Does Intercession conflict with God's Justice?

I have a question that has been on my mind for a long time. I accept the practice of intercession, such as when we pray for each other, and the Saints and Angels in Heaven pray for us, but I’m having trouble understanding it.

In an earthly sense, if there was a King I needed a favor from, I would certainly try to find someone I know to ask him for me, if I thought it would give me greater chances of success. This would be because I would be dealing with an earthly, busy, imperfect, human king who doesn’t know or care about me.

HOWEVER, when we are talking about God our Father, who is perfect, just, merciful, loving, and with no limits on space and time, It seems the analogy breaks down. When we hear things like “pray and make sacrifices to save souls from hell”, I have trouble with that. In my mind, if a soul is in hell, it wasn’t a mistake. Surely God who is all merciful and all just would have ensured that that person chose hell and belongs there. Do you see where I am going with this?

    If two lukewarm Catholics live identical lives, but Catholic #1 has 100 cloistered nuns praying for him throughout his life, and he makes it heaven, but Catholic #2 has no intercessory prayer and goes to hell, how does that square with God's justice? 

    In apologetics situations with Protestants, sometimes Catholics will say, you pray for your friends right?  Well that is what Mary does, pray for us like that.  We are referring to a more familiar practice of praying for friends, but I don't really even understand that.  
     In another analogy, if two parents are carrying a couch at the ends, and they ask their five year old son to "help" carry it, they are probably doing it so he can "feel" helpful, although he isn't carrying much of the weight, and the parents would do fine carrying it on their own.  I can understand if God allows us to intercede so that we can grow spiritually, and "help" carry the couch so to speak, but whether we intercede or not, the couch still gets moved, and all people still receive the perfect balance of justice and mercy when they stand before God.  Can anyone help me understand this? 
 Thanks in advance.:shrug:

I love your analogy with the child and helping.

As for the 2 equally weak catholics…

That one dosen’t really work. You’re doing a lot of supposing there. However, I’d like to say that " To whom much is given…Much will be required"

Hi. Understood roughly intercession is asking on behalf of someone for a favor from the One who is in a position that can grant it. Again, this must be seen in the context of prayer – asking from God. We can ask but God decides whether he will give exactly what we ask or will give an alternative or not at all. That is how it works with intercession.

Thus if we pray for a soul that is in hell, nothing will happen because judgment have been given and God cannot rescind that. However we can pray for the souls in purgatory. Probably the most that will do is to shorten the stay there so there is no changes in God’s judgment since those who are in purgatory will go to heaven anyway. It has been argued that there is not much different whether we stay longer in purgatory or not – saints were often quoted as wanting to go to purgatory even if they were given heaven. There is more to this but in short, it means the grace of purification that is being asked for.

Thus mainly prayer is for the good of the person prayed for, in that the grace of God would work in him. If prayers can make us more spiritual, holy and loving, then why not so that we can follow the way of God much more easily. It is something that we can do without though it makes it more difficult for us, like how we handle temptations.

One of the effects of intercession in the Gospel was the miracle at Cana. Even if Jesus did not change the water into wine, the wedding would nevertheless go on. But certainly because of the miracle, the wedding was merrier and perhaps to avoid the hosts having to lose face. Another example perhaps is to ask for healing of sickness. Sometimes this kind of things is answered but to God what is more important would be if the result would make the person closer to him.

The biggest grace in intercession is perhaps for us ourselves. As we pray for people, we recognize the needs for God and we can be more loving and charitable. It is to establish a kind of relationship with whom we cannot see with those who had gone before us in heaven.

God bless.

Thanks for the replies,
Reuben, I didn’t mean praying for souls in hell, I meant praying and fasting for people we know, so that they can avoid going to hell. That is the part I’m having trouble with. Let me ask it a different way, suppose we compared judgement to debt, as Jesus did at one point in the Scriptures.

If I am free of debt, even if I don’t have a penny, I go to heaven.
If I owe up to $1,000, I go to purgatory.
If I owe a penny more than $1,000, I go to hell.

God is just, so at our judgement he “checks our balances”. However, some holy and Saintly people on earth have positive balances, perhaps even thousands of dollars. St. Therese of Lisieux praying for the prisoner about to lose his life comes to mind. She has lots of money, so she “pays his debt”, by praying and sacrificing for him, so before he dies he repents and goes to purgatory. In this sense God’s justice would still be fair, but in a corporate sense, meaning the prisoner “paid his debt”, because Therese gave him some of her money. So we can “pay” for other people by our prayers and sacrifices.
I’m not sure this is sound theology, and I know it is overly simplistic, but I just can’t seem to get a handle on it.

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