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fatherman

Intercessory Prayer

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Guys, if this is already a thread, please link.

 

I've reached a point in my path where I'm just not sure what to do with intercessory prayer. When someone asks me to pray for them, I don't want to say no, but I also just don't know what to do about it. I believe in the power of prayer, but I don't believe in giving God a shopping list of things I or other people want. I've tried and tried and it never works. What has worked for me are prayers of surrender. I also believe in praying with someone who I'm physically present with. My daughter is trying to get a job. She's already interviewed. She asked me to pray. So what do I pray? Do I pray that she gets it? Do I pray that God's will be done? Do I pray for God to be present with her?

 

I'm just not sure that that's the way that God works. I can encourage her to put it in God's hands. I can counsel her to let go of her worries and accept that it is out of her control. But who am I to know God's "Will" for her? I cannot, and I'm not sure God really cares if she gets the job or not. The God of my understanding is a God of relationship, not choreography. Then again, my understand is so finite. Sometimes, I just do it anyway because I love people.

 

Thoughts?

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fatherman,

 

That is a very perplexing question that i have struggled with myself. Since we most likely don't know what is best for them, it seems to me it is good just to ask that they be given wisdom to see clearly for them self or send positive thoughts their way wishing them the best. Personally, i surrender by praying in the spirit (in the form of tongues) sometimes not even knowing what i am saying but feeling a sense that it is the correct intercessory prayer. Other times i actually understand bits of what i am saying and sometimes on rarer occasions, i pray through and get an answer to the persons request. ie: In your example whether or not they will get the job.

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I spoke with my brother who is a pastor and a life coach. He told me what he does. He does believe in it, but when someone asks him to pray for them, he sometimes prays with them on the spot. But when he can't pray with them, he focuses on the person instead of what they are asking for. In the example of my daughter, his focus was on her anxiety over the job. He published a book that tells stories of the power of praying for and with people. He also sometimes just asks them what they want him to pray and he prays it with the intention of adding the power of his prayer with there's. It's an amazing book.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Prayer-Encounters-Changing-World-Time/dp/1449751946

 

 

I still have mixed feelings about it. It is perplexing, I agree.

 

If I had the gift of tongues, I would be more likely to leave my doubts behind on this. Intercession is not necessarily an act of the ego. It is an act of love, and I think that is different than a personal prayer in which I insert my desires which could be greatly misguided by my ego.

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When I was young, my mother taught me to say, "God bless you!" whenever someone sneezed. She never told me why I should say it, just that it was the polite and proper thing to say. If someone sneezed and you didn't say it, you came across as impolite and, possibly, uncaring.

 

When I got older, I discovered that one of the reasons people say "God bless you!" is because it was believed that sneezing expelled demons and that saying "God bless you!" somehow invoked God's blessing to prevent demons (and more demons) from re-entering.

 

I no longer believe in demons (or angels or fairies or Santa Claus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster), but it still feels rude to not say, "God bless you!" when someone around me sneezes. I don't hold to the theology behind this custom, but the custom is so strong and prevalent that I feel a sense of inappropriateness if I don't answer a sneeze by invoking the blessing of the Almighty.

 

I feel much the same about prayer.

 

For me, praying and trying to motivate God to intervene and do something on behalf of another doesn't change one damn thing. Studies have shown that, contrary to religious claims, prayer doesn't change anything. Nothing. Now, a case can be made (and has) that positive thinking can affect outcomes. There is something about positive thinking that can help our bodies to heal or that can refocus our thoughts into ways of wisdom. But this is quite different from speaking (or thinking) words to a Sky-Daddy, believing that he will hear and respond to our requests. If this method for changing things actually worked in real-life, our churches would be packed. But I suspect that most people know deep down that prayer is a crap shoot. Maybe the prayer will be answered. Maybe it won't. But there is always the fall back of leaving things to "God's will." If that is the case, why pray at all?

