Persistent Petitions: The Blessings of Intercessory Prayer
BOOK PICK: ‘Unleashing the Power of Intercessory Prayer’
Unleashing the Power of Intercessory Prayer
By Joseph Hollcraft
Foreword by Dan Burke
Sophia Institute Press, 2020
160 pages; $14.95
To order: SophiaInstitute.com or (800) 888-9344
Has anyone asked you to pray for them, especially for some specific intention? Maybe the person is seeking for healing from a health problem, or is searching for a suitable job or even a mate for marriage. Maybe you are praying for the conversion of a family member gone astray. Maybe you wonder how you should pray for particular intentions. And if you see no answer on the horizon, do you wonder why your prayer doesn’t seem to be heeded?
Author Joseph Hollcraft answers those questions and more as he gives a detailed, highly readable account of — as the title of his book promises — Unleashing the Power of Intercessory Prayer. He does so with nine principle keys that contain 26 tips, every one of them easy to understand.
The keys include praying with humility as the fountainhead, praying in friendship with Christ, praying in thanksgiving and praise of God, and praying with Mary. These might seem obvious, but Hollcraft highlights many details and presents several pointers that will undoubtedly strengthen one’s intercessory prayers.
For those who might feel frustrated that their intercessions for others or their family and even themselves are not effective, he counsels, “As we intercede on behalf others, we need to stand firm in trust because … God does not always respond to our intercessory petitions with a ‘yes’ but sometimes with a ‘no’ or ‘not yet.’ In God, there is no indecisiveness — even His ‘not yet’ is what is decisive to his infinite plan. Turning this idea inside out, we could assert that God always says ‘yes’ to what is suitable for out salvation, but we hear it as a ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ because we do not always understand God’s infinite design for the salvation of souls. For many of us, myself included, we would love a Post-it note from God explaining the meaning of our (supposedly) unanswered prayers. Instead, he asks us to trust in His word and to persevere with a steadfast heart (see James 1:4).”
With insights like these, the author helps dispel doubt. While several times his “keys” seem obvious, they are really necessary major markers along the path of intercessory prayer that most might ignore and that even those regularly imploring intercessors will find as handy reminders. Added to this are surprising highlights that have biblical roots, as the author relates.
Several insights include the Latin or Greek roots of words from Scripture that become like intense searchlight beams lighting up the deeper meaning of the idea. Some Hebrew words get the same treatment. For example, as the author brings to light, “In James 5:1, the Greek world for ‘prayer,’ deomai, translates as ‘a begging that arises from union with God.’” In another instance, we learn, “‘Joy’ and ‘grace’ share the same Greek root, charis.”
One of the positive features of the book appears in the way most of its sections begin with a short real-life incident, usually from the life of the author, to engage readers in seeing how the key or tip about to be explained has real roots in daily life. In one incident, Hollcraft shows the positive results of his broad prayer that came at the same time a friend’s very specific prayer sought the same intention. “Don’t be generic before God!” he advises. “He desires to know the details of what is in our hearts — this is not for His sake (he already knows the details) but for ours. As a father, I rejoice when my child is detailed in his requests.”
At the same time, these anecdotes help readers see such prayer should never be dry and emotionless.
Instead, “Enthusiasm is a flare of grace-filled joy,” emphasizes the author. “Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a strong light, and a grace that dispels darkness.”
Among the 26 important tips is the one to take petitions to Mass, which he even teaches his young children to do. At Mass, we place petitions confidently on the altar with trust that God will answer our prayers according to his holy will.
For each key, the chapter also contains a “Key Patron” saint who exemplified that particular way to pray.
Hollcraft calls the last key “the one that lies at the heart of the Gospel” — to “Pray with Mary.” He details how the first miracle Jesus performed was at the request of his Mother Mary. We learn the great power of the Memorare, as he beautifully explains the connection between this prayer and intercessory prayer. And, of course, he also encourages praying the Rosary. As the author puts simply, “We ask people whom we perceive are close to Jesus to pray for us. Could we find anyone closer to Jesus than Mary? When we pray with Mary, we pray with Christ, for their intentions are one and the same.” This section on the Rosary would have benefited from more details, but, nonetheless, sparkling gems like this one about the Rosary make this book an inspiration.