How to Pray for People: Paraklesis Service
Last Sunday I began what will turn out to be a series of points on the subject of how to offer prayers for other people. I said that the most effectual way to offer prayers for others is to submit their names to be commemorated during the preparation of the gifts for the Divine Liturgy, along with an offering of wine and bread or a monetary substitute. I also said that this kind of commemoration is appropriate for people who are members in good standing of our Church and that there are other ways to pray for individuals who have lapsed or who do not [yet] accept or practice the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Today’s points will be about another appropriate way to offer prayers, specifically for people who are alive. That would be what is called the so-called Paraklesis or Supplication Service. The Greek word παράκλησις means supplication. It is related to the Modern Greek word παρακαλῶ, which more frequently is used to mean “please” but can also mean “I beg your pardon.” The Paraklesis service is an opportunity to offer prayers for any living person for any reason. Here at St Nektarios, there is a short Paraklesis service on Tuesdays at 9:30 AM; and in the evening during the first two weeks of August. Check the parish calendar.
The content of the Paraklesis service includes a number of hymns to the Mother of God, or to a particular Saint, whose intercessions are being invoked. But the actual petitions are directed to the Lord. The central petition goes like this: “Again we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, visitation, forgiveness and remission of the sins of the servants of God…” after which follow some general groupings of people, and most everybody in the world is covered. It is not inappropriate to request that certain individuals be prayed for by name. You may consider requesting this if a loved one is particularly ill or needing extra prayers.
You can submit a name or list of names at the church office, and specify for how long you want them prayed for. The lists are maintained until the end of August each year.
When you attend, you may not actually hear the priest read any names out loud. This should not alarm you. The priest commemorates the names in the altar, and prays quietly, maybe even silently. Prayers that are offered silently, in the heart, are more effective. Listening hard to hear the names that you submitted is not the same as praying. The spiritually mature practice is to attend the service, and to sing what is appropriate, and to pray Κύριε ἐλέησον, Lord have mercy, for everyone as well as your loved ones. Leave it to the priest to present the names to God, as he knows best.
On the subject of silent prayers: The prayers of the Divine Liturgy are all intended to be said aloud, because they serve to direct our thoughts and remind us of God’s works. Many of these prayers are said quietly by the priests while the choir is singing, in order to keep the service short. As a congregation matures spiritually, the people will want to hear all those prayers aloud, even if it takes a little longer.