Catholic Sistas » perspective from the neck

Masthead header

The Value of Novenas [and Remembering to Actually Pray Them]

The Value of a Gift 

Prayer is a powerful gift. Perhaps you have not thought of prayer in terms of a gift. The interesting thing about gifts is that in order for them to be useful, each needs to be:

  1. Received,
  2. Opened, and
  3. Used.

Leave one of those elements out, and the gift ceases to fulfill its purpose. It can not reach its full potential or intended benefit if all three criteria are not met.

If we are presented with a new book, cookware, or game, and put it in a drawer never to be touched again, the benefit intended from the article would never be realized. Additionally, we would clearly appear quite ungrateful. 

Take Great Aunt Louise’s itchy, multi-color, QVC sweater which seemed to be a questionable choice back in 1980; what purpose could this possibly have? Back then, even if it just meant wearing it when you visited, adorned out of love and respect for the care she took in choosing it for you, the sweater revealed your love and respect for her. Fast-forward 30 years, the striped-sweater becomes a sweet memory and the only gift you still recall receiving from her.

If it is important to be attentive to sweet Aunt Louise and her generous gifts, even if I am unsure of its value in my life, how much more should our response be to every good gift God offers, such as faith, grace, and of course, prayer? 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17

For some of us, the struggle to pray comes from not knowing what to say. For others, the problem is to remember to pray. Whatever the request you need to bring to prayer, there is a novena (typically a nine-day prayer) to help you out. A novena is not only good for petitioning, but this form of prayer is also equally adequate for thanking, adoring, or contrition, which helps take care of the concern about what to say when we come to pray. I have included some strategies to help you to remember to recite these prayers each day.

Novenas to Put in Your Repertoire for Times of Need

Is your need immediate, can’t wait nine days to finish a prayer? How about Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s “Flying” or “Emergency” Novena? This novena consists of 9 Memorare prayers said, on the spot, in a row. Mother Teresa would always at a tenth in Thanksgiving knowing our Blessed Mother never fails to help her children, even if it was not as we expected, she knew Mary heard and brought her petition to Jesus. 

Maybe you have a little more time to bring this petition or prayer to the Lord, but maybe you’re not exactly able to wait nine days. How about a nine-hour novena? Two of my favorite nine-hour novenas are the Infant of Prague prayer and the Efficacious Sacred Heart Novena. Padre Pio said the latter each day for all the intentions entrusted to him. Recite the novena prayers once an hour (it doesn’t have to be on the top of the hour each time, just within that hour) for nine consecutive hours. I can attest to the power of these beautiful prayers. To help me remember to pray, I usually set the timer on my watch, phone, or Echo device.  

Perhaps, you have a little bit more time, but yet nine days seems like a long time to have a response to your prayers. I discovered the 5-day Novena to St Therese of Lisieux, which also includes a caveat to recite the novena prayers before 11 am each day. 

As you may know, St. Therese is known for sending a sign to the petitioner that their prayer has been heard and presented to the Lord. A word of caution, the rose sign does not necessarily mean God’s answer will be according to your plan but instead comes as an assurance she has presented them to the Lord) in the form of a rose. I have to share that I am kind of a stinker when it comes to praying to St. Therese. Skeptical by nature, I don’t just ask to receive any rose. I ask for a purple rose, a reformed ‘brat’ herself, she seems to get my struggle, and nearly always plays along. 

To help me remember each day of my novena, I turn to my email and calendar. I set reminders, including pop up notifications and emails. 

The Our Lady Undoer of Knots, prayer and novena, made more widely known by Pope Francis, can be said with or without a Rosary. Since the Rosary comes with 15 promises and graces galore, I do try to complete this version. The Rosary, for me, is an act of waging war against all the obstacles that fight to keep me from the peace Jesus has for me as I await his answer or the resolution of my situation or circumstance.

Regardless of which novena you choose or the timeline in which you pray, you can be assured, the Lord loves that you are using this invaluable gift. 

F r i e n d s