience a change in our own hearts, minds, and spirits.

Pope Francis says: “Jesus is our intercessor and to pray for others is to be a bit like him. To intercede for others before God the Father. This is very beautiful (12-16-20).” The prayer of intercession carries us beyond ourselves. It brings us to the doorstep of our neighbors in need. It brings us face to face with the struggles of our brothers and sisters. When we pray for other people, when we make their needs a priority, we live the Gospel by fulfilling Christ’s commandment to love God, love neighbor, and share something of ourselves. When we pray for others, we pray for a community of believers that begins with the apostles, stretches across the long history of God’s family, and includes the communion of saints and the choir of angels. “The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries (CCC 2636).” One family. All God’s children. Brothers and sisters all.

Saint Paul writes: “I urge you…to pray for all people. Ask God to help them, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1).” So how do we intercede for others? How do we make intercessory prayer a part of our lives? The Church offers various ways to practice the prayer of intercession: Collects, Penitential Act, Prayers of the Faithful during Mass (especially on feast days), Litanies to the Saints, and the Holy Rosary.

Beyond these formal types of prayer, we respond to the needs of our neighbors by remembering that our relationships take the form of a crucifix. The horizontal beam is our relationship with others. The vertical beam is our relationship with the Lord. In intercessory prayer, we embrace our brothers and sisters. We lift them up to our Father in heaven. And we place their needs at the foot of the Cross. Sometimes we ask Jesus to intercede for us. Sometimes we ask the Blessed Mother to pray for us. Sometimes we ask for the saints to pray for us and protect us.

Here is one simple method of intercessory prayer:

  • Be still; be silent.
  • Place yourself in God’s presence.
  • Call to mind those who need prayers.
  • Offer them and their needs to the Lord.
  • Lord’s Prayer
  • Hail Mary
  • Glory Be
  • Ask your favorite saints for their prayers.

Try it! The prayer of intercession is not high theology. It is not a fine point of doctrine. It is a movement of the human heart.

In my lifetime, perhaps the most compelling moments of prayer happens on the evening of March 13, 2013 in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. For the first time, Pope Francis steps out onto the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Tens of thousands of pilgrims are present. He jokes with them. He then turns serious. The new pope asks God’s people to pray for his predecessor, Benedict XVI. He says: “Let us all pray together for him so that the Lord will bless him and Our Lady will protect him.” The Holy Father then leads the crowd in praying the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. Pope Francis then says: “Now let us begin this journey, the bishop and the people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the churches, a journey of brotherhood in love and mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a greater sense of fraternity.”

The new pope then asks for a favor. He says: “Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord to bless me, the prayer of the people for their bishop. Let us say this prayer, your prayer for me, in silence.” At this moment, thousands and thousands of people from all over the world become still. They enter into a moment of purest silence. They embrace the Holy Father in their hearts and they offer him up to the Lord. They entrust him into the arms of Jesus. They entrust him into the care of the Blessed Mother. They entrust him into the protection of the angels and saints. It is a profound moment in the life of the Universal Church. It is also a perfect example of the power and simplicity of intercessory prayer.

We may not necessarily pray for specific outcomes. We pray for peace, healing, mercy, consolation, and an increase in faith, hope, and love. And when we hope beyond all hope, we pray for miracles. Pope Francis regards intercessory prayer as an essential component of the spiritual life and an essential ministry in the life of the Church and in the life of the world. The Holy Father says: “The world keeps going thanks to this chain of people who pray, who intercede, who are unknown for the most part, but not ever unknown to God. The Church, in all of her members, has the mission to practice the prayer of intercession. So let us pray for each other. It will do us good and do good for everyone (12-16-20).” We pray then for Pope Francis, for the Church around the world, for our pastors and fellow parishioners, for all who need our prayers, and for all who ask for our prayers:

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

All Good and Gracious God,
we entrust into your loving hands
our prayers and petitions
for the sick and suffering among us.

We unite our humble prayers
with the prayers of the Poor Christ,
our merciful redeemer, friend, and brother.
Hear us! Console us!
Lead us forth in faith, hope, and love.

May the powerful intercession
of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi
bring us closer to Christ,
closer to the Church,
and closer to each other.

May their prayers comfort us,
empower us, and protect us
as we strive to live the Gospel,
share God’s love and mercy,
and rebuild the Church.

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!


About the Author & Presenter

Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to Pray for Me: A Workshop on Intercessory Prayer. The Assisi Project Podcast is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project: A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit and our programs and ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff Garvey at Copyright 2022. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!

Art Credit: Photo 228894191 | Chernetskaya |


About Us

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal (see link below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project, please contact Cliff Garvey at May the Lord give you peace!

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