The Catechism on Petition and Intercession
Prayer of Petition
2629 The vocabulary of supplication in the New Testament is rich in shades of meaning: ask, beseech, plead, invoke, entreat, cry out, even "struggle in prayer."102 Its most usual form, because the most spontaneous, is petition: by prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end. We are sinners who as Christians know that we have turned away from our Father. Our petition is already a turning back to him.
2630 The New Testament contains scarcely any prayers of lamentation, so frequent in the Old Testament. In the risen Christ the Church's petition is buoyed by hope, even if we still wait in a state of expectation and must be converted anew every day. Christian petition, what St. Paul calls "groaning," arises from another depth, that of creation "in labor pains" and that of ourselves "as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved."103 In the end, however, "with sighs too deep for words" the Holy Spirit "helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words."104
2631 The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"105 It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that "we receive from him whatever we ask."106 Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.
2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.107 There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.108 It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.109 By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.
2633 When we share in God's saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.110 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.111
Prayer of Intercession
2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.112 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."113 The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."114
2635 Since Abraham, intercession - asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ's, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.115
2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.116 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel117 but also intercedes for them.118 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: "for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions," for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.119
See Section 4 of the Catechism for more on the topic of prayer.
102 Cf. Rom 15:30; Col 4:12.
103 Rom 8:22-24.
104 Rom 8:26.
105 Lk 18:13.
106 1 Jn 3:22; cf. 1:7-2:2.
107 Cf. Mt 6:10,33; Lk 11:2,13.
108 Cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3.
109 Cf. Rom 10:1; Eph 1:16-23; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:3-6; 4:3-4,12.
110 Cf. Jn 14:13.
111 Cf. Jas 1:5-8; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:16-17; 1 Thess 5:17-18.
112 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.
113 Heb 7:25.
114 Rom 8:26-27.
115 Phil 2:4; cf. Acts 7:60; Lk 23:28,34.
116 Cf. Acts 12:5; 20:36; 21:5; 2 Cor 9:14.
117 Cf. Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thess 5:25.
118 Cf. 2 Thess 1:11; Col 1:3; Phil 1:3-4.
119 2 Tim 2:1; cf. Rom 12:14; 10:1.