School of prayer lesson 6: the power of intercession - 15/06/2011 13.50.23

Thousands of pilgrims and visitors withstood the high midday temperatures in St Peter’s Square this June Wednesday to hear the latest instalment in Pope Benedict XVI’s series of lessons on Christian prayer, this week focusing on the power of intercessory prayer, drawn from the biblical episode of Elijah’s prayer on Mount Carmel.
Thousands of pilgrims and visitors withstood the high midday temperatures in St Peter’s Square this June Wednesday to hear the latest instalment in Pope Benedict XVI’s series of lessons on Christian prayer, this week focusing on the power of intercessory prayer, drawn from the biblical episode of Elijah’s prayer on Mount Carmel.

Drawing from the passage recounted in Kings, Pope Benedict spoke of the prophet’s challenge to the priests of the idol Baal, whom the people of Israel believed to gift rain and fertility for their harvests.

“At a time when the kingdom of Israel saw the spread of Baal-worship and syncretism, Elijah invited the people to renew their covenant with the Lord and to reject every form of idolatry. In the episode of his contest with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (cf. 1 Kg 18), he calls upon Israel to choose the Lord and prays for their conversion of heart. What is more, he urges the people themselves to draw near and share in his prayer”.

“In response to Elijah’s prayer, God reveals his fidelity, mercy and saving power through the consuming fire sent down from heaven. He also enables the people to turn back to him and to reaffirm the covenant made with their fathers”.

In comments in Italian Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the dangers of idolatry present today. He said idolatry is the constant temptation of the believer, who fools himself into believing that he can serve two masters, who tries to serve the Almighty placing his trust in impotent man-made gods. Pope Benedict continued ; “man should worship only God, because there where God disappears, man becomes the slave of idolatry, as shown by the totalitarian regimes in our time, the slave of idolatry and various forms of nihilism that make man an addict to idols and enslave him”.

“The worship of idols instead of opening hearts to otherness that allows us to go out from the narrow horizons of selfishness, closes the person into the exclusive and desperate circle of the search for self."

“As we look to Elijah’s example, let us be ever more convinced of the power of intercessory prayer, so that we can help all people to know the one true God, to turn away from every form of idolatry, and to receive the grace offered to us on the wood of the Cross and in the fire of the Holy Spirit”.

Finally Pope Benedict XVI greeted English speaking pilgrims: “I welcome the members of the Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue and I offer prayerful good wishes for the next phase of their work. I also welcome the Fiftieth Conference of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration, now meeting in Rome. I thank the choirs, and particularly the University Choir from Indonesia, for their praise of God in song. Finally, I greet the delegates to the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Resurrection. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from the Philippines, Canada and the United States, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace".

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