Intercession Confusion

Photo Credit: smif via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: smif via Compfight cc

I was a young protestant in a Catholic school. One day, I went to a priest and asked, “Why do you Catholics have to pray to Mary and the saints? Why not just pray directly to God?”

He answered, “Oh we don’t really HAVE to pray to them. And you’re right, we CAN pray directly to God, but you know, it’s like sometimes when you have a favor to ask someone and you can’t ask them directly, so you try to talk to people who are closer to that person than you are — well, it’s sort of like that. We ask Mary and the saints to intercede, to ask, on our behalf because they are, in a sense, closer to God than we are.”

I never did understand that explanation. Is there some sort of palakasan (a system of who has the stronger connections) in heaven? Does God unfairly show more favor to some than to others?

Years later, as an active member of our church, I would join prayer meetings (the least attended church activity all week) and the pastor would lament that very few people took time to intercede on others behalf. I would often wonder, what if the prayer meeting was jam-packed? What if 300 people were praying for Mrs. So-and-so’s cancer to be healed or Mr. So-and-so’s blood sugar levels to go down, would God have been more inclined and moved to do something about it than if it had only been 10 people asking? Is that how this thing works? Is God merely waiting for how many people have “liked” or shared that facebook status before he does something?

In fact, why would God, who supposedly sees and knows everything (even before they happen), have to rely on our intercessory prayers in order to act?

If I had the means to cure cancer, I would surely try to share and get that information out to as many people as possible, even without anyone telling me to do so. You don’t even have to get my mother to convince me to do it.

It bothers me that I have to ask God to do something that he should have known (and done) in the first place.

Ah but here’s the kicker, the Christian defense – “but you DON’T know. You DON’T know that lowering his blood sugar will actually be good for him. You DON’T know that taking the cancer away is the BEST thing to happen. It may be what is bringing that person’s family closer together as they try to help each other resolve this crisis.”

All right, that’s fine, but it also makes intercessory prayer totally useless. Why should I keep praying for this and that to happen when clearly, I don’t know squat about what’s going to happen? Why bother interceding? Just hope for the best, then.

I wasn’t an agnostic then at this point. I still believed in prayer, but I became convinced that it was useless to utter prayers where you asked for this or that — it didn’t matter if you asked for yourself or in behalf of others — because clearly, what was going to happen was going to happen anyway, and if I believed that God knows what’s best for us humans, then what’s going to happen is THE best thing that can happen regardless of how awful and tragic it may seem at the moment. I became convinced that the only prayer worth uttering was one of gratitude, whatever the circumstances.

Why put yourself through the emotional roller-coaster ride that comes with asking and asking with faith, convincing yourself that if you believe hard enough, you’ll get what you ask, and then getting disappointed anyway? Why not just accept that everything that happens, well, happens and we make do, or we make the best out of it.

I no longer pray, whether for myself or for others. What for? I just live, enjoy the company of my family and friends, and accept whatever comes my way.

There is no better way to live.

 Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Violent Reactions? Send me an email at andy@freethinking.me. View past articles at www.freethinking.me.

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One thought on “Intercession Confusion”

  1. Man o man. Here i thought we were going to agree a lot on this one. Groimg up catholic, i never really got prayimg to mary or the saints. I didn’t buy the priests’ explanations either. It was until i was older that i was actually disgusted by the idea. God is never too busy to listen.
    I dont care for the type of intercessory prayer you described either. My understanding is that prayers are not for asking for stuff from a wishlist. Prayer is for building a relationship with my Creator. If your child only spoke to you when they wanted something, that would not make for a good relationship. When i pray, i acknowledge who God is. He already knows what i want and why i want it. He knows how my day went. I tell Him anyway. It is how people build relationships. I also, since it is a relationship, which requires dialog, i listen to Him. If someone has cancer, sure, i will ask that the cancer be healed. You shouldn’t complain if you don’t get what you didn’t ask for. When friends’ parents die, i tell them then i pray for them that they will use this as a time to realize how close God is to them, to let this be a time when they feel His presence, and use it as an opportunity to draw closer to Him. The spirtual healing is always better than physical.
    And there is a better way to live. I have lived your way, and mu biggest regret is that i didn’t get away from ot sooner, bit it does allow me to relate to people in your mindset better than if I got away sooner or never did it.

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