The Prayer Intention Dilemma
When I pray my rosary, I always say a prayer intention. And sometimes, I have a hard time choosing.
Do I pray for my family, my spouse, my relationships? Maybe I should pray for a person I haven’t spoken with recently. Or maybe I should pray for peace in the world or lost children or an end to famine.
Sometimes the options are overwhelming and I take ten minutes to decide.
Has this ever happened to you?
Well, allow me to help us both out.
I’ve come up with a list of prayer intentions to use from personal to global. Ready?
If you want to pray effectively, you need to pray humbly.
Praying for God to make someone like you or make them see that you’re right isn’t humble. We should self-examine first, then pray for goodness and blessings for those on our minds. It’s not about winning an argument or knocking someone down because you think they deserve it. Prayer is meant to lift people up, so make sure you’re praying with humility and goodness on your mind.
Prayer is not limited to our linear time. This story of Padre Pio explains just that.
Padre Pio was asked why he prayed for the happy death of his great-grandfather since he was already long dead. He said, “For the Lord, the past doesn’t exist; the future doesn’t exist. Everything is an eternal present. Those prayers had already been taken into account. And so I repeat that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather.” (From the book, The Holy Souls, pages 178-179, by Alessio Parente, OFM Cap.)
No prayer is too soon or too late. God is outside of time, so he knows our prayers before we pray them. So, for what or whom shall you pray?
30+ Prayer Intentions
Some prayer intentions are personal. You want to pray for your children, your spouse, or your job. Some are for people you know who are suffering. Some are national or global like a fair election or an end to wars everywhere.
Here’s a categorized list of possible prayer intentions you can use when feeling indecisive.
- Your own salvation – It’s not selfish to pray for yourself. Pray that God deepens your faith, that you abide by his will, and that you live out the gospel. It’s not an easy road. The saints will pray for you if you ask. Pray to be an inspiration to others’ faith journeys as well.
- Your health – When praying for your own health, add a prayer for those suffering the same as you. Personally, I cap off this intention by asking God for the grace to suffer if that’s his will. Even Jesus did not deny his Father’s cup (Mt 26:39).
- Your vocation – Whether you’re discerning your vocation or you’re decades into it, you can always pray for guidance. You want to serve the will of God and fulfill his purpose in your life. Get specific or be general, but don’t be afraid to pray for your own path to follow his way.
- Your spouse – One job in marriage is to support the spiritual welfare of one another. So, pray for your spouse in whatever way is needed. Pray that your spouse grows in love for Christ and follows the path the Father has laid out. Pray over your spouse for whatever trouble is happening, sickness, job loss, anxiety, pain, anything.
- Your Marriage – Pray for a deeper marital bond between you and your spouse, that you both allow God to be and remain the center of your marriage. Any trouble in paradise? Here’s the place to bring it.
- Your children – What parent doesn’t want to pray for his or her children? We know them best and in what ways they need help growing, learning, healing, and choosing in life. And when we don’t know, we simply lean on the grace of God to guide us. Sometimes we pray for an individual child and sometimes for them all.
- Your Household – Pray for your whole household to follow the will of God and honor him in all that is said or done. Pray that your family is an example of God’s love and inspires others to do the same.
- Your Parents – Young or old, we owe so much to our parents, so we should pray for them. Sometimes we have specific needs based on our parents’ situations, but sometimes simply praying for God’s blessings on them is enough.
- Your Extended Family – Got other family members or close friends who need prayer? Are they on your mind? What special circumstance might be keeping them from living their holiest life? What struggles do they have right now?
Friends & Acquaintances
- Close Friends – These could be coworkers or neighbors too, but if we’re close to someone then we probably know their personal stories. We can pray for them more specifically which makes the prayer more intentional and more powerful. Lift them up in prayer.
