St. Monica, like many mothers, spent much time on her knees in prayer. Monica was married to a man who was not a Christian. But she was very faithful. Much of her prayer was on behalf of her son, Augustine. Augustine was a very intelligent young man. He had a bright future ahead of him in philosophy. The sky seemed to be the limit for the talented Augustine. But his life was falling apart. Augustine had all sorts of moral problems. His relationships were not positive ones. He was unsatisfied with life. He had no firm goals for the future. He seemed adrift. Throughout this struggle, his mother Monica interceded for him.
Intercession might be the most popular of prayers. But often times, intercession is misunderstood. Intercession can often times be an attempt at manipulating God. Do you think that it is possible for you to pray a prayer formula just so, that you can get God to do what you want? There are prayer books that promise a certain amount of time out of purgatory if certain prayers are said in a certain way. While there are prayers that have been warmly encouraged by Marian and saint apparitions, such as the Rosary, it is hardly correct to view them as an automatic ticket to heaven. Likewise, there are many litanies and devotions that, while being wonderful expressions of genuine faith and doctrine, are sold as automatic movers of the Divine Will. They aren’t. Burying St. Joseph upside down in your backyard won’t get you to the home sale closing any faster, either. That’s superstition.
What is intercession, then, if not a binding of God’s will to move in a certain direction? Intercession, rather, is bringing our will in line with God’s will. Intercession is when we unite our heart with God’s heart. This is what St. Monica did. She had to pray for many, many years on behalf of her son, Augustine, before his heart changed. God can only move when hearts are united in truth and love. Our desire to pray for each other is a movement of heartfelt love that unites. Intercession moves hearts and wills together. Praying for one another unifies people, and invites God to come into the situation. When this happens, God can powerfully intercede for us.
Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayer the way that we think He should. This is perfectly fine, because our motives for intercessory prayer should not be a demand placed on God. It is not as if we are holding anything over God’s head! God is God! Still, we should honestly, persistently, and passionately pray for each other. All of this should be done in the knowledge that God loves us and knows us best. He will make all things work for our good. Intercession should not end in our becoming bitter or separated from God. Rather, it needs to be patient, like Monica. Prayer needs to trust that God is working out all things to good. Even when the good thing we ask for doesn’t happen, we need to ask to see God’s greater plan in all things.
This has an obvious connection to vocations. If we are praying to be one in heart with Jesus Christ, wouldn’t we want to be open to His calling? If we want to follow His vocational path for our lives, we must be patient and trusting. We must listen. We cannot attempt to manipulate God, for in the end, we are only playing games with ourselves. Be aware that there are many people who are sending up fervent prayers to God for more priests, religious, deacons, and holy marriages. Maybe their prayers are trying to find a home in your heart. Maybe God is moving all of us for an increase in vocational discernment. I certainly pray that is the case!