Commentary on the Gospel of
A Failed Intercession
Close on heels on our reflection on the assured fruitfulness of intercessory prayers comes the story of a seemingly failed intercession: The mother of James and John came interceding for special places of honor for them in Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus answers neither positively or negatively, but draws attention to the core problem with the prayer: “You do not know what you are asking,” he says. At the core of her prayer was self-interest and displacement of others. Asking for places of honor for one’s own sons was all about honor for herself and the family. Worse, it was also ensuring that others did not receive a similar favor and were left lesser than her own children. The intercession was all mired in narcissistic interests that sought to exclude than to include, to lord over others than to serve. Such intercessions do not work with God. Only those prayers that seek the genuine good of the other will please the heart of God.