 

So I don't pray for people anymore. Though it would be the "polite and proper" thing for me to do, it feels horribly dishonest to do so. It feels rude if I don't pray for others, but I simply don't believe anything changes and I don't want to give them any false hope that the words of BillM to a Deity can somehow change the laws of physics in our universe. I no longer pray to God anymore than I would to Zeus. Any notions of God that I still have left (which aren't many) do not posit that anyone needs an intercessor, that there is a distance or boundaries that they can't cross, but I can. To me, that position would be foolish. If the theistic God won't answer their prayers, nothing I can say is going to change his mind.

 

As always, my 2 cents.

Edited by BillM
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Fatherman, one small, further comment. When I do "pray", it is more about seeking wisdom and empowerment for me to do something for someone or for a situation. Whether it is verbal for me or just "in my head", it is me wondering what I can do, not me asking God to do something.

 

Of course, everyone has to find their own path. But your notion of "surrender" simply doesn't work for me. For me, it is too militaristic, too dominion-based. It is like a slave surrendering to his master, claiming no freedom or power of his own, being conquered by a power greater than himself.

 

My idea of prayer is not of giving up my will to God, but of seeking empowerment so that I can make a difference. If I don't feel I can make a difference in someone's life for the better (and often I cannot), I don't pray for them. As I've mentioned elsewhere, my daughter smokes three packs of cigarettes a day. I don't pray for her to quit as 1) I don't believe God is going to take away her desire for them and 2) she refuses to listen to any wisdom about the harm they do to her. So I don't pray for her to quit. It sounds cold and heartless, but that's how I deal with it.

 

YMMV. :)

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In short, i think prayer "is a simple, normal activity of the mind and heart of everyone who desires to be a better person, to understand life and living, and to live more richly" While it may be mis-used by many, i have found it transforming and strengthening for myself. This seems to me to be applicable whether it is intercessory for someone else or for myself. Experience has shown it beneficial to my attitude, emotions, psyche and personal well being. To me it makes a difference. I can not speak for others. Perhaps some approach it negatively?

 

Joseph

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I think of God as existence - ourselves, our environment, our planet, our universe, and beyond. We are living in and through what I think of as God. We are God and a part of God. Subsequently everything we experience is 'of' God (the good and the bad of which there is no good or bad, just God). To 'direct' prayer to God seems pointless to me because what will be will be. Asking God to 'intercede' is an impossibility for me - it's kinda like asking God not to be God for a moment. We live our lives the way we do and the results are the results. Other people live their lives they way they do and the results are the results. Sometimes other people's results affect our results and vice versa. But at the end of the day, how it all plays out is simply how it all plays out and there is no thing or being standing by to wait for our call to action.

 

Now prayer as meditation so to speak, as opening oneself up to "god' (i.e. life) I think I can understand. Allowing ourselves to be open to thoughts and feelings can be beneficial I believe. But I see this as distinctly different to intercessory prayer.

 

Just my two bob's worth.

 

Cheers

Paul

Edited by PaulS

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I think of God as existence - ourselves, our environment, our planet, our universe, and beyond. We are living in and through what I think of as God. We are God and a part of God. Subsequently everything we experience is 'of' God (the good and the bad of which there is no good or bad, just God). To 'direct' prayer to God seems pointless to me because what will be will be. Asking God to 'intercede' is an impossibility for me - it's kinda like asking God not to be God for a moment. We live our lives the way we do and the results are the results. Other people live their lives they way they do and the results are the results. Sometimes other people's results affect our results and vice versa. But at the end of the day, how it all plays out is simply how it all plays out and there is no thing or being standing by to wait for our call to action.

 

Now prayer as meditation so to speak, as opening oneself up to "god' (i.e. life) I think I can understand. Allowing ourselves to be open to thoughts and feelings can be beneficial I believe. But I see this as distinctly different to intercessory prayer.

 

Just my two bob's worth.

