(16) Tertiaries recognise the power of intercessory prayer for furthering the purposes of God’s kingdom, and therefore seek a deepening fellowship with God in personal devotion, and constantly intercede for the needs of his church and his world. Those of us who have much time at our disposal give prayer a large part in our daily lives. Those of us with less time must not fail to see the importance of prayer and to guard the time we have allotted to it from interruption. Lastly, we are encouraged to avail ourselves of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through which the burden of past sin and failure is lifted and peace and hope restored.Prayer may be primarily about deepening our relationship with God, but it can never be only about that. We are called to have Christ-like compassion for the world and so we will inevitably share our concerns with God our Father. That is intercession: the Godward expression of our compassion.
In intercession, we ask God to meet those needs. And we ask him to enable us to meet those needs. There is nothing of the shopping list in this precisely because it is driven by compassion. It certainly bears no relation to the kind of prayer promoted by the peddlers of prosperity theology.
Today’s passage from the Principles underlines the importance of intercessory prayer. And again it points out that the tertiary should be learning to pray constantly. Prayer times are an important part of that, but I need to put the whole of my life in the context of prayer, i.e. in the context of a growing relationship with God.
The passage also mentions sacramental confession. I am still evangelical enough to feel uncomfortable about confession and its trappings. However, that doesn’t let me off the hook: regular serious self-examination is an important aspect of Christian discipleship. The term ‘confession’ suggests an emphasis on the things I have done wrong, and there is clearly a place for acknowledging and turning away from one’s sins, but I wonder if (for the Franciscan particularly) there ought also to be an emphasis on our utter dependence on God.