The 17th Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John contains what is generally referred to as The Great Intercessory Prayer of Jesus wherein among several petitions he intercedes on behalf of his disciples. To quote: “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours…but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” And in the Apostle Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy we read: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone…so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” And the Early Church followed both Christ’s example and St. Paul’s instruction, for in his letter to the churches of Smyrna St. Ignatius urges the Christians there to pray for other people: “only you must pray to God for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance, which, however, will be very difficult. Yet Jesus Christ, who is our true life, has the power of effecting this.” Therefore, intercessory prayer…the act of praying to God, or a saint, on behalf of others…particularly for healing…is a fundamental and spiritual dimension of our faith and has been since the beginning.
The ministry of Intercessory Prayer at St. Mary’s is richly endowed with the gift and spirit of compassion and healing. In many ways it is a “calling” for those who participate; and for virtually all who do, find it to be life changing experience. Included in these ministries are: The Order of St. Luke the Physician (OSL), Power of Prayer (PoP) Team, Pastoral Care Team, Prayer in the Square, Centering Prayer, and “Comma” Prayer Ministry. The International OSL was founded in 1932 by an Episcopal priest, Fr. John Gaynor Banks, and its ministry is focused primarily with healing, inasmuch as its patron saint, St. Luke, was a physician. Members engage in healing prayer with those who are physically ill, emotionally troubled or in other distress, anointing them in the name of the the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are opportunities for prayers of thanksgiving as well. St. Mary’s OSL team members meet together regularly to study Scripture and engage in prayer. The other four Prayer groups are “home grown” at St. Mary’s parish, giving further witness to the robust prayer life of the parish.
Why is this important and meaningful? First, it is assumed that as Christians we pray. When asked Christ taught the disciples how to pray, not if they should. Scripture contains numerous occasions when Christ prayed, be it in a “deserted place” (Mark 1:35), at dawn, in the evening, at the Last Supper, in Gethsemane. As seen, St. Paul urged the Early Church to pray; and we can see that saints like St. Ignatius followed his instructions. Intercessory Prayer was then and is to this day one of the most important classifications of prayer, particularly when it is applied to healing. The charisms of the Holy Spirit are given for a purpose, and the gift of prayer, and especially healing prayer, are essential to the spiritual vitality and life of the Christian community. St. Mary’s is fortunate to have among its members so many who are called to this ministry. And as consequence, our life together as a parish in many ways emulates the one Christ prayed his disciples would experience…”that they be one, as we are one.”