Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Intercessory Prayer

In his book, Love's Endeavor, Love's Expense, W.H. Vanstone writes of the work of the Church as nothing more or less than an offering to God. Then he goes on to look at some instances of this. The section below comes as Vanstone looks at our prayers for others as an offering, comparing the work of praying for another to a spectator cheering on someone involved in a feat of atheletic prowess, such as mountain climbing. We cheer then with great sympathy on account of the precariousness of the situation. He writes,
Intercession is felt to be appropriate, and indeed, to be a duty; yet on certain interpretations of the activity of God and of the nature of the Church, it is a duty which can not be easily explained or justified. If the purpose of God proceeds by assured programme, and if the Church is no more than the instrument of that programme, intercession can effect nothing and can be no more than an expression of resignation.

If on the other hand, the activity of God is precarious creativity, ever poised between tragedy and triumph, ever redeeming tragedy into triumph; and if the Church is responsive offering to God; then the intercession of the Church is the offering of its own will to participate, to uphold, to support.

We are moved to intercession by tragedy or the possibility of tragedy: by that which has "come wrong" or is in danger of "coming wrong." We presuppose that this is the situation in which the activity of love will be strained to the greatest intensity, in which love can discover yet further resources only because it must. We are as men watching the most precarious stage of a rescue or a mountain climb, or the supreme effort of an artist or athelete. We have no power to give practical help: he who struggles must struggle in his own strength. Yet the will to help and uphold is strong in us. It demands expression: and it finds expression in the movement of our lips and the involuntary tension of our own limbs. The will is stirred in us by our perception of the peculiar intensity of another's effort: it is his endeavor, even morethan to his cause, that our will responds. Where the progress of his cause is relatively easy, we who watch relax: it is when he is strained and spent that our will is stirred.

We are moved to intercession to the degree that, at the point of tragedy or potential tragedy, we understand the intensity of the divine self-giving: and if our intercession is feeble or infrequent, it is because of the feebleness or failure of our understanding. We are assisted in prayer by imaginative sympathy with the person for whom we pray or the situation about which we pray: we are assisted yet more by understanding of that divine activity which is expended upon that person or that situation, of the extremity and costliness of its endeavour.

The intercession of the Church expesses our understanding of how costly a thing we are asking when we say, "Thy will be done."


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