I think often we misunderstand intercessory prayer – supplications and petitions. We tend to think of it mechanically, as if it were simply a matter of putting in a request to God and having it answered – with the answer depending on the divine mood on any given day.

I have an image in mind that offers a different understanding of intercessory prayer: throwing a stone into a pond and watching the ripples affect the whole environment. Things don’t happen in the world simply and immediately because I pray, but they do happen in the world when I pray. I am changed as I discover the deepest desires of my heart and the world is changed as I recognize the power and majesty and mystery of God, the creator of heaven and earth and lover of our souls.

—Fr. Martin Connell, S.J. serves John Carroll University, University Heights, OH, as professor education. He is also the Rector of the Jesuit community there.