Jane E. Vennard is ordained to a special ministry of teaching and spiritual direction in the United Church of Christ. She is senior adjunct faculty at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. In addition to her work there, she is a spiritual director in private practice, teaches classes in a variety of ecumenical settings, and leads retreats across the nation.
This fine book explores many different dimensions of intercessory prayer. Vennard states:
"Our prayers do not bring God's love to the other, for God's love is always present and God is always waiting for people to respond. Our prayers do not force God to do anything to another. Our prayers lower the wall, so that people can experience what is already there. As the wall comes down, people might become more aware of God's love, more open to God's love, more willing to receive God's love."
In a chapter on "The Theology of Intercessory Prayer," the author takes a hard look at our assumptions about God's power, love, and proximity to us. People need to take into their hearts the fact that God needs us to reach out to others as Her partners. This can be done as individuals or in community. Vennard challenges us to see how both the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith serve as guides to our intercessory prayer for friends and for enemies. The latter is especially difficult. Here is an exercise the author suggests:
"Remember an enemy toward whom your heart has softened. Recall the situation, the person's behavior, attitude, words. Look deep within yourself to explore the enemy within. What aspects of the other person are yours as well? How was that person a mirror of your own personality? See if you are willing to take your discoveries to God in prayer."
In her discussion of the process of intercessory prayer, Vennard explores obstacles, the need for persistence, and surrender to God. Praying for others places the Divine in the center of our concerns and lowers our threshold to the divine entry. Our hearts are opened as we become more compassionate. The effects of intercessory prayer are growth in patience, gratitude, and solidarity with others.
In a closing chapter on the practice of intercessory prayer, Vennard suggests prayers for those who have died, for specific people, for the world, for our leaders, for the earth, and more.