On Long-Winded Prayers

This ongoing discussion at PrayTell illustrates the value of public intercessions at liturgy being non-specific. The bishops of England and Wales have a problem with the 2008 TLM rewrite of Good Friday, as translated:

Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.

Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The bishops there want this reworked. But I think it’s too many words, even for Good Friday. Maybe especially for Good Friday. Better for both forms would be:

For the Jewish people.

Period. Followed by a significant period of silence.

I’ve never been a fan of offering a prayer, then explaining it, as though God needs to take direction from people. Perhaps the anthropocentric impulse has infected the Catholic traditionalists. Why not mention the petition, then be done with it?

For the pope.

For bishops.

For clergy.

For all lay people.

For unity of Christians.

For all who believe in God.

For those who do not believe in God.

For missionaries.

For people preparing for baptism.

For the sick.

For the dying.

For refugees.

For victims of violence.

This is enough. Certainly for Sunday. Even on Good Friday. There is nothing magical about ten long-winded intercessions. Fewer words will even make the ritual more striking and noticeable. And possibly more meaningful, if the lector is skilled.

And if people want to add any specifics in their minds, silently, let’s give a good pause for silence.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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21 Responses to On Long-Winded Prayers

  1. Liam says:

    I am not persuaded by this idea for Good Friday. At least I don’t think you’ve made much of a persuasive case for it. There’s nothing magical about a lot of things we promote, for that matter. That’s a statement that will eviscerate much you may not want to see gutted. It’s much more in spirit with a mumbled Low Mass mentality.

  2. Katherine says:

    I think it’s Teresa of Avila who comments somewhere to the effect that God doesn’t need us to be specific in our prayers, but we do, so we understand what it is we are asking …

    Seems to me the problem is in the introduction, more than the actual prayer, which asks that all Israel be saved, without specifying how.

  3. Todd says:

    I’m less excited about the prospect of campaigning for a Good Friday change in MR4. It’s just an idea. It suggests that there are more than two ways to pray for the Jewish people–and others–on Good Friday–or any other day. It might also be that given the gravity and quantity of the Liturgy of the Word, perhaps more is less. A lot less. But as I said, no campaign is forthcoming from me.

    Significant brevity mirrors the extreme which I think is more of a problem in a culture (even a church culture) that takes some degree of pride in many words. Often, just a few will do. But many find it needful to pray for people in many words, and in a way the cause does not, or might not ask.

    One example … I think of refugees, and how a Mass petition might suggest a peaceful settlement in our neighborhoods, or a return to their homeland. Depending on the group or the individual, some might object to either specific thing. And justly so. So I would wonder if such a prayer for refugees isn’t really for the author or the community.

    Another example: to pray for peace in troubled neighborhoods. Better without bringing police officers to justice or an end to petty theft and the break-up of African Americam families.

    A little more care is needed with the composition of Mass intercessions: that’s what I would suggest. What’s that motto … ? Be careful what you pray for …

    • Liam says:

      Focusing on Good Friday, at least in the Ordinary Form, they really aren’t that long winded. If you observe silence for the length of a mentally offered Our Father, they may take roughly five minutes for ten intercessions. Just sayin’….

      More of a problem are poorly conceived daily/Sunday intercessions, and I think your concern about about egoism (personal or communal) is quite apt.

  4. Atheist Max says:

    “For all who believe in God.
    For those who do not believe in God.”

    This can’t be simplified to “everyone”?

  5. Dick Martin says:

    Romans 1:18-23
    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
    because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
    For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
    because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    Professing to be wise, they became fools,
    and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Every human that has ever existed knows that there is a God who has Eternal Power ; if they deny he exists . they will be without excuse. EVERYONE, go ahead and admit it.

    • Atheist Max says:

      “Every human that has ever existed knows that there is a God who has Eternal Power”
      Dick, is that really fair? To claim such a thing? Seems a bit shady.
      I certainly do not know. How can you know? What information do you have which is so unavailable to me?
      And if God has so much power where is there any sign of it?

  6. Dick Martin says:

    Max; The proof is your attendance on this site. You have to see his creation( Yes you do.) But you deny the evidence all around you. It’s easier to believe which you can see than believe in someone you can’t see. You are a doubting Thomas. Your worldly PRIDE is holding you back. I dare you to test God and see what He will DO. Ask from you Heart for Jesus to make you a new person, and ask for His salvation.” it’s Free.” I did this and the next morning I got up I had the evidence living on the inside of me. Jesus took up residence in my Spirit and we became one. Just as the scriptures said it would. that was 42 yrs. ago and He has not left me; He is still livivg in me. HIS PRESENCE IS MY EVIDENCE. It’s impossible to please God without FAITH,

    • Atheist Max says:


      “But you deny the evidence all around you”

      No I don’t. There just isn’t any evidence to consider. A tree is not proof of God. It is proof of a seed having grown into a tree. Your own existence only proves your mother had a baby.

      Besides, which is the true god? If when you pray you address him as “Dear True God” that should work, right? But then why do all religions claim their gods are the true gods and yet the religions (even within Christianity) are completely against one another?

      And think: If a Muslim says a prayer to Allah, why doesn’t Yahweh or Jesus in their mercy step in and answer the Muslim’s prayer? According to you, they are praying to nobody.
      Yet they claim their prayers get an answer! just as christians claim!

