Catholics have a well-stocked arsenal of prayer tools to bombard the heavens. There is no one, magic formula or process. We can pick and choose based on our own prayer style, personality, or mood. Here are just some examples.
The Mass is the `source and summit` of our prayer. During the Eucharistic prayers, we lift up all our intentions as we pray for the needs of the world and the Church. While each Mass is prayed for all, it can also be offered up for a special intention.
In our small town parish, the intentions are often for the deceased. We remember them by name. We pray for eternal rest for their soul. And we pray for those who mourn their loss. Mass intentions are also offered in times of need and illness, or in gratitude and thanksgiving for gifts received.
The tradition of `offering up a Mass` has been abused in the past. The sale of Masses and indulgences filled clerical coffers and helped build grand edifices. Today, the voluntary stipend offered will make no one rich. Here in Canada, mass stipends are often sent up north to help support missionary priests. In exchange, the prayer intention is remembered at the Mass.
The Rosary is probably the most recognized of Catholic prayer traditions. When sorrow is deep and words fail, the rhythmic cadence and tactility of praying the beads can bring a meditative calm. The simplicity of the rosary lends itself to uniting family and friends in group prayer without the need for a formal structure.
Novenas consist of specific prayers and devotional practices repeated for nine successive days. There are almost as many different novenas as there are needs.
Prayers to the Saints allow us to send our intentions to a heavenly specialist! Lost something? St. Anthony is your man. Have a tooth ache? St. Apollinia is your woman. Got a problem child? St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, will understand.
Are these just superstitious prayer practices? If you believe that prayer, itself, is a superstitious practice, then the answer is obvious. But if you believe in the power of prayer, then why not embrace the diversity of prayer forms available to us? Try one out that feels right for the moment. If you are a contemplative soul, a rosary can quiet the mind and heart and help lead into meditation. If you like organization and order in your life, try a novena. If you want a heavenly prayer partner, Google your intention and find a patron saint to pray with you.
At the heart of prayer, whether it is quietly sitting in the presence of God or using a more structured format, is the actual intention to pray. And this is a good thing!