Sunday, April 17, 2016

Intercessions in Lauds and Vespers--a Primer

A reprint of an older, but popular post. This is a good one to share with friends who are new to the Liturgy of the Hours.

 Did you ever notice that the prayers of intercession in Morning Prayer are of a different character than those of Evening Prayer? If not, take a look.

In the morning, we are still aiming at starting the day off right, that is, sanctifying it, and renewing our dedication to God. So these intercessions will focus on praising divine attributes and begging for divine assistance to help us grow in holiness. It's the Evening Prayer intercessions where we will pray for the needs of others: the pope and bishops, priests, for vocations, for the poor, the sick, and (this one every single day) the dead.
This distinction between morning and evening intercessions is not hard and fast. You'll see an occasional intercession for others in morning prayer, and occasional intercessions in evening prayer related to personal holiness. Also, on some Fridays, personal repentance and conversion predominates even during Evening prayer intercessions.

The General Instruction also states that you may add additional intercessions of your own composition at Evening Prayer, just prior to the final intercession listed in the breviary (which is always for the dead and/or the dying.)

More trivia. Many people who own four-volume breviaries aren't aware of an appendix of alternative, shorter intercessions that may be used in place of what is in the four week psalter. Appendix II.

Rubrics trivia: there are several options for how to pray the intercessions. Some are only meant for group recitation of the liturgy when one person functions as a leader. But whether in a group or private, most people try to use all options at once, as a result doing the intercessions awkwardly. To wit:

*The introductory, opening sentence of the intercessions is only meant when there is a group with a leader. If you are praying alone, you may simply begin with the first intercession.

*Each intercession has two parts, and a repeating, response along the lines of "Lord, hear our prayer" You may do one of the following with these elements:

 a. in a group, the leader reads both parts of the intercessions and the group responds with the "Lord hear our prayer"-type response. OR the group leader reads the first part of the intercession and the group responds with the second part, in which case the "Lord, hear our prayer"-thing is NOT said by anyone!!! OR the group without a leader takes turns with the two parts of the intercessions, but  in this case, once again, no one says the "Lord hear our prayer"-response!
b. When praying alone, you just say the two parts of the intercession, and omit the "Lord hear our prayer" -thing. If you are praying with one other person, one of you may read both parts of the intercession and the other do the "Lord hear our prayer." 
What is NOT correct--although it is done everywhere--is for the same person/s to say the second half of the intercession, and then aso say the Lord hear our prayer-response. It should be intuitive that this is awkward (you're responding to your own response--doesn't that feel odd?), but since the instructions in the ordinary don't explain how to do the intercessions, and almost no one bothers to read the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, we end up with an epidemic of Intercession Awkwardness.

I feel like a liturgical geek army of one in the Ban Intercession Awkwardness movement. But boy, it felt good to rant about this today.

However, I'll add this: if your group has been using the Awkward Method for years, and is not likely to accept you as an authority on this matter, don't be afraid that this is some Huge Liturgical Abuse that you must fight with all your might until you get kicked out of your prayer group. The Awkward Method still insures that all the intercessions are prayed, so really, no harm is done. It's not as if the group had decided to eliminate intercessions altogether, or use nothing but spontaneously composed intercessions.


  1. You're not an army of one in the Ban Intercession Awkwardness movement! I was president in my province for many years and was more frequently than I'd like correcting communities about not doing the double response.

    1. I'm happy to have company. I get more funny looks whenever I try to point this out. Must be nice to be in a position of authority to fix this.

  2. Thanks for the clarification. My husband and I pray together and he does it the "awkward" way and I didn't want to be a know-it-all and correct him. Now I can share your post with him and I think he will like that better.

  3. I know what you mean. Not with my husband in my case, but with my pastor, who leads us in Lauds after weekday morning mass.

  4. Hi Daria, have you seen the note that Dane Falkner posted on on April 20? It's very disconcerting, and I wonder if you can comment as it's not really clear

  5. Thanks for alerting me, Norman. And I think you were the one to mention an update on Universalis the other day as well. I'll post right now about both of these news items. I use almost daily but never go to their webiste/blog so I would never have seen this.

  6. So, at the risk of asking too trivial of a question, the intercessions are written in these nice two-parts statements. When I'm adding my own, I don't have the creativity to phrase them so nicely. (sometimes it's hard enough putting them in a simple sentence!) Would that be a time to offer use the "Lord hear our prayer" response to our own simple petition? I'm thinking about my own private prayer time, but I guess in group prayer it might be similar? I'm new to LOTH (about a month now - interesting story to how I was introduced to them!) so I'm still kinda a newbie, but I've really enjoyed adding this to my prayer life.

    1. That's not trivial at all. Naturally, we can't spontaneously compose a beautifully phrased petition on the spur of the moment. It's certainly enough to say, e.g. ,"for X who is sick" or "for the soul of X" or "for babies in danger of abortion today", with or without "Lord hear our prayer" when you are praying by yourself. God knows what you mean. It's even enough to mentally visualize the person or situation without words when you are alone. When Praying with a partner or with a group, it does seem that having them respond "Lord hear our prayer" (or whatever the response is for that day) would be the best way to handle these extra petitions.