What we pray for (and against) reveals some of our deepest desires and commitments – at least that is what I have been pondering lately.
Today at Mass, in a parish I was visiting, the intercessions brought this home to me very concretely. The intercessions opened with a prayer for Pope Benedict and for the local bishop. We then prayed for the unborn, and for the very sick and aged, that they would be allowed to die naturally. We concluded with a prayer for the living and deceased of a particular group, for whom ‘this Mass was being offered up.’ Not that there are problems with any of the concerns voiced in these intercessions; I united my own prayers without difficulties with those of the assembly. Rather, the point is the different kinds of concerns voiced in this parish from the ones I hear routinely in my own community (both parishes are in the same city).
My own community as often as not will voice the city’s heartaches in intercessions: the plight of the homeless and of those out of work or the suffering of those affected by the increase in violent crime. And especially during the open intercessions, one might hear people “balance out” – for lack of a better term – the community’s prayers. I remember, for example, how a prayer for the men and women in uniform was followed by a prayer for all the victims of violent, military intervention.
The point of all this is not that some intercessions have more right to be prayed than others. My point simply is that our intercessions reveal who we are and what we passionately care about. What will those who come to our liturgies as strangers learn about us, how will they “know” us, by our intercessions?