How often does someone say to you, "please pray for me?" After that request will usually come a specific reason prayers are needed. And so we pray for the person out of charity, compassion and a desire to lighten their burden. Other times though, the Holy Spirit places people or situations to pray for, or we see the world's needs and take those on. There are no shortages of interceding for others. But how should we intercede?
First, it Is helpful to write down the request. It does not need to be very detailed; the person's name or situation is enough. And put it somewhere visible. In your planner on your phone, a list near your prayer space or desk, whatever makes sense for you. We once had a prayer board in our house that was visible to all. Friends knew about the board and asked us to add people or wrote names on the board themselves if they were visiting. Just a name or even initials, nothing else.
Pray for Others
And then, add those people and their needs to your prayer time. Here are some ways to do this:
- Include them in your rosary – each bead or decade for an intention, saying the name before you begin to pray.
- Ask for the intercession of a saint – choose the saint based on their name, profession, or need. Here is a list of saints you can use.
- Offer up something for the intention – if you have a task you dislike or is difficult, do it without complaint for the intention. Or, you can make a small sacrifice, no sugar in your coffee, or skip the radio on the way to work.
- Go to Mass and before it begins decide who or what you will offer your prayers and communion for during that Mass.
- Pray a novena for the intention. Choose one that matches the need of the person. There are novenas for discernment, impossible causes, cancer, protection, or to the Holy Spirit. The list is almost endless. Discerning Hearts is a trustworthy source of novenas.
Another question is how specific you should be in your requests. I think it depends on the situation. If you are in a group asking others to pray for an intention of someone else, just say the person's first name or for a special intention. God knows the whole story.
If you are praying alone, pour out as much as you want to God; He is listening. One caveat is to try not to offer suggestions as to how the problem should be fixed. We do this in our humanness, but by not doing this, we are truly trusting God and turning it over to Him. Ending intercessory prayer with, "may Your will be done" or something similar is helpful to remind us that it is God's plan and timing, not ours.
Interceding for others is powerful.