This is not a thorough or careful treatment of this question, but rather a meditation. And by meditation, I’m afraid I mean “steam of consciousness”.
Faithful Roman Catholics pray and ask Mary, the mother of Christ (most likely awaiting the resurrection) to pray for them “now and at the hour of our death”.
Some people even in the modern age will gain audience with a person known to be “close to God” or possibly just “spiritual” and ask them to pray for them.
If the Pope prays for you, that’s good right? But is it any better than your grandma praying for you? If not, then who cares?
Other Christians teach that fasting or unusual persistence will give you “power” with God. How this is different than the prophets of Baal cutting themselves in the showdown with Elijah is unclear, but it’s a fairly prevalent idea, both in modern renewal movements and among some of the church fathers.
In the final chapter of the book of Job, Job’s three friends make sacrifices to God and ask Job to pray for them. In fact, God commands them to do this and ask Job to pray for them, because God is going to listen to Job’s intercession and not theirs. Job is functioning as a priest for them in this case.
And of course the Levitical priests in the Old Testament had a special function. They really did communicate to God in certain ways that the average Joe could not do. Their role was formal, but it was truly priestly. They were gatekeepers to heavenly communication, though they were bound by the law to help facilitate all who approached. They were not supposed to be filters.
But now, in the New Testament, Post-Jesus, what do we see? Is this still the case? Does it matter at all WHO prays for you? Does God hear the prayers of one person louder than another? The typcical modern Evangelical answer is “OF COURSE NOT!”. What a silly idea. We are all absolutely equal. Men and women. (Imported from the secular feminist movement.) Old and young (Imported from every youth rebellion ever.) Jew and Gentile, Slave and Free, Poor and Billionaire, Israeli and Greek and Roman and Brazillian and Canadian. We all be God’s children and God be everywhere, and He be listening to us, so enough with this nonsense of Him hearing one person more than another, or paying attention to one person more than another. The (gospel?) has leveled the playing field to the consistency of a shiny tabletop. There is a good reason why most post-reformation ministers (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc.) were no longer named “priests”. We are all priests, all of us, and only one step away from Jesus, rather than 2 steps. So when we pray, it’s got just as much power or ear as Mother Theresa or Pope Francis, or the holy magical hermit of your choice or even the dead famous saint of your choice. Boom! We’re all equal now ’cause Jesus. Everyone’s cell phone on earth has 4 bars.
But, is this really in line with what we find in scripture? Is it really in line with what we still teach (theologically, implied in catechism, today)? Is it really in line with what we seem to find in reality?
As much as we might profess (or formally “confess”), it seems like the state of the matter is otherwise. God maybe hears some people more than others. Is this just an illusion – projection – our own faulty interpretation of events? Perhaps, but if God listened to Job and NOT to Eliphaz back then, what about now? If Paul’s hankerchief had magic powers, what about my hankerchief? No? Why not!? I thought we were all equal?
Is there any value in having the pastor pray for you, versus having your friend pray for you, OR you just asking yourself? Isn’t God listening equally to all three people? Is any one of them automatically more persuasive?
I don’t have a real solid answer to this, though I can say that I nonetheless lean in an Evangelical (personal) direction on this entire discussion. But this does strike at the heart of what the Christian life and Christian faith look like on the ground level – in the dirt itself. How you answer the question “Does God actually listen to some people more than others?” has real implications in a number of areas of life.
I’ve heard it said by some people attempting to rid prayer of any semblance of magic, that prayer is actually just for US, for the one praying, and not for God. It changes OUR hearts (like cardiovascular exercise) but doesn’t actually move the unmovable, unchangable God. But it doesn’t take a genius or a Ph.D. to scoff at this statement and come to the obvious conclusion of “well, what’s the freakin’ point then?” I don’t think this is a foolish question showing an obvious lack of trust in the Triune God. Maybe it’s just the completely rational response of a very faithful person who suspects he’s being taught a bunch of B.S.
You know what I think might, JUST MIGHT, be a more honest answer to this question? “Yes“. God does actually pay attention to some people more than others. At least sort of. And it’s OK. He can do that if He wants to.
He actually pays special attention to a husband’s prayers about his wife, rather than prayers from some guy about some gal. He actually does pay particular attention to the prayers of a pastor for his flock, rather than the same random guy on the street asking the same thing for the same person. The 12 original Apostles really were special in some sense, though we evangelicals, (especially Pentecostal ones who belong to churches with “Apostolic” in the title) are lothe to admit. And having your father prayer for you just might actually be better than having your buddy pray for you, if possible.
This all sounds crazy, I know. But we live in a universe with rules. Jesus commended the Roman Centurion for his realization that, because of his hierarchical authority over nature and/or demons, Jesus didn’t even have to visit his house to perform a healing. Jesus just had a say the word. The man’s faith was greatly praised. Do we have the same faith? Do we have the same humility? Can we admit that we aren’t “all that”, (despite the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers”) and ask for help, but not alone?
I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be alone. Will you pray for me?