Pope points to Moses as model of intercessory prayer

Pope Benedict XVI said at the June 1 general audience that intercessory prayer helps us to grow in deeper knowledge of God and his mercy and makes us more capable of loving others in a self-sacrificial way.

Drawing upon the life of Moses, the Pope told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square that the Old Testament prophet not only led his people out of slavery in Egypt but also gave them and us an example of how to offer prayers of intercession.

“Even when the people at Sinai, asked Aaron to make the golden calf, Moses prays, and this is very emblematic of his role as intercessor.”

The Pope identified various aspects of the intercessory prayer of Moses we can learn from. The first he named was fasting, just as Moses did for 40 days on Mount Sinai. 

“The act of eating, in fact, involves taking the food that sustains us, so fasting, giving up food is, in this case, of religious significance: it is a way to indicate that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

“In fasting, Moses shows he is waiting for the gift of God's law as a source of life: it will reveals God’s will and nourish the human heart, making him enter into a covenant with the Almighty that the source of life: it is Life itself!”

A second lesson to intercessory prayer we can learn from Moses, the Pope said, was his openness to the will of God, as opposed to bending God to our will. This, he noted, is what the Israelites did in making an idol of a golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai. 

“This is a constant temptation in the path of faith - to circumvent building according to Divine providence” and instead create “a god which is understandable, relevant to their plans, their own projects.”

Thirdly, the prayerful reaction of Moses to the infidelity of his people and the wrath of God highlights both the seriousness of sin and the mercy of God.

Pope Benedict recounted how “Moses intercedes for his people, fully acknowledging the gravity of their sin.  He also pleads with God to remember his mercy, to forgive their sin and thus to reveal his saving power.”

“Moses’ prayer of petition is an expression of God’s own desire for the salvation of his people and his fidelity to the covenant.”

His reaction also shows that intercessory prayer expands the human heart towards both God and man, the Pope explained. “Love of the brethren and love of God pervade the prayer of intercession, and are inseparable.”

Pope Benedict said that this bond can be seen in the person of “Moses the intercessor” who is “a man stretched between two loves, which overlap in prayer in a single desire to do good.”

The Pope finished his reflection by saying that the intercessory prayer of Moses points us in a particular direction – Jesus Christ. 

“Moses points beyond himself to that perfect intercessor who is Jesus, the Son of God, who brings about the new and eternal covenant in his blood, shed for the forgiveness of sin and the reconciliation of all God’s children.”

Today’s address was the fifth Wednesday audience delivered by Pope Benedict on the topic of prayer. His previous theme – the lives of the saints – took two years to complete.

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