- Neighbors – Neighbors we don’t know closely are still close geographically and we should care about them. We might even know enough to know how to pray for them. If not, it’s still good to pray for God’s blessing and guidance over them. Got a neighborly dispute? Praying for your enemy is a powerful way to quell the tension and bring peace to the relationship. Want to be more general? Pray for the whole neighborhood.
- Coworkers – Some coworkers are close and others are not, but either way, we must work with these folks regularly. It’s a better shift for all if we get along and we’re more likely to do so when everyone is well and less stressed. Praying for coworkers could mean praying for the trouble they’re experiencing or for your relationship with them.
- Others – Even if you barely know a person but you know of their suffering, you can pray for them. A tenuous connection is no problem for God. He knows us all. Even if you pray earnestly for “that guy on the train,” God will know who you mean. If someone’s on your mind, go ahead and pray.
- Your city/town – Pray for your city or town in whatever way seems in need. Is the community torn on an upcoming vote? Are people suffering, arguing, troubled, or plagued with some difficulty? Pray the Holy Spirit will guide decision-makers and individuals alike to bring peace or aid or whatever the community needs to be happier, holier, and healthier.
- Local Leaders – Pray that local leaders will make fair and sound decisions for the community. Pray they do not fall into evil or deceitful ways and remain loyal, honest, and charitable in their jobs.
- First responders – Pray for your responders! Pray for law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, rescue workers, Emergency Department clinicians, even local military families, and whatever other first responder folks you have. It’s the hardest job with guaranteed trauma exposure on almost a daily basis, so please, pray for them.
- Schools – Pray for public schools to remain safe and teach their children honestly. Pray they guide their students in a way pleasing to God, which is becoming more difficult these days. Pray for private schools, especially Catholic schools, to employ faith-filled leaders and teachers and build up the students’ faith under proper doctrine.
- Safety – Pray for the continued safety of all residents in your area. Safety from violence, illness, and natural disasters.
- Parishes – Pray for your local parish and nearby parishes to remain faithful to the Lord’s word and teachings. Pray they continue to provide what they can for their community. Pray also that the community supports the local parish and grows in faith, filling those pews and growing in participation.
- National leaders – Pray for national leaders, much like local leaders, to work hard to produce fair and charitable decisions, maintain the dignity of life in all stages, hear the needs of all people, and put our national needs before any selfish desires.
- Safety – Pray our nation is secure and safe from invasion or any attack. Pray that, while we accept others into our country for safety and charity, we vet out those who seek to do harm and cause chaos.
- Faithful revival – Pray for a faithful revival in our parishes nationwide, so that churches fill up and our country turns back to God in every way.
- Charity – Pray for our nation to look to the needy through the Corporal Works of Mercy. Pray we truly feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, bury the dead, care for the sick and imprisoned, and provide for the poor (both items and resources).
- An end to war & violence – Pray for an overall end to all wars and violence. Pray for peace to prevail in all nations. This will not happen without prayer. This particular intention is vital, especially now.
- Global leaders – Pray all the same for global leaders, presidents, kings and queens, prime ministers, and all leaders across the world. Pray they make godly decisions, charitably care for their people, and seek peace over war.
- An end to famine – Pray for an end to world hunger. Pray that we, as a planet, seek to and successfully manage all our resources in a way that provides for all peoples.
- An end to poverty – Pray we as a planet not only provide resources but also teach those in need how to provide for themselves to end the cycle of poverty.
Choosing Your Intention
It’s not easy picking, but you can ask yourself the following questions to help:
- What’s happening in your life that has you worried?
- Who’s on your mind?
- What’s keeping you up at night?
- Who do you want God to bless out of need, kindness, or thanksgiving?
- What’s your biggest challenge right now?
No matter what or who you pick, your prayer is heard. Whether your prayer feels hopeless or insignificant, God is listening. If you still can’t decide, remember, you can pray more than once and you can add more than one intention per prayer. If you’re praying a Rosary, you could add an intention for every decade. There are so many ways to add intentions to your prayers.
Just remember to pray, always, without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17).
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