 

Cheers

Paul

Nice post Paul,

 

On the intercessory exclusion in your last sentence, it seems to me there is a benefit of wishing the best for the other when done as intercessory prayer. It seems to me from experience when we wish the best or send positive thoughts to another through prayer that we receive or draw what we give. Perhaps this is because we are all connected and the separation between us is an illusion of mind. .

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On the intercessory exclusion in your last sentence, it seems to me there is a benefit of wishing the best for the other when done as intercessory prayer. It seems to me from experience when we wish the best or send positive thoughts to another through prayer that we receive or draw what we give. Perhaps this is because we are all connected and the separation between us is an illusion of mind. .

I think we can benefit in the sense that if we are being compassionate, perhaps we will 'feel' compassion more than if we were in another frame of mind. But for me, it's hard to imagine all the positive thoughts in the world helping say the starving Ethiopian whose whole family is dying around him from starvation and malnutrition, other than to give him his own personal feeling of comoft (somehow). What I mean by that is that I think the 'positive vibe' concept seems very western (i.e. privileged culture). I'm not so sure 'god' responds very well to prayer in many situations.

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That would be my take on it also, Paul. While I am certainly moved by the plights of others, I not only doubt the efficacy of "intercessory prayer", but I also doubt the efficacy of the more New-Agey woo of "I'm sending positive thoughts your way." Again, I would be opposed to either kinds of "prayers" if they could be shown to work in the real world. But they don't work, at least in any statistical analysis. Yes, I know of cases of "Well, my second cousin twice removed received a miraculous healing of his gall bladder", but these seem to me to be little more than chance/random occurrences. They could certainly be attributed to the power of an Almighty God to heal (and often are), but they sure make God seem quite capricious. I would rather follow the truth, come what may.

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I think if one investigates science or more specifically quantum physics one will find as Enistein once said... “Everything in Life is Vibration” – Albert Einstein

Positive vibrations are contagious. This can be experienced when around positive people. So are negative vibrations. Just hang around negative people long enough and you will experience first hand. Prayer doesn't have to be in words or misused to obtain something .Positive affirmations while they may be in the form of words and concepts, points to a reality far deeper than the words. While most prayer implies duality ( that there is a God and a me asking God ), in reality i believe you are an expression of God and therefore duality is an illusion. The deepest prayers are then when you and God merge (in Christ) and they are no longer prayers as such. Affirmations then become most powerful. I can hear Paul asking... if that is true then why are the starving Ethiopians still starving? :unsure:

 

ADVICE FROM ECHKART TOLLE..... All evils are the effect of unconsciousness. You can alleviate the effects of unconsciousness, but you cannot eliminate them unless you eliminate their cause. True change happens within, not without. If you feel called upon to alleviate suffering in the world, that is a very noble thing to do, but remember not to focus exclusively on the outer. Otherwise, you will encounter frustration and despair. Without a profound change in human consciousness, the world’s suffering is a bottomless pit. So don’t let your compassion become one-sided.

Empathy with someone else’s pain or lack and a desire to help must be balanced with a deeper realization of the eternal nature of all life and the ultimate illusion of all pain. Then let your peace flow into whatever you do and you will be working on the levels of effect and cause simultaneously.

Joseph

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:)

 

I would join with Paul, Joseph, in asking why are there Ethiopians starving? I find it unrealistic in the extreme to say that their pain is an illusion and that all they have to do is to tap into a higher consciousness and their bellies will be full.

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Joseph,

 

If prayer worked then I don't think we'd have starving Ethiopans. People have been praying for them and sending positives thoughts for decades - yet still they starve.

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Paul,

 

Perhaps prayer works but not the way you might think it should? Mostly, i think we are transformed ourselves by it. As long as duality appears as reality there will be poor and starving people no matter how much food we send. And sending it is indeed a noble endeavor but it doesn't eliminate the cause of the suffering.

Edited by JosephM

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"And sending it is indeed a noble endeavor but it doesn't alleviate the cause."

 

That is certainly the truth, Joseph. It is like the old saying, "When I fed the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked why there were so many poor, they called me a troublemaker."

