What is Prayer of The Faithful?

What is Prayer of The Faithful?
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What is Prayer of the Faithful?

The Universal Prayer, also known as the Bidding Prayer or Prayers of the Faithful, is a significant part of the Catholic Mass. This prayer occurs immediately after the profession of faith and before the liturgy of the Eucharist (When the Creed is not professed, then the bidding prayers come after the Homily). During this time, the congregation is invited to respond in some sense to the Word of God they have received in faith.

Purpose in the Mass and Role in Liturgical Services

The Prayers of the Faithful serve as a collective response to the Word of God proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word.

According to the GIRM, through these prayers, the congregation exercises its baptismal priesthood by interceding for the entire world, reflecting the universal scope of their concerns and the Church’s mission.

They are intended to encompass a broad spectrum of supplications: for the Church, the world, those in need, and the local community, thereby embodying the Church’s call to prayer for all peoples and situations.

According to the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, the people through the prayers of the faithful

“respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all.”

Role of the Prayers of the Faithful

These prayers embody the Church’s intercessory role, serving as a bridge between the divine and the earthly. Through them, the Church collectively prays for salvation, peace, and the resolution of worldly and spiritual struggles.

This function underscores the Church’s responsibility to not only look inward but outward, addressing global and local issues through prayerful dialogue with God. This further explains the reason why the GIRM stresses the incorporation of the Bidding prayers “in masses celebrated with the people.”

Structure of the Prayers of the Faithful

According to the GIRM, the Universal prayers is composed of the: Introduction, the Petitions, and the Oration.

  • Introduction: Initiated by the celebrant, this brief element sets the spiritual context and invites the congregation to pray.
  • Petitions: Announced by a deacon, cantor, reader, or layperson, these are formulated to first address the broader needs of the Church and the world, and gradually narrow down to specific community concerns.
  • Oration: Concluding the prayers, the celebrant gathers all the petitions with a final prayer, emphasizing their collective spiritual aspiration.

The Four Essential Intentions

The structure of these prayers is methodically organized to transition from the universal to the particular, creating a sort of giant ‘funnel’.

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the Prayers of the Faithful should typically include intentions for:

  1. The needs of the Church,
  2. Public authorities and the salvation of the whole world,
  3. Those burdened by any kind of difficulty,
  4. The local community.

These categories ensure a comprehensive scope of prayer that aligns with the Church’s mission.

Variations for Special Occasions

However, the GIRM notes that for specific celebrations such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc, the Prayers of the Faithful are adapted to reflect the particular context and needs of the occasion.

This adaptation allows for a more personalized and relevant expression of prayer that resonates with the attendees’ immediate circumstances and sentiments.

Role of the Celebrant and the Congregation

The celebrant plays a crucial role in guiding these prayers from the chair, introducing and concluding them, ensuring they remain aligned with liturgical norms and the specific occasion.

The congregation participates actively, responding to each petition typically with “Lord, hear our prayer,” thereby reinforcing their communal and participative nature.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

The following are common mistakes to avoid with regards to the prayers of the faithful:

1. Overly Complex Language:

Avoid using jargon or overly complex theological terms that may not be easily understood by all congregants. The language should be clear, direct, and inclusive to ensure that every participant can relate to and understand the prayers.

2. Lack of Relevance:

Ensure that the prayers reflect the concerns and realities of the congregation. Avoid generic or irrelevant petitions that do not resonate with the participants’ lives and current world events.

3. Failure to Adapt for Special Occasions:

Neglecting to tailor the prayers for specific liturgical celebrations (such as weddings, funerals, or confirmations) can make them feel impersonal and disconnected. It’s important to modify the prayers to reflect the specific needs and circumstances of the occasion.

4. Inappropriate Length:

Keep the petitions concise. Long-winded prayers can lose the attention of the congregation and detract from the focused intent of intercession. Each intention should be expressed in just a few, well-considered sentences.

5. Not Pausing After Each Intention:

It is crucial to pause briefly after reading each intention. This pause allows the congregation to reflect on the petition and join in the response meaningfully. Rushing through the intentions can prevent the faithful from truly engaging with the prayers.

6. Monotone Delivery:

While the prayers should be delivered with reverence, they should not be monotone. A natural, respectful tone helps to convey the sincerity of the petitions and keeps the congregation engaged.

8. Leaving Immediately After Speaking:

Those who announce the intentions should remain at the ambo until the conclusion of the entire prayer segment. Walking away immediately after speaking can appear disrespectful and disrupts the continuity of the liturgy.

9. Not Involving Diverse Voices:

Whenever possible, involve different members of the community to reflect its diversity. Having only one person or always the same persons recite the prayers can give an impression of exclusivity.

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