Ash Wednesday has come and gone. And I have to admit that I am not very good at Lent.
I never miss an Ash Wednesday Mass, and I have no problem walking around with ashes on my forehead. I readily answer questions about why my head is dirty, and I even posted an #AshTag selfie on Facebook. But I am far too often like the seeds that fall amid the thorns, and the “cares of the world” overtake me and “choke the word” so that it bears little fruit (see Matthew 13:1-23). My intentions are good, but my persistence is weak, and I let the busyness of my life distract me from the path to greater holiness.
So I would very much like to grow spiritually through the spiritual and penitential practices of Lent. Last year, I tried something new, and I found that it bore fruit. So I’m going to try it again this year. During Lent, I’m going to dedicate myself to intercessory prayer, praying for other people who are in need, particularly if they have nobody else to pray for them.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis had this to say:
One form of prayer moves us particularly to take up the task of evangelization and to seek the good of others: it is the prayer of intercession…. The great men and women of God were great intercessors. Intercession is like a “leaven” in the heart of the Trinity. It is a way of penetrating the Father’s heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them. We can say that God’s heart is touched by our intercession, yet in reality he is always there first. What our intercession achieves is that his power, his love and his faithfulness are shown ever more clearly in the midst of the people. (281-83)
So I’ve asked people to send me names of people whom they would like me to pray for, and I’m keeping a list on my phone. Every day, when I say my morning prayers, I go through the list and pray by name for each of the people and for their needs.
Now, I don’t think that I have any kind of special pull with the Lord, or that my prayers jump to the front of the line, or that I think I deserve any special credit for this. Intercessory prayer has been a practice among God’s people stretching all the way back to Abraham. It’s part of every Mass, and we do it every time we ask our Father to “give us today our daily bread” and Mary to “pray for us sinners”.
But I have a sense that this is what God wants me to focus on this Lent. I’ve been feeling a desire in my heart to pray for others, and I’ve always trusted those feelings as promptings by the Spirit or subtle nudging by my Guardian Angel.
And so, that’s my Lenten mission — to pray for others. If anyone out there has a prayer intention, feel free to email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And perhaps you could say a prayer for me, too.