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The Liturgy of the Word: The Prayer of the Faithful
The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Prayer of the Faithful, also known as the General Intercessions or Universal Prayer.
The Prayer of the Faithful
The Prayer of the Faithful represents the antechamber of the Eucharistic part of the liturgy and it helps us enter a prayerful and intercessory frame of mind. It’s our last response to the Word of God that’s just been heard. We’ve responded in faith through the Creed, now we respond in prayer for others.
State your intentions
Hopefully at least once in your life someone has offered to pray for you “and for your intentions.” What does this mean? It means that there are things you want to pray for as well, and they are offering to pray for the same thing to show their appreciation for you. The Prayer of the Faithful is moment to state your prayer intentions, but not just yours, but everyone gathered for the liturgy being celebrated and beyond. Usually it revolves around certain categories of intentions: for the needs of the Church, for public authorities, for the salvation of the whole world, for those burdened by any kind of difficulty, and for the local community. It can also pray for intentions more suited to the occasion, such as a marriage or a funeral.
Never underestimate the power of being “intentional”: if Our Lord knows you want something, he never forgets, even when it might slip your mind from time to time. The Prayer of the Faithful helps remind us to always have prayer intentions in mind that we can ask Our Lord for not only through direct prayer, but through sacrifices and leading a holy life.
You could say it’s also called the Universal Prayer because you can practically pray for the entire universe (just not at once). Everyone needs prayer, but not everyone prays. Many people need someone to pray for them. That’s what we do in the Prayer of the Faithful. If we pray for the Church, for leaders, for the salvation of the whole world, for those with special needs, for our community we are basically praying for everyone. There’s a whole universe of prayer intentions, and they need prayers.
Our prayer should always go beyond our immediate needs or those closest to us without forgetting those needs as well. Our Lord is concerned for everyone and we show great charity toward him and others by sharing in that universal concern.
These prayers are also called the General Intercessions because interceding on behalf of others before God is something very priestly, and all the faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood by doing it. Through baptism each Christian participates in the common or baptismal priesthood; their life becomes worship and they offer spiritual sacrifices just as the ministerial priests offer the sacramental sacrifice of Christ himself. As Christians we make intercession for the world. As Our Lord laid down his life in sacrifice for the good of the world, we spiritually lay down our lives for it as well, and some also physically lay it down through martyrdom or offering their illness or infirmity.
This intercessory spirit helps us to come out of ourselves and our concerns. We live differently when we know that how we live our lives can benefit others. The little setbacks and sufferings of daily life become opportunities to respond virtuously by offering them up for others. Let’s strive to not only maintain a spirit of prayer, but a spirit of prayer for others.