Prayers of the Faithful

Within the Roman Rite, the Prayers of the Faithful (also known as the General Intercessions or Universal Prayer) are offered up to the Heavenly Father at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word. These series of petitions are to be customized to fit the particular needs of the congregation and are formatted to include prayers for: Church leadership, secular governance, the parish community, those who face oppression, those who are persecuted, those who are sick, and those who have died. If possible, the prayers may also relate to a teaching from the lectionary.

Here you will find a growing list of possible intercessions that you may like to hear included at your parish. If you are not the person at your parish who curates the Prayers of the Faithful, reach out to either the pastor or your parish’s administrative assistant(s) with your request. Anyone who is present for Mass hears – and, hopefully, participates in – the Prayers of the Faithful. This is one such way to ensure that those who are imprisoned, and those who are on death row, are brought to the forefront of hearts and minds.

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Pray without Ceasing

In St. Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians, we find the infamous word of spiritual advice “pray without ceasing” [1 Thess. 5:17]. If left unguided, the task appears… daunting, to say the least. For those of us who struggle to multitask, the task of praying nonstop may seem farfetched, overzealous, and – frankly – unappealing. Is the Apostle Paul really suggesting to the church at Thessalonica that they must dedicate each moment of their lives to prayer? Should Christians of this century feel pressured into joining a contemplative community? What does “pray without ceasing” even mean?

Like all sound scripture study, let us first refer to the language of the original text. St. Paul communicated in Greek. The church at Thessalonica was located in a prominent region that we today would describe as modern-day Greece. Therefore, we must set aside the English translation of this Pauline epistle and study Paul’s words in the language, with respect toward the community, for which is was intended. The Greek word for “without ceasing” is adialeiptos – an adverb that is used by Paul four times throughout the New Testament. The adverb modifies the verb (pray). Adialeiptos means to be constantly recurring. With the help of Vocabulary of the Greek Testament [Moulton-Milligan] we can better understand that Paul is advising the church at Thessalonica to pray “regularly, but intermittent”. Or “as often as required”.

So we are not to pray nonstop, but rather we are to make prayer part of our daily life. St. Paul is instructing his readers with their ongoing formation and discipleship. He is teaching that Christians should strive at all times to recognize when prayer is being asked of them and, in return, for them to humbly put their needs before God. And if we are to accept the Way of Christian discipleship, we must extend our prayers to include all forms of silent suffering. Especially for those (like the prisoner) who are not in our direct presence.

You will find here a growing list of prayers that you may adopt into your personal prayer life.

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Praying for the Person

As you may have already read in the FACES OF OUR SHARED HUMANITY page, there is a holy significance to being named. Calling someone by their name is to honor and respect their dignity as a person.

Though the inclusion of general intercessions for the rights of prisoners and for the end of the death penalty is to be encouraged, the rights of the individual persons must not be overlooked or forgotten.

One idea is to be a prayer companion. Included in this column will be a list of names. These are the names of the individuals who are currently sitting on death row in the United States. Let the Spirit guide you in the pairing of your prayer companion. Include that person in your daily prayers, pray for their emotional / physical / spiritual / psychological well-being, and, above all, that they not be murdered at the hands of the state.

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