      Also, You cannot use a personal story to prove a god. That is cheating.
      If all you can show is your belief in God has proved god – then my lack of belief must disprove god and the Muslim’s belief in Allah proves their god too!
      That is no way to arrive at what is true.

      Your personal story cannot prove anything except that you convinced yourself of something for reasons which only you know about. You have every right to believe it, but you make no progress in demonstrating any gods are real.

  7. Dick Martin says:

    Do you believe that the Bomb dropped on Japan killed thousands of People? Do you believe that Hitler’s Death camps murdered Millions of people? You weren’t there in person to witness . What proof is there to prove that these things really happened? You believe they did because History Recorded the events. You can travel to the places and see what’s left of the evidence remaining. Even a Fool wouldn’t argue that it never happened. You would check the archives in Daily news Papers and follow daily reporting of the facts. The fact is that the reporting of evidence in the News of the Times. The Newspaper of those ancient events is in the Bible. I wasn’t there but I believe in the record. This is the proof ; I have seen it ; I walked it. I have lived 36 yrs. not knowing Him and now I’ve live 42 yrs. with him living inside me. My experience is my Proof. you can’t take that away from Me. You will Doubt it until you open up to Him also. What do you have to loose? you have everything to Gain. Your already lost and without Jesus you’ll remain. Seek Him and you will find Him. If it’s not true you will have nothing in the end anyway.

  8. Atheist Max says:

    “What proof is there to prove that these things really happened?”

    Hitler? We have consistent accounts by thousands of eye-witnesses: films, photographs, audio tapes. But we don’t need all those things to prove Hitler existed. We can be satisfied with demonstrable evidence.

    “What have you to lose?… If it isn’t true you will have lost nothing”

    That is not correct. You will lose your integrity and your ability to think critically and honestly. You will have surrendered to a blank slate upon which any preacher can paint any picture and you will have no ability to discern what is true or false. And don’t call it ‘righteous’ or ‘pious’ to surrender your integrity so easily.

  9. Dick Martin says:

    You are willing to believe what happened in Germany and Japan without seeing or touching because it doesn’t have any God connection. When I read the biblical account of Israel and the archeology evidence because it’s about God’s existence you have nothing to do with it. When you release your last breath you will have the answer. there will be no free will to choose then, TO LATE. You can’t convince you about any thing of FAITH. It’s impossible to please God with out FAITH.

    • Atheist Max says:

      I must have evidence in order to believe things. If is a crime to require evidence then the word “Crime” is meaningless.
      Your personal story of a god influencing you is not evidence of god – ‘sensing god’s presence’ can be explained in hundreds of rational ways.
      Plus, if you are correct that God has made himself known to you, there is no Faith in that conclusion. You are pointing to a god who proves his existence whenever he wants to. That sounds like a delusion.

      I look forward to Hell if I must lie about things in this life to avoid it.

  10. Dick Martin says:

    Hell will be full of non- believing FOOLS like you. There will be no communication with any one there. You’ll live in total darkness. breathing in sulfur smells, gaging; never seeing the ONLY one who totally Loved you when you were unloving. All the time you spend on this site only proves you want to believe.

    • Atheist Max says:

      You are making empty claims and presenting them in a very hateful tone of voice.
      If God is real, why on earth would he care if I believed in him? It makes no sense.

  11. Dick Martin says:

    The tone of voice you hear is the echo of your hate in the emptiness of your brain for without Jesus you are a nobody; but with Him you have everything that He has provided. You could not afford the gifts His Love bestows on you. He paid it for you ( a great price). it’s free if you believe. Multi-millions have done just that. you need to wake up and be in that number. your name was on Jesus’s mind when He died for your sins. Your name is written in the book of life; without Jesus your name will be erased at your death.

    • Atheist Max says:

      “the echo of your hate”

      If I look in my gas tank and find that it is empty I don’t ‘hate gas’ for not being there.
      If I look in my cookie bowl and see no cookies that does not mean I will start hating cookies!
      Similarly I don’t hate God. I am not seeing a whiff of evidence for a god at all.
      I really don’t understand.

      “Your name is written on the book of life..”
      Dick, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I am alive. And I will die. I’m good with that – aren’t you? Isn’t it incredibly selfish and arrogant to think you will get another life somehow? Just for taking a free gift? Sounds totally cheap to me.

  12. Dick Martin says:

    Let the Bible speak to your problem of not understanding.
    1 Corinthians 2:10-16(NKJV)
    But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. ( Truth revealed)
    For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?( Dead to God’s Spirit) Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
    Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. ( Born Again people)
    These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
    But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
    But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.
    For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. When you become ” Born Again” you receive the Spirit of God who lives in you. He wrote it, He explains it. You think it’s foolishness. Exactly; for you it’s true. Your Totally cheap sounding.

    • Atheist Max says:


      You are describing a way of thinking – to accept an old text as if it were fact – on trust alone. If the philosophy were clearly “good” or beneficial to others in some way I might go along with it.
      But there is no evidence these claims are good, nor any evidence they are true.

      Why is it good to isolate oneself in an imagined state of rebirth? And you must admit, the whole thing has to happen in your imagination, right? Isn’t rebirth just a doubling down of your internal acceptance of claims you already heard about? There is nothing new about it – right?

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