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How Should We Pray for So Many Prayer Intentions?

February 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Intentions, Prayer

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.

Combining Extremes
for post on prayer intentionsYour 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.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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