I want to say one more thing about the “Prayer of the Faithful” (or “Universal Prayer” or “General Intercessions”) before I end this series of morceaux about the first part of the Mass. And it has to do with the content of this prayer-form.
As its very name implies, the petitions voiced are supposed to be common to the entire community: “general” intercessions and prayers. This means that the prayer-intentions are things which reflect the needs and hopes of the whole worshipping assembly. It would be inappropriate, for example, to ask the whole community to pray for a wholly private benefit. (That’s why you shouldn’t hear an intention like “That the pastor’s stock portfolio rise in value, we pray to the Lord.” [smile!]) And this is also why it’s best not to ask everyone to pray for something unknown, no matter how “special” an intention it is!
But at the same time, this doesn’t mean that someone or something very specific shouldn’t be brought to the prayerful attention of the whole assembly. In fact, since spiritual power of the entire community is great, we can desire and value this kind of special focus. We frequently pray for individuals who are sick, or ask that someone who has been particularly victimized be consoled or restored. Individual events often inspire petitions: a certain incident or anniversary will often capture our attention and inspire a particular prayer-theme. The real issue is whether or not the subject-matter of this pray is appropriate or not!