The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were "put in charge of many things" (Mt 25:23). Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.
So why bother to ask others – in heaven or on earth, for that matter – to take up my intentions? Why are we commanded to confess our sins and to pray for one another (James 5:16), and why do the prayers of the saints ascend to the throne of God (Rev 8:4), if each believer has within himself the power to get everything he needs directly from the throne of grace?
Could the answer be . . . because we are a Body? Because the God who created us, made us to be in relationship with one another? When Jesus returned to heaven, He did not leave behind a book but a group of men to guide His Church. And when He spoke of being the Vine (John 15:5), He said that those who continued to “abide in me” would bear “much fruit.”
The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men."197 The Church's first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men's communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues";198 at the same time, the Church is the "sign and instrument" of the full realization of the unity yet to come. (CCC #775).
“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time...waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me."
When we lose sight of this, we begin to serve the “God of the Gumball Machine”: put in a prayer, get out what we want. A deeply felt sense of failure washes over some Christians when they ask God for a specific intention, and the answer is not what they’d hoped. Some see it as a signal to pray even harder . . . or to give up altogether, as though the battle has no intrinsic value.
"Pray constantly . . . always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father." (1 Thes 5:17) St. Paul adds, "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints." (Eph 6:18) For "we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing." (Evagrius Ponticus, Pract. 49: PG 40, 1245C.) This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer.