Today, I visited a site where they offer intercessory prayers for the needs of any who post an intention. I, of course, brought my intentions. Those intentions represent some of the crosses I am currently carrying.
As I was writing up my intention, it hit me that engaging in intercessory prayer for someone else is a lot like Simon carrying, for a little way, the cross of the Lord. Simon couldn't take the place of the Lord. He wasn't going to be able to remove from the Lord the upcoming crucifixion, but by being the one to step up and help shoulder the burden that cross represented he made the job that much easier to do. Can you imagine what might have happened if Simon had done his job willingly, rather than having to be forced?
Intercessory prayer does not remove the weight of the cross from someone's life. It can't, and it shouldn't. The cross is necessary for salvation and is there for the benefit of that person. It does, however, allow them to gain a temporary respite, a momentary lightening of the weight they carry. It is a great act of mercy and of charity to offer intercessory prayer for someone, though we may never know what came of it nor know the full truth of what it meant to the person on whose behalf we interceded.
Since it's so difficult to see a physical result from our intercessory prayers, it is easy to think they aren't that important. Physical actions give us an instant reward of seeing results, but the results of intercessory prayer we must often take on faith. However, having been the recipient of many people's intercessory prayers I can tell you that there is great power in prayer. Do not be deceived. Prayer is not a weak or minor thing. It unleashes the power of the angels and saints, calling up a whole host of invisible helpers to that person's aid. If we could see the invisible reality of God's kingdom, we would understand just how powerful a single prayer given for the sake of another truly is!
Put your shoulders to it, and bend your knees for someone else today. You can change the face of the entire world one prayer at a time. After all, imagine what might have happened if there had been 10 Simons lifting that cross and helping Christ with His load!