Intercessory Prayer, Now and Eternally

Intercessory Prayer, Now and Eternally

Intercessory Prayer, Now and Eternally
By Br. Luke Neitzke, O.P.

Interceding on behalf of others is something that has been part of the Christian tradition since the beginning. St. Peter restored Tabitha to life, a woman who served the poor in Joppa, and St. Paul raised to life a man who fell out of a window while Paul was preaching because he fell asleep (something that all preachers should remember). These two men were restored to their physical life, but there is a better life that we can be restored to.

St. Therese of Lisieux heard of a murderer who was to be executed in Paris, he was unrepentant and she feared that his soul would be lost for all eternity. So she prayed for him and had Mass said for him, and knowing that the Father loves His children with an infinite love, trusted that the Father would soften this murderer’s heart to repentance, which happened immediately before he was executed—as he was standing on the scaffolding he kissed the cross. St. Catherine of Siena had a similar experience. She saw two men about to be executed, who were blaspheming God. She also turned in prayer, knowing that she would be heard. And with her as well, between the cart the criminals were being carried in and the executioner’s block, their hearts were converted and they too repented.

With stories like this, it is easy to ask the question, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers like He answered theirs?” To which there is no easy answer. In the words of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Paul “God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and have pity on who He will have pity.” (Romans 9:15) The thing is, “God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.” The real question is “When will God show His mercy to all?”

God withheld the mercy and grace of conversion of the men who were being executed until the last moments of their life. He knew that they were not lost yet, and through the intercession of two great saints, they were saved. The conversion or healing that we pray for, especially when we are praying for the sake of others, may not come when we expect it, it may be long delayed. But this does not mean that it is not coming. It may even be delayed until after our own death.

When St. Dominic was on his own death bed, his brothers stood around him and lamented that their father and the head of the young order was passing from this life. They wanted him to stay with them, to lead and guide them. However, St. Dominic, with supernatural prudence simply said, “Do not weep, my children; I shall be more useful to you where I am now going, than I have ever been in this life.”

Those we love and pray for very well may outlive us in this life, but our prayers and love for them will not stop with the beating of our hearts. The love that God has for them is greater than the love we have for them. When this life has come to a close, and we are standing before the throne of God, we too will be even more useful for the ones we love.