Hope in Prayer Intentions
Prayer can be an exercise in desire and a place where we open ourselves up to the performative power of hope. Prayer can be an experience that is able to purify our hearts and foster within us the desire to truly ask God what is worthy of Him. I often hear prayer intentions from my students that have a subject without a request, such as ‘for my grandmother’ or ‘for the basketball game” rather than ‘for my grandmother who sick, that she might feel better’ or ‘for the basketball game, so that we play to the best of our ability’. If prayer intentions are offered with a specific request, then they can be an exercise in desire and may form true hope in God.
When you are conducting a prayer session that asks for intentions, first allow students to have some time to think about their intention before actually saying it out loud. Remind them that you would like them to have an actual request in mind. It may be helpful to give them some time to write these intentions in a journal before sharing them as a class. Once you have asked for them to offer their intentions to the group, help those who offer prayers without a specific request by asking them to elaborate on what they are asking or suggesting a specific request that they could offer. Eventually students will get used to this and develop prayer intentions with a desired hope in mind before sharing them with the class.
In addition, prayer intentions should include actual hopes or desires that are worth praying to God. Prayers should not be superficial, selfish, or helpful only for the moment (SPE SALVI, n. 33). If your students place their hopes in insignificant requests that make no real difference in anyone’s lives, then they mistakenly reduce their hope rather than build it through prayer. Instead, you should foster an environment of prayer with your students that only accepts prayers that are worth praying. You might go too far by rejecting all the intentions that you find insignificant, but encourage your students in prayer with some guidelines. For example, suggest that they pray for things that focus on “us, not me”, “change, not comfort”, or “the future, not the moment”.
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