Archbishop's Message

My dear brothers & sisters,

PROPHETIC INTERCESSION

Prophetic Intercession is the need of the hour in our country and throughout the world, so I thought we could begin the New Year 2019 with a reflection on this topic which forms an indispensable part of our Christian life.

I read the book, Prophetic Intercession – A response to the signs of the time by Cyril John (New Delhi: NCO Publications, 2018) released recently. Being one of the most prominent and gifted laymen in our Archdiocese in the field of charismatic renewal Mr. Cyril John does not require any introduction. He is the founder of the Delhi Charismatic and Renewal Services with its headquarters at JeevanJyoti Ashram, Burari and has been directing training courses on intercession in different parts of the world in his capacity as one of the most resourceful leaders of the charismatic renewal movement nationally and internationally. This is his second book on the topic of intercession.

According to Concise Oxford Dictionary, intercession is a “prayer or petition on behalf of another”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “prayer of intercession consists in asking on behalf of another” (CCC 2647). “Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners” (CCC 2634).

The ministry of Jesus started with 40 days of prayer and fasting. It continued to be soaked in prayer. Before choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer (Lk 6:12-13). Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (Lk. 22:31-32). Jesus prayed for more labourers (Mt 9:37-38). He interceded for the whole world and thus for each one of us (Jn 17:6-26). Jesus atoned for the sins of all mankind through his passion and death on the cross (Rom 4:25). That was the greatest act of intercession by Jesus. Even on the cross Jesus prayed for his enemies (Lk 23:34). “But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises” (Heb 8:6). St Paul tells us that Jesus who is seated at the right hand of God is indeed interceding for us (Rom 8:34). This is because he “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).

St. Paul accords top priority to intercession: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim 2:1-2). According to St. Paul everyone is called to intercede. And we are to intercede for everyone. In a special way we are to intercede for those in authority that we may be able to live a life of peace and godliness. If we take this exhortation seriously, we would soon realize the reason why we are not able to live in peace and godliness in the present time. We feel very disturbed to see the decline in faith, perversion, materialism and growing influence of powers of darkness around us. It is because we have failed to take intercession with the seriousness it deserves.

Intercession should be the detonator and the prime mover of all our initiatives. The horse needs to be put before the cart. The success of our ministry will depend on the extent to which we intercede for our projects, programs and the people we reach out to. Pope John Paul II emphasized the role of intercession for effective evangelization: “Prayer should accompany the journey of missionaries so that the proclamation of the Word will be effective through God’s grace” (RedemptorisMissio 78). The greatest need of today is to intercede for the Church and its mission in the world. Something that all of us can do is intercession. And it is the greatest thing that we could do as taught by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

What is prophetic intercession? In intercession we need to keep our eyes fixed on what is moving in the heart of God. The intercessor becomes the trusted aide, the lieutenant of God. Therefore, God reveals His mind to the intercessor. To be prophetic is to interpret what is moving in the heart of God. The Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ when translated literally means ‘spokesperson’. “I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command” (Deut18:18). The prophet actually becomes an intermediary between God and His people. Therefore, we consider a prophet as the one who speaks to people on behalf of God, a spokesperson of God. But the Biblical concept of the prophet is wider. “The Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). The first action by Abraham after the Lord spoke to him was not “prophesying” but interceding for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah under the judgment of God (Gen 18:16-33). Gen 20:7: “…for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live”. It shows that a very important role of the prophet is also to make intercession for the people in accordance with the plan of God. Basically, intercession is one of the important roles of a prophet.

Intercession identifies with the needs and burdens of the people, whereas prophetic intercession identifies with the burdens of the Lord. Prophetic intercession is not coming to the Lord with a prayer list but coming to the Lord to get a prayer list. In prophetic intercession we become like the chisel in the hands of the sculptor. By itself the chisel does nothing, but when the sculptor takes it and uses it left and right, giving it the right direction, the chisel is able to bring out a master piece. So is prophecy on our knees! Therefore, what is meant by prophetic intercession is intercession in conformity with the burdens which are upon God’s heart. For this we need to discern what is moving in the heart of God and regulate our intercession accordingly. This is different from praying a prayer list according to our own understanding of what to pray and how to pray. In other words, in prophetic intercession we invite God to lead and direct our prayers.

The scope and efficacy of prayer gets restricted when it is guided by our own understanding. Fidelity to God’s will is a necessary precondition for the prayers to be answered. “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly…” (Jas 4:3). “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Rev. 4:1). We need to move according to the vision the Lord gives us. The move of the intercessor has to be prophetic. The prophetic vision makes intercession truly missionary. Hence, we have to wait on God to discern His will. God has a definite plan for our intercession – what we should pray for and how we should pray. We should walk into that plan. We need to be appointed by God. We need to move in the power of the Holy Spirit so that He makes use of us in the right way.

In our lives, we are continually surrounded and bombarded by the forces of the world, the flesh and the devil. As a result, it is often difficult for people to be and do good. We need to pray that the walls of corruption, division and disunity in the Church, community and nation be pulled down. There are many needs that could be the object of our prayer! The Lord is looking for people to stand between Him and such walls (ref Ezek 22:30).

The Delhi Diocesan Service Team has been organizing Jericho March every year for seven consecutive months starting from July. About 100 to 140 intercessors volunteer to do the Jericho March each year with lots of spiritual preparation. They begin at 8 am in the morning in the Cathedral premises starting with confession and the Holy Eucharist. Thereafter, the participants board two or three buses and travel around the city singing, praising and intercession through the Holy Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, litany to all saints, stations of the cross, etc. During the Jericho Prayer they pray for the Church, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the nation and the city. They conclude the Jericho Prayer at about 5.30 pm with a prayer of thanksgiving at the Cathedral premises from where they started. Each year the Jericho Prayer concludes in the eighth month with 40 hours-adoration and intercession by the participants.

In Acts 12:1-19 we find that when Peter was in prison the whole church prayed day and night for him. It is encouraging to find that there is a growing enthusiasm today among Christians to pray for others. Let us, therefore, put our priorities right. Let us start praying for all in authority – in political,secular and spiritual leadership – and for the whole world.It is a praying Church that is going to make the difference!

May 2019 testify to the power of prayer in our life, individually and collectively.


Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi