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Bernard Vanden Berk wrote:

Hi, guys —

As a member of St. Vincent De Paul, on visiting a family in need, I ask them to pray for us, telling them their prayers are very powerful.

  • To make a stronger case, what can I cite from the Bible to show how important they are and to empower them?

The same would be true then of those imprisoned.

  { What can I cite from the Bible to show this needy family the importance and power of their prayers? }

Eric replied:


There aren't many such verses. The only one I could find is:

The prayer of a poor man goes from his lips to the ears of God, and his judgment comes speedily.

(Sirach 21:5)

The only other one that I can think of that's apropos is:

. . . The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.

(James 5:16–18)

But your audience may have trouble believing that this applies to them (especially those in prison). There are verses that discuss God's receptivity to the prayers of the poor, but this is, as far as I can recall, virtually always in the context of  relief from oppression, not their intercessory power for a third party.

Maybe some of my colleagues will respond with some better ideas.


Bernard replied:


Thank you for the speedy, helpful response.

Encountering informed dedicated Catholics like you encourages my faith. — The more I think about it, looking for a group whose prayers are more effective is theologically troublesome.

  • Could a point be made that God values the prayers of everyone, with an emphasis on those suffering? 
  • Would it be theologically correct to tell a faith filled prisoner or a victim of sex trafficking that their prayers are as effective as a bishop's or a cloistered nun's? 
  • Could soliciting prayers from the marginalized be an untapped source of spiritual riches?


Eric replied:


  • We can say that God hears the cry of the oppressed with regard to their oppression.
  • We can say that the prayer of a righteous person, regardless of their situation, is (in general) powerful and effective.
  • I think we can also assert that God hears the humble (e.g. Sirach 35:16-17, Proverbs 3:34).

I wouldn't make any promises beyond that. The value lays not so much in the position of the person in the world, but in the disposition of their heart. You can have a wicked marginalized person, God will refuse to hear, or a righteous marginalize person God does hear; and you can have a humble pope or bishop God hears, or a wicked one he will not listen to.

Eric Ewanco

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