Nothing highlights the power and the necessity of intercessory prayer than the aftermath of the recent Norwegian tragedy. A whole nation has been left lost and bereft whilst hundreds of families are enduring enormous pain and suffering as they mourn the senseless loss of loved ones. It is against this backdrop that we Christians are called to re-invigorate our personal prayer life, especially as it related to intercessory prayer.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran Pastor, theologian and Nazi resister, is a powerful example of a modern-day intercessory pray-er. Bonhoeffer, believed that intercessory prayer was important because in so praying in this manner, he experienced a powerful sense of empathy and solidarity with those he brought before God. In intercessory prayer, Bonhoeffer said, “I move into the other man’s place. I enter his life…his guilt and distress. I am afflicted by his sins and his infirmity.”
The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is also an intercessory pray-er. In an interview with the journalist Mark Tully, broadcast on BBC Radio on Sunday 13th September 2009, Williams said:
‘A great Church of England writer of the twentieth century writing to a friend said, ‘I’m going to spend ten minutes just thinking about you and Jesus’, and I think that’s a brilliant definition of intercessory prayer. You don’t send in your list of requests or bombard God with your demands. You just hold the image and sense of a person or situation in the presence of God as if you want to let the one seep into the other. The bringing together of those two realities in your mind and heart is very much how I find intercession works’.
Of course both Bonhoeffer and Williams’ view of intercessory prayer is based very firmly in Scripture. After all, it was Paul who wrote to the Ephesian church that they should: ‘Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God’s people‘ – Ephesians 6:18.
The incomprehensible events that have unfolded in Norway recently, combined with Paul’s teachings and the reflections of two modern-day theologians, are a reminder for us to all become more dedicated intercessory pray-ers.