Prayer Spirituality

Praying for Others and Intercessory Prayer

“I will not pray for you unless you pray yourself.

– St Anthony “Sayings from the Desert Fathers”

About this contentWhat follows are notes taken from previously recorded audio lectures given by Father Thomas Hopko to seminarians. The recording audio quality was poor at times since they were converted from cassette tapes to mp3. The date of the recordings is uncertain. It seems Father Thomas named this series of lectures “The Practice of Personal Prayer and its relation to the Spiritual Life in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition”.  With God’s help, this series of posts simply aims to share some of the main points of this teaching with other people who have  a sincere longing for God. 

Praying for Others

  • Prayer for one another is consistent throughout New Testament
  • Nectarios of Optina had someone in mind as he prayed each [Jesus] prayer and interceded for others in this way.
  • We never pray for anything that God is not doing.
  • We should pray for what we are convinced God is already doing.
  • We pray for God’s will to be done. By adding our own submission to God’s will in this way we have synergy with God.
  • God does not need our help but wants synergy.
  • God hears the prayers we make before we make them.
  • This is how important prayer is:
    • The whole destiny of the entire world is determined by the prayer of His people.
    • The entire providence of God is affected by our prayers, eternally.
  • God’s action is eternal, ours is temporal limited by time.
  • God is not limited by time.
  • There is a real synergy or cooperation with God, and uttering Jesus’ holy name [with faith and reverence] can change the course of history.
  • Intercession works eternally.

Intercessory Prayer

  • There are some sins and situations that God does not expect us to pray for.
    • Jeremiah 11:14 and 14:11 are for the same thing – “do not pray for this people“.
    • If we discover in our effort that we cannot pray for someone, let it go, I John 5:16-17 teaches not all situations can be prayed for.
  • Don’t stop praying though unless you are sure that God has called you to stop.
  • If we pray for other people, we have to be ready to act, i.e. do what is necessary for them – even unto death. Otherwise, our prayer is hypocritical.
  • We pray for God’s will to be done.
  • We pray for gifts of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
  • We do not pray for carnal things or sinful passions.
  • The safest way to pray for others is to “hold people in the presence of God” – Fr Alexander Schmemann
  • In Psalm 88:12, “abaddon – is also referred to as “the land of forgetfulness”. Therefore we pray “Memory Eternal”, that others may be remembered by God – not by us.

Intercession of the Saints

  • We have many examples in the New Testament and Holy Tradition that teach us to pray for one another.
  • I will not pray for you unless you pray yourself.” (St Anthony from “Sayings from the Desert Fathers”)
  • If we ask people to pray for us, we also need to be praying ourselves.
  • God hears our prayer eternally and responds eternally.
  • One of the errors of Process theology is the belief that God does not know the future because it did not happen yet.
  • Our prayers determine the very course of history.

Prayer for the Dead

  • 40 days is a completion of an act in the Tradition
    • Therefore we hold our dead in the presence of God for forty days after their repose.
    • We have memorial services for our reposed.
    • We ask for the forgiveness of their sins.
    • “Purgation” is to be cleansed during the encounter with Christ; to be judged – this is purgation, not purgatory.
    • Only the Virgin Mary was not judged in this way.
  • An ancient Christian tombstone was found with the inscription: “pray for us” – asking for intercession of the reposed young daughter.
  • The righteous are interceding for us, therefore we can ask for their prayers [as we all share life in Christ, who rose from the dead].
  • We can ask the dead in Christ to pray for us because we are united with them in Christ.
  • All those in Christ live to make intercession.
  • God is not confined to time, therefore we can always pray for the dead.
  • In all things, everyone’s vocation is love – even in suffering

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not even life, time or death.

For more information about Intercessory Prayer, see the Orthodox Faith volume IV by Father Thomas Hopko

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