 

It would require a change in thinking (individually and globally) to address the issue of world hunger. Can we, will we, do that? It remains to be seen. But I doubt it. We are far too self-centered, especially in first world nations where capitalism and materialism seem to rule. I wish we had a better prognosis, but I don't really see it happening. Our middle class continues to shrink while the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer. And, IMO, Christianity is mute to speak to power, to be a prophetic voice of what will happen to us and our world if we don't change our ways. Christianity is, by-and-large, still far too busy reserving seats in heaven.

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[quote name="JosephM" post="42833" timestamp="

Perhaps prayer works but not the way you might think it should? Mostly, i think we are transformed ourselves by it. As long as duality appears as reality there will be poor and starving people no matter how much food we send. And sending it is indeed a noble endeavor but it doesn't eliminate the cause of the suffering.

 

I agree an individual can be affected themselves by their own prayer. As I said earlier, prayer as say meditation, which opens a person up to their own thoughts and feelings, could be beneficial to them.

 

And I agree that we may always have starving people.

 

But that doesn't align (for me) with your expressing that prayer works by sending positive thoughts or in the context of this thread of intercessory prayer being useful (for the one being prayed for). It seems to me that life will play out how it plays out regardless of whether one prays or not.

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It seems to me that life will play out how it plays out regardless of whether one prays or not.

 

This is, perhaps, the truth of it all, Paul. For many years, I sat under guilt-inducing Christianity that said I should be doing more - praying more, reading my bible more, giving more, witnessing more, attending more, fasting more, more concerned about the plight of the world.

 

I'm 56 now, knowing that I have way more years behind me than ahead. As I'm agnostic about an afterlife, I'd prefer to just enjoy whatever time is left to me with my family and friends, doing things I love to do (which are quite varied).

 

This in no way means that I am not concerned about the plight of the world. I care. And my children and grandchildren will inhabit the world we leave to them. So I help when and where I can, depending upon what might be called "the leading of the Spirit" rather than guilt-inducing sermons from preachers in 3-piece business suits with Jags to drive. :)

 

For all I know, this is the only life I have. I will gladly give it to and for my loved ones. But I'm not going to give it to Jesus, the church, or anyone else out of guilt. I'd rather just let it play out and enjoy the ride.

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I agree an individual can be affected themselves by their own prayer. As I said earlier, prayer as say meditation, which opens a person up to their own thoughts and feelings, could be beneficial to them.

 

And I agree that we may always have starving people.

 

But that doesn't align (for me) with your expressing that prayer works by sending positive thoughts or in the context of this thread of intercessory prayer being useful (for the one being prayed for). It seems to me that life will play out how it plays out regardless of whether one prays or not.

Yes, you did say that earlier and i merely include that benefit to intercessory prayer also for oneself especially when wishing another the best or sending positive thoughts.

 

While i do see the value of some types of intercessory prayer benefiting the one being prayed for when it is asked for by them, i understand your reluctance to accept that since it doesn't "align" as you say, for you. My testimony would be different but that is my own experience. I have found personally as perhaps you have also ... that remaining open to the things we do not understand or presently doesn't align with our logic sometimes removes a barrier for experience that would otherwise remain closed. Just sayin... :)

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Bill,

 

As you know, the good thing here in Progressive Christianity is that nobody usually asks one to give anything to Jesus, the church, or have guilt. Thankfully, fundamentalism is behind you and as you say, you can let things play out and enjoy the ride..

 

Joseph

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:)

 

I would join with Paul, Joseph, in asking why are there Ethiopians starving? I find it unrealistic in the extreme to say that their pain is an illusion and that all they have to do is to tap into a higher consciousness and their bellies will be full.

 

Why? for me is potentially one of those nonsense questions. If we mean what are the causes of the starvation, then that is fair enough. If we mean what is the purpose of them starving ... plainly nonsense ... at least for me.

 

Now should I pray for the starving Ethiopians, will it help? Opening a cheque book is a small start though. Certainly not a final destination I would want to seek.

