Posted July 02, 2013:
A Way of Intercessory Prayer

by Bonnie Staib.

As Catherine Doherty searched to understand God’s call to her, certain gospel words stayed deeply with her, almost haunted her. She passed these words on to us members of Madonna House, but they are for anyone for the taking, for they are simply the Gospel. We call these words "The Little Mandate."

I want to share with you a way of prayer in which we become one with others, one with Christ. God taught me this in the context of my life in Madonna House, but it is the call of all who follow the Lord Jesus to enter into his life of intercession. For me, it flows from this part of The Little Mandate:

Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me… Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast…

Go without fears into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you. Pray always. I will be your rest.

Intercession is a simple way of prayer. It can be as simple as lifting a person or a circumstance up to the Lord.

The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11) begins by telling us that Lazarus is ill. His sisters send word to Jesus saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill."

We too can send word to Jesus as did Martha and Mary: "The one you love is sick, Lord.… The one you love is burdened, Lord.… The one you love is out of work, Lord."

Lazarus has, in fact, died, but Jesus calls him out of his tomb: The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (11:44)

Our prayer of intercession can be a way in which we unite with Jesus to unbind and set free those for whom we pray. I often use the icon of Jesus calling forth Lazarus from the tomb to remind me to pray this way in intercession.

Years ago I was given an icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, written by a sister in a monastery on the Mount of Olives. It has a depth of tenderness between Mary and her son Jesus. I like to pray with this image too, placing the person I am praying for within the embrace of Jesus and Mary. "Jesus, Mary, the one you love is in need…" I count on them to pour out tenderness and mercy.

Through my own experiences, the Lord has led me into specific ways of interceding.

My first mission house assignment was to Marian Centre, our house in Edmonton. We served up to 500 men a hot meal, offered them daytime shelter, and provided them and families-in-need with clothing.

Their poverty was very apparent, and there, as I came to face some of my own inner poverty and woundedness, I came to realize that we were one in our poverties.

Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me…

Intercession is a way of presence, of being present to another. When I lived in our house in Winslow, Arizona, my twin sister, who lived hundreds of miles away, was struggling with a rare form of breast cancer. For years she had had little contact with our family. While she was ill, I was graced to be with her periodically.

There was little I could do but be there. At one point, surgery was being considered for her. I asked her if she wanted me to try to come at that time. "What for?" she responded. "What can you do?"

She could not easily hear "just be with you," but by the time she died, I think she understood what it meant to simply be with and for another.

Now when I hear of someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, I especially hold them in my heart in intercession. My suffering by Barbara’s side – when in California or miles apart – has called me into this special intercession.

At another time in my life, I experienced such inner devastation and brokenness that the thought of suicide was very attractive. Through this experience, I encountered God’s mercy deeply. This has led me to pray especially for those who are suicidal and for those who mourn loved ones who have taken their lives.

One with them, one with Me.

At MH Washington DC, a prayer listening house, we used to take a walk every evening in our neighborhood, which is Capitol Hill.

We called this our prayer walk. In our very walking we lifted up those who worked in the Senate offices, the Capitol building, the many government offices off the mall, the Congressional offices, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court.

We knew people who worked there, but we prayed, too, for the thousands we had never met and for those they represented from across the land.

Part of our mandate in this house is to pray for the nation, the government, the Church of DC. This was one way in which we did this.

Sometimes I would feel led by the Lord to walk through another neighborhood in the city, quietly passing by homes, offices, businesses, simply lifting those who lived or worked there up to the Lord. "Jesus, the one you love is in need …"

I was in Washington in the early 1980’s. Many who came to us worked for the federal government. Many times we listened to their pain about pressures at work, and these things, too, gave us lots to intercede for.

In the 1980’s, a new term became very common, especially in government circles. The term is "reduction-in-force" and is abbreviated as "RIF." To be RIFFed meant that your job was eliminated and you were forced out: no longer needed (or in truth, perhaps needed, but certainly no longer funded).

Many people were RIFFed without any warning. Those nearing retirement. Those with tenure at their jobs. Those whose families counted on their income. People were financially burdened and often they were also broken by the inner pain. We listened. We prayed. We were present. We ached with them.

I have mentioned how some of my intercession comes from my own experience and goes out to others in similar situations. Being RIFFed was not my experience, but it was part of my marketplace.

Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast… Go without fears into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.

We listened. We stood by those who shared their pain with us, and by those we had never met. We held them up in our hearts, at Mass, in our prayers together in the chapel, in our poustinias, and as we walked by their offices. We interceded.

RIFFing has become a standard word, and one that is more commonly used in these tough economic times. Recently the Canadian government has called for extensive cutbacks in many parts of its workforce. I have heard this on the news, seen it on the web, and so now carry a new wave of people in my heart in intercession. Again, most I do not know. Only in the Lord.

One with them, one with Me.

My current work in MH is that of circulation manager for this newspaper. What a great way to intercede! Our database has over 19,000 records in it. Our Restoration subscribers number approximately 5,000. I handle their renewals. I change their addresses. I read their notes. I label their papers.

As I "walk through" their addresses, the world has become my neighborhood. "Lord, the one you love in Calgary … the one you love in Syria … the one you love in Virginia … the one you love in Korea…"

I believe that all of us who follow the Lord Jesus are called to be intercessors. As we walk our own neighborhoods or work areas, as we enter a restaurant, ride a subway, read a newspaper, talk to a friend—we are handed by the Lord many people to pray for. And we are graced to be intercessors of the Lord.

There is yet another aspect to my own journey into the depths of intercession. I left Washington DC to come back to Combermere to help in our archives. Soon our archivist lost much of her sight and had to leave that work.

I took over. I had a lot to learn. As I poured myself into it, I came to love and be passionate about the archives. Seventeen years later, our directors feared I was getting burned out and asked me to go away for a few months mini-sabbatical. I was tired and so I soaked up the quiet space and time of renewal.

They extended that when I came back, sensing the Lord wanted me to have a more reflective routine here. But a year after I had started my mini-sabbatical, it was decided that I would not go back to the archives at all.

That year of discerning was done in love, but it was extremely painful for me and a great dispossession. It challenged me to my core, even challenged my vocation, though God’s grace and mercy carried me through ultimately.

Today, I am probably more free because of that, more aware of the Lord carrying me. And my passion has just spread out to many more arenas.

Only after a couple years did I realize something. I remembered those RIFFed when I was in DC, forcibly retired, often from a work they really liked, their lives turned upside down. In a way, I believe the Lord let me live my own dispossession from a work I was passionate about as one more way of intercession.

Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me… Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast…I shall be with you. … Go without fears into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.

Pray always. I will be your rest.


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