Prayers of the Faithful need a personal touch
- By Fr Kevin Ryan
It was Sunday morning. Just down the road from the church there had been a big accident: Emergency services were there, traffic was held up and diverted. People were working to release a driver caught in a mangled mess.
People wandered into the church, some a little shaken and some later than usual. Proceedings went along as much as normal with an opening hymn, prayers for forgiveness and Scripture readings.
Then came the Prayers of the Faithful. It seems they get their title from a practice of years gone by when only the baptised were allowed to take part.
The prayers were well read as the congregation joined in thinking of the Pope, far away places and needs. No mention of the life saving work going on down the road!
That’s no surprise as the prayers were read from a well bound book produced in Canada. They hadn’t heard of the intersection where the accident took place. Everything was safe but not personal.
That’s one occasion. The opposite can happen at funerals where a small procession, often of grandchildren between sobs and whispers give mini eulogies as they pray for the deceased. It’s nice to have them there, but sometimes I wonder the purpose.
We don’t have too many weddings where these prayers take place. Normally they are well done, only occasionally do they border on the long winded or silly.
An Essential Part
These prayers are an essential part of our worship of God. They are also an important part of the worship of the local community. They show our belief in our reliance on God. They also show that no man or woman is an island and that we are all in this together. Our world tends to be very selfish and we are likely to make our prayer so general it will not push us to action.
A prayer like “Lord help us to be aware of the poor and homeless throughout the world” inspires little action. If we added a few words for the people whose house had just been burnt down, it would mean more.
There are four categories of petitions that are to be included – the needs of the church, the needs of the world and its leaders, those who are oppressed and the local concerns.
They are open ended but they still leave room for the news of the day. A recent article in U.S. Catholic spoke of “praying the news”. It referred to a Carmelite community that explains this in praythenews.com.
There is a danger that these prayers become so common place that they just come and go. They are meant to be more than that as we call on God to help an upset world. More than that they are meant to inspire the compassion that lies in our hearts. They have to become more personal.
Making it Happen
A prayer for the disabled becomes more real if we know someone who is. These prayers give us a chance to think of the whole world. Not only should we pray for the people killed by a terrorist bomb, but for the terrorists themselves.
Most parishes have rosters to organise people to do things. That ranges from cleaners to readers, to Eucharistic ministers. They are functions that are taken seriously and can influence lives.
Is it too much to have a roster where a group of people prepare the Sunday Prayer of the Faithful, taking into consideration the news of the day. Such a roster would make us more aware of our mission to the whole world and help us realise our own local needs, like the accident down the road.
What has to be borne in mind is that we are members of a big church where people of all kinds of views worship. We can pray for political leaders without being partisan. We can pray for people involved in sport without dragging in our favourite team. God loves them all.
Surely, preparing the prayers each week would widen our horizons and lead the community to deeper prayer. Lord, hear us.
Copyright © K. Ryan The Catholic Leader, 13 May 2007.