Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 05 August |
The Commemoration of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Are intercessory prayers really useful?

PhotoGranary - Shutterstock

Edifa - published on 02/04/20

If God is aware of what we need before we ask Him, what is the purpose of intercessory prayer?

We all know that a prayer is not some kind of magic “spell” men can use with God. The act of praying has nothing to do with reciting or inventing some hocus-pocus formula that allows us to bend time and events to alleviate our fears and satisfy our desires. The teachings of Christ are clear on this point: “And when you pray, don’t keep babbling like pagans:they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matt 6:7).

As strange as it might seem, prayer has no effect on God — it affects us.

This is why the Apostle Paul calls us to “pray continually” (1 Thess 5:17). We must turn continually to God, open up ourselves to His presence, listen to what He tells us, introduce Him into our lives and into those of our brothers and sisters, unite ourselves to His will. Behind every individual supplication, there is a fundamental one, which is our desire for God. Without it, we risk to find ourselves in spiritual contradiction that will undermine our spiritual life. It consists in expecting all sorts of things from God, a hodgepodge, when we actually expect nothing of him.

God is happy when we pray

St. John of the Cross warns us: we should prefer the God who gives, to the gifts that God gives. In the same logic, we should understand the first words of Jesus in the forth Gospel: “What is it you seek?” We are anxiously looking for so many things! He, Himself provides the right answer: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33). This also enlightens us as to the precise sense of our “intentions” in prayer.

We can easily ask God for thousands of things, involving the global issues of our lives as well as the tiny details, on the condition that these things are directly or indirectly related to the glory of God. As St. Augustine said in the conclusion of his letter to Proba about the prayer, “we say nothing but what is already contained in the Lord’s Prayer.” The prayer that God grants us is the very same prayer of Christ that becomes our own: “Thy will be done!” So, we can now go back to our initial question, why inform Him of our wishes, if our Heavenly Father knows what his children need even before they tell him and if he always wishes to give them the best?

We can say that this Father is not paternalist. He does not wish to save us against our will. He is happy when a drop of our love, our involvement, including our participation in a prayer, adds to or rather unites us to the powerful and pure current of perfect prayer, that of the beloved Son, which is always granted. When we are praying in his Name and the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf according to the will of God.

Father Alain Bandelier


Read more:
If you feel overwhelmed, say this prayer attributed to St. Augustine


Read more:
If you’re looking for a job, this prayer might help

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Saint Mary of the Angels
Bret Thoman, OFS
All your sins will be forgiven if you go to a Franciscan church o...
Philip Kosloski
Most priests can’t absolve these sins
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
Cerith Gardiner
Nightbirde’s beautiful message as she drops out of TV show
Gianmarco Tamberi AND Mutaz Essa Barshim
Cerith Gardiner
This Olympic event captures the true meaning of the Games
See More