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The Practice of Prayer, part 4: Intercession

The most fundamental thing anyone can do is to bring a man into the presence of God and leave him there

—Thomas Kelly, The Eternal Presence

As I try to live faithfully and find myself moving further off the grid, I often look at other people and wish that I could get them to see what I have seen and choose what I have chosen. I wish they would join me and think well of me; this is obviously selfish. I wish they would stop clinging to what I consider false securities and come back to a closer connection with Creator and creation. That also can become dangerous when I set myself up as a judge of their spiritual progress.

I resent it when other people do this to me.  I am grateful for those people who pray for me, especially in the barren times when I know that I cannot pray as I ought.  I am sometimes distressed by people who seem to be praying at me, letting me and God and anyone else who’s listening know that I need to be converted to their own religious or political position.

Yet we do need to pray for each other, and to invite each other into prayer.  How can we do this with humility? I don’t fully understand. I’ve figured out a couple of things that help me.

When I pray for people, instead of telling God what I want God to do for or to them, I try to deepen my awareness of God’s presence, and of the other person with their gifts and wounds, and to ask that the other person may know God’s nearness and receive God’s guidance. I expect that’s what God is working on anyway, but praying that way helps me keep my own mind straight.

When my community invites people to pray with us, we gather in silence to wait upon the Lord. We’re Quaker, so that comes naturally to us, but it also seems to work for people from different traditions; we’ve had folks journaling and praying the rosary, reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon and the Book of Common Prayer… Even outside what’s officially designated as worship time, we offer quiet spaces in which neighbors and guests can step back from all the noise and hear, not our words and opinions, but the word God breathes into their souls.

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