PARADOXICAL

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

 

Intercessory prayer, 2


Yesterday over confession, I asked the priest a question I've long been harboring in my heart: "Why is it that, whenever I pray for other people's concerns (often, serious ones), I inevitably suffer, I become spiritually weak right after? I feel physically drained, mysteriously get sad/depressed, and feel weak in the face of temptation?" The priest/confessor reacted by saying reflexively, "How can that be, that is not supposed to happen!" When we pray for others, he said, we are refreshed. "It's like water flows from God through us. You must be blocking the grace of God (with sin)." I thought that, in a way, he was right, but I think he didn't get my point entirely.

In the mix of earnestness and a little bit of confusion, I forgot to cite the familiar Biblical scenes where Jesus is unduly alarmed by someone who dared touch (without permission) the hem of his robe, ostensibly for healing. One passage (Mark 5:25-30) notes that Jesus felt some power was being drawn from him. Because power, in the lingo of physics, can neither be created nor destroyed, just being transformed from one energy to the next, it’s logical to assume that Jesus was somewhat drained of some precious energy. Like certain batteries, he must have just come from an evangelization work, he was dead-tired, and he needed to recharge. He felt somewhat weakened by the intrusive touch, not because he had sinned and thus was “blocking the grace of God” somewhere, but because life-sustaining energy was being drawn from his human persona.

I thought that, in the same vein, I don’t feel weakened post-intercessory prayer because I was blocking God’s grace somewhere, insulating myself from the circuit, so to speak; I feel weak because someone else partook of something that's left in me but only enough to sustain me spiritually and physically. Maybe I should recharge more often, especially after interceding for others, but that’s beside the point.

This thought is quite disturbing to me because it implies to me that God’s grace has a physical quality – it follows the law of thermodynamics, and thus must be handled like physical energy – transferable, diminishable/exhaustible, in someone who serves/offers it others as its conduit ("channel of grace").

The bad part is, this thought has made me somewhat afraid whenever a friend asks me to pray for him or her for this and that grave concern. I know it’s not my own power I’ve giving away, but that’s exactly what I’m driving at. I need to keep a part of that energy I’ve stored up (from my own spiritual diligence, say) for my own sake/survival. It seems selfish, but self-sustenance is selfish? I don’t know. I’m just trying get real because, unlike monks and nuns, I find it hard to set aside extra time to constantly recharge/reenergize my batteries. In faith, I believe that with every intercession, I store treasures in heaven, but I could use some of that energy for myself if I am to survive from day to day.

I'd like to assure everyone that this fear certainly does not prevent me from accepting future requests to intercede for anybody. I just thought that maybe, with things cleared up a bit, an intercessor would know what to do, which precautions need to be taken the next time someone dares touch the hem of his or her robe.

Mark 5:25-30:

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to him,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, Who touched me?”
And he looked around to see who had done it.


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