69. In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is desirable that there usually be such a form of prayer in Masses celebrated with the people, so that petitions may be offered for holy Church, for those who govern with authority over us, for those weighed down by various needs, for all humanity, and for the salvation of the whole world.[cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 53]
Usually, but not always, the prayers include these and are rendered in this order:
70. The series of intentions is usually to be:
a) for the needs of the Church;
b) for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
c) for those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
d) for the local community.
Nevertheless, in any particular celebration, such as a Confirmation, a Marriage, or at a Funeral, the series of intentions may be concerned more closely with the particular occasion.
How it is done:
71. It is for the Priest Celebrant to regulate this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he calls upon the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with an oration. The intentions announced should be sober, be composed with a wise liberty and in few words, and they should be expressive of the prayer of the entire community.
They are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the Deacon or by a cantor, a reader, or one of the lay faithful.[cf. Inter Oecumenici 56]
The people, for their part, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said in common after each intention or by praying in silence.
Praying to God on behalf of others is a priestly role, and it is interesting that the priest is not listed as one to “announce” them, even in the situation in which no adequate reader is available. The common practice of a presider inserting “one last intention” or two doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the letter or spirit of the Roman Missal. The priest “regulates” this prayer. That’s it.
I used to feel ambivalent about these prayers being offered from the ambo, but GIRM 69 does suggest that these prayers and the exercise of this office is “in some sense” derived from the Word of God.
Note that the lector is the third choice for the person to lead these prayers, even after a cantor. The practice of singing these, or minimally, offering a sung response, is not widespread in my North American experience. Probably we could stand to improve on that point.
One of the best descriptions in the GIRM is that of the intentions: “sober … wise liberty … few words.” If only the rest of the Roman Missal were.