How Should We Pray for So Many Prayer Intentions?
With all the causes in this world that need prayer, I have kind of thrown up my hands and asked our Blessed Mother to take my prayer beginning with daily Mass, and apply them where she sees fit. Heaven knows about our five children and how much they need prayer, and including my wife who just suffered a stroke at seventy years old. As time goes forward, I often think I should single out one cause and pray like a warrior, but our thoughts are known; why not give them to our Mother? Is this an acceptable way to travel towards the end?
This is a great question because I am sure you aren’t the only one of our readers who struggle with finding ways to pray for all the needs that burden our hearts. I invite our readers to share in the comment boxes how they have dealt with the struggle. You may find some good ideas from their comments. But I also have a few thoughts to share.
As a direct answer to your question: Yes, this is an acceptable way to travel towards the end, of lifting up in prayer the needs of this fallen world. Yet, on the other hand, I think there may be an even better way.
Your question (at least as I read it) proposes two extreme options: 1) just generally entrust all our intentions to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary and leave it at that; 2) try to keep track of all the intentions that move our hearts and mention them explicitly in our prayers on a regular basis. I would like to propose a middle way, a third alternative. It consists in praying regularly for certain specific intentions that move your heart in a particular way, and also entrusting to the Blessed Virgin’s care all the other intentions that are moving you in a general way – you can do that, for example, at the beginning of a daily Rosary, or during a visit to an image of the Blessed Virgin before you go to bed.
Giving Space to the Holy Spirit
The advantage of this “combination method” is simple. It allows you to channel your love and your zeal in a focused way, without becoming overwhelmed with ALL the needs of the world and of your circle of influence. Sometimes someone in our lives needs prayers in a special way. Sometimes certain circumstances, events, or situations really move our hearts and we want to lift them up in prayer with special intensity. But then the intensity diminishes, or the need goes away – this is in accordance with the natural rhythm of our lives as human beings. It is also in accordance with the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is the one who guides the whole Church, so he gives each of us unique sensitivities and situations as part of our mission to support the entire family of believers. The “combination method” allows us to stay flexible and docile to his motions, without feeling overwhelmed or irresponsible.
St. John Paul II’s Wise Tactic
As an example, you may recall that St. John Paul II used to receive thousands of letters asking him to pray for specific intentions. He would make the intentions into lists and keep the lists near the kneeler where he prayed. Every day he would pray for some of those intentions specifically, but he couldn’t go through all of them. So he would also pray in general for all the needs and intentions that he wasn’t able to mention individually.
In my opinion, that’s a good model for all of us. Pray for specific intentions as well as general intentions each day (possibly by putting them under the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession), and allow the natural rhythms of Providence to determine which specific intentions we focus on during particular days, weeks, or months.
In the end, the important thing is to keep praying! I hope these thoughts will help you do that. God bless you!
In Him, Fr John
Art for this post on prayer intentions: La oración [The prayer], César Alvarez Dumont, 1884, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.