In the history of the Church, one sees several ways to pray for other people. One way, a common way in America and Europe, are prayer groups or prayer chains. I have prayer chains on email. When I need help praying for someone, I email several friends in two continents, to pray for a person, who is dying, or seriously ill, or considering an abortion and so on. Many of these prayers have been answered.
Another efficacious way to interceded in prayer, especially for serious matters, is to have Masses said for a person. I do this when I have the money for the stipends.. Mass is the most perfect type of prayer, and the Mass is the most efficacious form of intercession. I believe the TLM is the highest form of intercessory prayer.
Another way is by saying a few prayer for someone, or a rosary, or better yet, a novena.
The next manner of intercessory prayer involves entering into long days, weeks, months, even years for specific people. I do this and I am sure many readers do this type of prayer as well. This type of intercession is not merely three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers and so on. It is intense, focused prayer for another person.
In addition, adding to the efficaciousness of this type of focused prayer would be the offering up of pain and sacrifices for that person. For example, fasting and mortification may be added to this intense prayer.
On top of this, there are some people who are victim souls, a rare vocation and not to be demanded of God. God takes the initiative for victim souls to live a life of intercession.
Some obvious examples are Marthe Robin and Padre Pio, whose lives were offered up for the conversion of others. A good article may be found below.
I recall a section of the Diary of St. Faustina which I read many years ago. Faustina was experiencing physical illness and pain. She beg God to take this suffering away. After a few days, Faustina asked God for the pain back again, stating that she wanted the suffering to aid in her intercessory prayers.
A commentator below notes that Faustina purposefully took on prayer and suffering.
St. Faustina also believed that you can in fact compel God to grant a grace by sacrifice and prayer. On one occasion St. Faustina’s sister, who had many needs came to asking her for her help. St. Faustina spent two weeks in sacrifice and prayer for her sister and at the end of two weeks, she had received everything she needed without exception. St. Faustina said that she had compelled Jesus not only to help her sister but also to change her completely. St. Faustina said, “When I reflect on all this, I see that it was truly a miracle. Now I can see how much power intercessory prayer has before God”. (Diary 202) http://www.divinemercy.org/index.php/elements-of-divine-mercy/3-o-clock-prayer/110-st-faustinas-life-of-intercessory-prayer.html
God wants us to compel Him to be merciful by offering constant prayer and sacrifices for others. He wants us to pray like Abraham and Moses, arguing with God; for as long as our hearts are right, our lips can be bold. Indeed, St. Faustina thought if your own soul is in grace, there is nothing that you cannot pray to the Lord for.
Too often we beg God to end illness, or sufferings of many types, when instead of healing, God is asking one to use the discomforts of life for intercessory prayer. Yes, God desires to heal some people, but not all.
The most common way to be purged of sin is through illness and suffering. Such trials prepare us for death. Today, I was thinking of this passage from Scripture.
In Esther 2, one reads that it took a long time for the women chosen to be considered the bride of the King, after he deposed Vashti, to become presentable.
12 Now when every virgin’s turn came to go in to the king, after all had been done for setting them off to advantage, it was the twelfth month: so that for six months they were anointed with oil of myrrh, and for other six months they used certain perfumes and sweet spices.
Not only were the women cleansed of bacteria or dirt, they were made healthy and beautiful. So, too, in illness and suffering, God purges a soul of sin and the tendencies towards sin, removes the predominant fault, and prepares the soul to become a bride of Christ.
Suffering for one’s own sins and faults is the number one reason for trials, even illness. But, illness and pain can be for intercession. After Esther was cleaned, she went into the King who chose her for his queen. Then, she was asked by God and her uncle Mardochai to intercede for her people. She fasted and prayed. She faced death.
God answered her prayers. He will answer our prayers, if like Faustina and Esther, we add sacrifices, or the trials of life (without complaining) to those prayers.