“They went to the upper room. … All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:13-14).
Prayer and intercession are indispensable components of the new evangelization, since God the Holy Spirit is the principal agent for unleashing the Gospel. Prayer is the way we access the unlimited divine power of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. The main reason Synod 16 was itself an experience of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit was that it was preceded by a whole year of fervent prayer.
The Star of Evangelization
As at the first Pentecost, still today, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of the Apostles, leads us in prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit and inspires us with a sure confidence that the Lord hears and will not fail to answer. Mary was the very first person to proclaim the good news of Christ, when she welcomed his presence within her through the Holy Spirit and went in haste to share the good news with her cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1:35-40). Since then she has continued to help and guide the Church’s mission through her powerful intercession. Her appearance as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 led to one of the most fruitful harvests of evangelization in history. Let us call upon her intercession that the Lord may bring about an unprecedented harvest in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The Role of Intercessors
“Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).
Intercession has always been the hidden engine of the Church’s mission. It is not by accident that the co-patrons of the missions are St. Francis Xavier, who traveled as far as Japan to preach the Gospel, and St. Thérèse the Little Flower, who spent her entire adult life in a cloistered convent, offering all her prayers and sufferings for missionaries around the world. Intercessory prayer cultivates the soil for the sowing of the Word. It can stir up spiritual hunger in a whole city or region, so that the hearts of even those who are far from God are prepared to hear the Gospel when it is preached to them. Those who are suffering, especially, should never feel they are useless to the Church’s mission. In fact, they have a unique capacity to empower evangelization by offering their sufferings in union with Christ, and praying for the grace of conversion for those who are being evangelized.
One way to avail ourselves of the power of intercession is for each parish to form an intercessory prayer team which is regularly informed of the parish’s evangelistic initiatives, prays specifically for their success, and receives regular updates on how their prayers are being answered.
Victory over Spiritual Opposition
The Church’s mission has never been carried out without opposition — sometimes cultural, social, or governmental, but always spiritual. “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12). We need not be afraid, since we know who has already won the victory. But we do need to arm ourselves for spiritual combat, recognizing that “Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The faithful need help in understanding how to resist the evil one, exercising the authority they have in Christ. We must use all the weapons the Church has given us: prayer, especially the rosary, Scripture, the sacraments, and sacramentals such as holy water. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8).
To read more of the archbishop’s letter, or to catch up on sections you’ve missed, visit www.unleashthegospel.org.
Why is intercessory prayer important to the work of evangelization? What can we do to resist the evil one in the work ahead of us?