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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
32- Examples of Intercession
(3) God requests people to ask the intercession of the righteous
God Himself asks that, accepts it and paves the way for it to happen. I will give you some examples of such intercessions that God accepted:
(a) The story of our Father Abraham and King Abimelech. Abimelech made a mistake and took Sarah, Abraham's wife, into his palace. He did so with a clear conscience because Abraham said that she was his sister. The Lord came to Abimelech in a dream, threatened him with death and said to him: "Now therefore, restore the man's wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live" (Gen.20: 7). God could have forgiven Abimelech as soon as he returned Sarah to her husband. However, He put a condition for His forgiveness: Abimelech would be forgiven and would live provided that Abraham would pray for him. Thus God asked for the intercession of Abraham and made it a condition for forgiving Abimelech.
(b) The story of Job and his three friends. In the same way, the Lord conditioned the intercession and prayer of Job for his three friends so that He would forgive them. Concerning this, the Holy Bible says: "...the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly' " (Job.42: 7,8).
In both events God Himself spoke to the erring person. However, He did not grant him forgiveness directly but conditioned the forgiveness to the prayer of the saint for the sinner so that the sinner might receive forgiveness and the saint would be venerated in the eyes of people. God not only accepts this mediation but rather asks for it.
(c) The intercession of Abraham for Sodom. God could have punished Sodom without letting Abraham know about the matter. Abraham did not intervene on his own accord, but the Lord revealed the matter to him, involved him in it, gave him an opportunity to plead for the people of Sodom and accepted his intercession. God willed that this event be recorded to exalt Abraham in the eyes of all people and to show us how He venerates His saints. The Holy Bible says: "And the Lord said,
'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing' " (Gen.18: 17). Then the Lord presented to Abraham the subject of Sodom, gave him the opportunity to intercede for its people in the hope that there existed in the Country fifty or forty or thirty or twenty or ten righteous persons for whose sake the Lord would not destroy the whole Country.
The mere fact that the Lord would not destroy the Country for the sake of the righteous who lived in it gives us an idea not only of Abraham's dignity but also of the dignity of those righteous in front of the Lord. The Lord said: "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes... If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it... I will not do it for the sake of forty... I will not do it if I find thirty there... I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty... I will not destroy it for the sake of ten" (Gen.18: 26-32).
The phrase 'for the sake of" has its divine value which signifies that God saves persons for the sake of others and it is also a clear proof of the mediation of the righteous for the sake of sinners. The Lord accepts this mediation without the beneficiaries asking for it.
(d) The intercession of Moses for the people of Israel.
God willed to destroy the people because they worshipped the golden calf. Yet He did not do it directly but revealed the matter to Moses the Prophet, gave him a chance to intercede for the people and accepted his intercession.
In the same way that Abraham said to God: "Far be it from You", Moses said to Him: "Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self. " Then the Bible says: "So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people" (Ex.32: 7-14).
(e) The departed have greater favour with God. The above are examples of prayers of living persons for the sake of living persons. As for the departed, they have greater favour with God to the extent that He has mercy on people for their sake even without them praying. How much more then if they do pray for someone?
Examples of this are the merciful and compassionate works God did for the sake of His servant David. When Solomon sinned, God decided to tear his kingdom away from him, but He said about the division of the kingdom: "Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen" (1Kin. 11: 12,13).
The Lord repeated the same words in His speech to Jeroboam: "Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you (but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel). However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes" (1Kin.11: 31,32,34).
In one chapter the Lord repeats the phrase 'for the sake of My servant David" three times. That is why the Psalmist prayed to Him, saying: "For Your servant David's sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed" (Ps. 132: 10).
If David has such favour with God, how much more has the Virgin Mary, the angels, John the Baptist who is the greatest born of women, and the martyrs who were tortured and tasted death for the sake of the Lord?
Therefore, since we ask the prayers of our fellows on earth, why do we not ask the prayers of those whom "shine like the brightness of the firmament" (Dan.12: 3)? And why do we not ask the prayers of those who fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith (2Tim:4: 7)?
If intercession, which is prayer, is considered mediation, and if every mediation is unacceptable, then every man's prayer for the sake of another is an unacceptable mediation since we have only one Mediator!
In refusing the mediation in prayers, on the pretext that the relationship between God and man is a direct one which in the Divine love does not need the prayers of others, then the Apostle would be wrong (far from it) in saying, "pray for one another" (Jas.5: 16)!
Accordingly, prayers for the sake of others which are mentioned in the Holy Bible are meaningless and not in accord with the Divine love!
Because God loves people, He does not need others to pray to Him for the sake of His children to remind Him of His Providence and Paternal love!
Those who think in this way misunderstand the Divine design when God asked Abimelech to let Abraham pray for him (Gen.20: 7) and when He asked Job's friends to let Job pray for them (Job.42: 8).
The prayers of men for each other (whether they have departed or are still striving in the flesh) is a manifestation of the mutual love which exists between humans; a proof of man's belief that those who have departed are still living and that their prayers are accepted by God, and an indication that God venerates His saints.
God permits intercession for the benefit of men and this intercession rears a bridge between the inhabitants of heaven and those on earth, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. Heaven is no longer an unknown and frightful place to people but they have come to believe in the work and love of the saints' souls.
The following are important questions frequently asked by those who deny intercession:
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