Prayers of the Faithful

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly




Prayers of the Faithful


            In our parish the Prayer of the Faithful is spontaneous.  People place their petitions before God  and the church, after a brief introduction from the priest.

            It works pretty well.  Most people pray for the sick or for someone who has died.  When there is a big event in the news, it often makes its way into our prayer.  For instance when Princess Diana died, a number of little children were moved to pray for her.

A lot of the folks are too shy to say anything at all.  Some just say, "For a special intention."   This is fine, except that then we don't really know what we are praying for.  (It could be that we are praying that their neighbor's dog will die.) Probably they keep the intention vague because it is something they are too embarrassed to talk about publicly.  We understand.

Sometimes, however, after we have had three or for "special intentions" in a row I feel like saying "For all of our special intentions."   After all, we always pray for the "all the prayers we hold in our hearts." That should cover it.

Some people have a single intention that they voice at every mass, e.g., "For the unborn" or "for the children of our parish."

One man often prays by name for all the priests who have been at our parish during his time.  Until recently he left me out.  Lately I've been added to the list, which tells me he has finally accepted me.

Every now and then someone rambles on a little bit.   Sometimes they loose their train of thought.  Recently one man started out to pray for somebody, but forgot the name, so he just said, "For our neighbors to the south."  It made no sense to us but we dutifully said, "Lord hear our prayer."   God can sort it out.

            Really our spontaneous prayer is not so spontaneous.  We have a clearly defined etiquette.   God help the visitor who violates the pecking order.

At weekday mass we have a dear, motherly lady, Mary Claire, who always prays first.  We know to wait for her.  On the rare occasions that she is not at mass there are a couple of seconds of dead air while people look around.  Often someone will say, "For all of Mary Claire's intentions, we pray to the Lord."  Only then are we free to begin with our intentions.

Mary Claire has a list.  She starts out with the "right to life of all innocent babies throughout this whole world" and then touches briefly on world peace, an end to starvation and communism, vocations, the sick, travelers and usually ends up with the unemployed.  Those are the regulars.  She also has seasonally adjusted intentions.  God does not rest during flu season if Mary Claire has anything to say about it.

            Sometimes she clarifies things for God a bit. For instance, when she prays, "for all travelers," she often adds,  "whether for business or for pleasure."  She wants God to remember her son, who drives a 18-wheeler out west.  He is certain that it was his mother's prayers that saved him last year when his rig rolled over in a blinding snowstorm.

God listens to Mary Claire and her husband Bill.  She prayed for an end to communism in Russia, it came.  He prayed for a cemetery and a crisis pregnancy center and we got one of each.  I have a stock I'd like then to remember if it wouldn't be sacrilegious.

            When I first came to this parish I made the mistake of cutting off the spontaneous petitions on Sundays, thinking they would go on too long.  At the first parish council meeting there was an explosion.  I never tried that again.  Never would.  Our prayer is truly the prayer of the "faithful."  It is a window to our worries and our loves.