The General Intercessions or Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful are a series of prayers which form part of the liturgy in the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and other Western Liturgical Churches.
These prayers are said at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word or Mass of the Catechumens (the older term). The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states:
In the General Intercessions or the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world.
The prayers are introduced by the celebrating priest, then a deacon or another member of the congregation or the priest himself proposes a number of intentions to pray for, and the people respond with a short invocation such as "Lord, hear our prayer". Finally, the priest says a concluding prayer.
The custom of offering such prayers, perhaps in line with Jewish tradition, is rooted in the scripture:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.
The practice is witnessed to by Justin Martyr and Augustine of Hippo, and by the fourth century, the Roman Rite had a set of nine Solemn Prayers of Intercession of the kind now preserved only in the Good Friday at the same point of Liturgy at which the ordinary General Intercessions are prayed.
The General Intercessions dropped out of use, leaving only the introductory greeting "Dominus vobiscum" and the invitation "Oremus" (followed by no particular prayer) that in the Tridentine Mass the priest said when about to begin the Offertory. They were one of the elements that the Second Vatican Council referred to when decreeing in Sacrosanctum Concilium, 50: "Other parts which suffered loss through accidents of history are to be restored to the vigour they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary".
In the Ambrosian Rite, the prayer of the faithful has been in vigour for some occasions also before the Second Vatican Council, with the Ambrosian chant for the offertory Dicamus omnes.
Liturgy of the Hours
Similar sets of prayers are said in the Liturgy of the Hours after the canticles of the Benedictus and the Magnificat at Lauds and Vespers (Morning and Evening Prayer). Referred to as the Intercessions, they are similarly introduced by an introductory phrase, but end with the recitation of the Lord's Prayer before the person presiding over the celebration recites the concluding prayer.
- General Instruction of the Roman Missal Archived July 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, 69
- Handbook for Liturgical Studies: The Eucharist, by Anscar J. Chupungco, Liturgical Press, 2000 ISBN 0-8146-6163-7, p. 228
- Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, The Liturgical Commission: The General Intercessions
- The Eucharistic Celebration, by Adolf Adam, Robert C. Schultz, Liturgical Press, 1994 ISBN 0-8146-6123-8, p. 49