"My son is in the military . . ."
"I hate my coach . . ."
The interior logic of intercession leads to love. For some people, that might be an unintended consequence, but the law of love is always within the will of God.
So, this is only advice I can give: When you choose to actively pray for someone, prepare yourself to love him or her. If you already love someone, prepare to love them even more. And if you pray for someone that you do not love or like—be it a difficult boss, an annoying relative, or someone who has trespassed against you—prepare to see signs of love or peace breaking through, even when you'd rather resist. You might not see changes in that person or their circumstances, but you will soon find that you cannot pray for someone in a detached way. It will move your heart in ways that might be surprising and sympathetic, especially if it leads to forgiveness, or freedom, or healing.
I think that is exactly why Jesus asked his followers to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. (See Mt. 5:44.) He knew that intercession builds bridges between the painful stuff of earth and the mighty throne of heaven. Intercession works reflexively to benefit both parties, building a spiritual connection, a relationship woven invisibly by the Spirit.
Intercessory prayer, the practice of standing in the gap between what is seen by our earthly clay and unseen behind heaven's veil—be it for a few minutes, hours, or even years—is a sublime gift weightier than worldly measures. It is an entering into God's economy and surrendering to his channels of grace.
The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. (Jas. 5:16)
St. Monica, the famous mother of Augustine, spent years of maternal intercession petitioning God on behalf of her wayward son. Augustine went on to become a great teacher, writer, bishop, Doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest minds of Western civilization. His saintly transformation is credited in part to his mother's fervent prayers.
Of course, there have been thousands of less-famous and hidden cloistered women and men who have populated religious orders such as the Poor Clares, the Carthusians, or the Trappists, to name a few. They give their whole lives to prayer for the sake of the world beyond the monastery wall.
We may never know what evils or disasters may have been averted thanks to the round-the-clock prayers that wrap the Earth.
With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones . . . (Eph. 6:18)
Everywhere at every moment, the Eucharist is being offered at Mass somewhere in the world, 24/7/365. Be mindful of that powerful reality. Join your prayers to it. The Sacrifice of Jesus' Passion and Death, and his Glorious Resurrection, re-presented at Mass, are the reasons we can trust our prayers are heard. Prayers of petition signify hope in Christ.
Jesus is the first, the best, and the truest intercessor. We lift prayers in imitation of him; in prayer we are joined to him, the holiest of friends and benefactors.
The prayer of Jesus makes Christian prayer an efficacious petition. He is its model, he prays in us and with us . . . . the heart of the Son seeks only what pleases the Father . . .
Jesus also prays for us—in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father. If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 2740-2741)
I've come to the conclusion that there is always a reason to be on one's knees. Intercession, praying intentionally for others, is a holy work. And outside of Mass, it is often a private one. Yet, no prayer is ever wasted, no matter how small. You may never see a return on your investment, or its outcome. That's okay. Jesus prays through you and with you.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:7)
Here are four steps for becoming a stronger intercessor: Ask, listen, pray, and, if possible, follow-up.
Ask. Be gentle and compassionate when you ask what you can pray for. There are so many moments when this might be appropriate—at the close of a phone call, ending an email, driving someone to school, taking a quiet coffee break with a co-worker, greeting your priest after Mass, when someone is sick, or at a wake, when you talk to your friends, or when doing something new. Don't forget the obvious opportunities: the breakfast or dinner table, putting children to bed, or when you are checking in with your spouse as you go through your days.