Forming Children and Youth for the Mass, Part 4: Intercessory Prayer

This is the fourth article in a series about forming children for active participation in the Mass.

youth praying at Mass - (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful at Mass (formerly called the General Intercessions), the people claim their baptismal priesthood “by offering prayers for the salvation of all.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 69) How can we help children and youth growing up in a culture that focuses on “me first” to understand and join in those prayers with their whole hearts?

Intercessory Prayer with Younger Children

Catechists can help children become comfortable with praying for the needs of others out loud by simply asking, “Who needs our prayers today?” Even the youngest children can understand that. Usually, they will respond readily with requests for sick or sad family members (and often for family pets). Children can also be encouraged to pray for one another in their classroom community of faith. Use the formula we most often use in church: “For_____, we pray to the Lord” and teach them to respond with “Lord, hear our prayer.” This can be included in every opening or closing prayer in faith formation sessions. Soon, children will be eager to offer their intentions.

Send home instructions for family prayer that includes the use of intercessions to remind parents of their role in teaching their children to pray in the context of the domestic church and encourage them to learn to pray for others. Couple this request with suggestions for ways to serve others, and suggest praying for those they serve.

Prayer of the Faithful with Youth

Catechists and youth leaders can teach the connection between intercessory prayer and our baptismal duty to pray for others. It is not just the priest who prays at Mass but the people as well. Explain that the Mass is a special time to bring our concerns before God. We do this in three ways:

  1. Each person at Mass should have his/her own intention to remember at the beginning of Mass when the priest says, “Let us pray.”
  2. The community has a public intention for each Mass.
  3. The Prayer of the Faithful names additional intentions, based on the readings and on the needs of the community and world.

Show students that there is a normal order for these prayers, and use this order in session prayer. Allow youth to help write intentions for Masses in which they have a role. The official order is to pray 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. (GIRM, 70)

This is also a great connection to studying the structure of the Church, its relation to the world, or social justice. Help students to understand who we pray for at Mass—and why. Doing all of this will help form a generation of young people mindful of the needs of our world, who see the connection between those needs and their participation in the prayers of the Mass.

Read the first three articles in the series:
Forming Children and Youth for the Mass, Part 1: Silence and Reverence
Forming Children and Youth for the Mass, Part 2: Song and Praise
Forming Children and Youth for the Mass, Part 3: Listening to the Word

Image by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston under Creative Commons license.

About Joyce Donahue 55 Articles
Joyce Donahue, MA, MPS, is a liturgical catechist and former diocesan administrator. She currently volunteers as parish catechist and musician at St. John the Baptist Parish, Joliet, IL. She blogs at Liturgy and Catechesis Shall Kiss and maintains The Liturgical Catechist website.

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