Edited by romansh

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Joseph,

 

I'd like to think I'm open to things, particularly new evidence, and so I would be open to somebody showing me how prayer actually worked for a party being prayed for. I haven't seen anything that would validate such answer to prayer and so I find it difficult to accept, at this point in time.

 

Using the analogy of 'when God starts growing back limbs, then I'll start thinking that healing really works', I also think that prayer results limited to our circle of friends or community, have more to do with all the other things that might be going on moreso than God answering prayer. When God answers the prayer concerning starving Etheopians then I might start to think there's really something to this prayer thing ( and by God I don't mean sugar daddy God, but even God as simply existence). I just don't see examples of prayer working out that way.

 

Cheers

Paul

Edited by PaulS
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Right or wrong, people expect "intercessory prayer" to work, even if we can't explain how it works. In all the many church services I've been in over the years, prayer times is always accompanied by expectation, by faith that God will, in fact, hear our prayers and do something. Despite the slogans and bumper stickers, prayer doesn't work, at least with no higher odds than winning the lottery.

 

I've said it before, if prayer really worked, people would go to the church instead of to the doctors. But we all know that Christians go to the doctors as much as non-Christians do. The proof is in the pudding.

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Now winning the lottery IS something I pray for! :D

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Perhaps it depends a little on the person. Let's say you are disheartened about losing your job and you ask me to pray for you. If you are open to the possibility that prayer can affect change, and let's say that being open means accepting whatever God's desires are for you, now we have something to work with. We have a relationship: you, me, and God. Now the possibilities have multiplied. I've become mindful of your situation, and you know that I care about you. You've become open to God. And God has been invited into both of our hearts. This can't be a bad thing. Now will it mean that you get a job? Maybe not. But does it mean that you are relieved from anxiety about it having put your trust in a power greater than yourself? Now we're talking. One of you mentioned just taking things as they come, the truth, and enjoying the ride. That requires some kind of trust. Trust in what? In God? In the natural order? In yourself? Otherwise, how can you enjoy the ride?

 

These are good ideas, but I'm still not sure about any of this. I believe in praying to God. I don't think there's anything wrong with asserting your or others' desires with God, but I just don't think it works. The only thing that has worked for me is surrender. And how can I make someone else surrender with intercessory prayer? Maybe the best I can do is be a good friend. To let someone know that I care.

 

Ethiopian kids. That's has often been a litmus test for me. Would it help me if I was in Africa starving to death? I've never been to Africa. I have seen a number of interesting documentaries, and there are starving children, but there are also strong communities, faith communities, and strong spirits. Let's say I or my children are starving. Does that mean that I cannot have faith? Does that mean that I cannot have joy or love or peace? I wouldn't know, but I do know that there is a difference between pain and suffering. And perhaps pain is all one of those kids have ever known. But I wonder if there are people here in this country who are not starving who are suffering more than some child in Ethopia who is starving. Again, I wouldn't know. But I wonder.

 

But the question is: can prayer alone help the starving child in Ethopia? I just can't imagine that it would. God created a world where there will always be starving children. Jesus is quoted as saying "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." I don't really want to get into what that might mean, but this is an acknowledgement of that truth. And Theodacy has had it's just time on this forum, so I'm not getting into that either. I suspect we already have the resources to eliminate starvation. We, as a species, have been unable to make it happen, but it's possible. Perhaps that's where the prayer should go. I believe it's been mentioned, but I believe that my praying for those kids opens ME up to spirit-led action. That is something we can all agree on...yes?

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I believe it's been mentioned, but I believe that my praying for those kids opens ME up to spirit-led action. That is something we can all agree on...yes?

I certainly don't have any issue with intercessory prayer opening up the prayer to positive action, or even if it is used simply as a coping mechanism for that matter. I am dubious that anything 'external' to us will respond or 'lead us' but if it ain't hurting anybody else, does it really matter! We all have mechanisms for coping with life (including responding to the needs of others) and I think such prayer could be least of our concerns.

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