The following page is taken from the Christ Life Program that is serving the Detroit Area in many Catholic Churches. We happened to choose Alpha, but this is a wonderful explanation!
There are many ways to love one’s neighbor, but intercessory prayer—praying on behalf of other people—has got to be one of the most powerful.
Prayer is the most potent force known to humanity. Because we have been made partakers in Jesus’ victory over sin and death (1 John 4:4), we have the authority as sons and daughters of God to pray for others, pushing back the darkness of sin and oppression. “In prayer, we have a weapon that has divine power to destroy strongholds:” (2 Corinthians. 10:4).
That kind of weaponry— the power of prayer—is something God invites us to use as we seek not only personal transformation but the transformation of the world as well. An intercessor is one who takes up a “burden” that goes far beyond his or her own needs and intentions.
And those who take up the call to intercession come to learn in a deeper way that the sufferings of the present time cannot compare to the joy that will come as God’s purposes unfold. They learn to trust in the Lord, because they have experienced in prayer how infinitely compassionate God is. Intercessors participate in God’s magnificent plan to raise humanity to share in divine life. This insight moves them to engage in a spiritual battle against the forces that seek to destroy God’s plans.
The Letter of James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16), and there is no one more righteous than Jesus—the most powerful intercessor whoever walked the earth. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, rightly declared, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22).
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that because Jesus’ priesthood is eternal, “he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). Imagine that: right now, Jesus is in heaven interceding for you, even as he intercedes for the entire world. He also invites us all to join in his priestly intercession so that a might flood of prayer will ascent to the Father’s throne.
So ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to pray in union with the mind of God. Take to heart St. Pau1’s words. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do no know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit inter- cedes…for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). And above all, ask God to give you confidence that he hears your prayers and longs to answer the deep needs of those around you.