How to Pray: A Novena

Hallow App How to pray novena

A novena is a method of prayer in which we pray for the same petition or devotion for nine consecutive days.

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Acts 1:14

What is a novena?

Origin

This Catholic prayer practice likely originated from the “first novena” shared in the Acts of the Apostles. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, the disciples gathered together to ask him about the restoration of Israel. Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 7-8).

So the disciples and Mary waited together, praying for the Holy Spirit to guide them. Finally, nine days later, the Holy Spirit came down on them. “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1). When the disciples prayed together for nine days for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they modeled the novena prayer method that is so popular today.

Authorship

Many saints and other holy people have had novenas revealed to them by Christ or the Virgin Mary. For example, Christ revealed the Surrender Novena to Father Dolindo Ruotolo (1882 – 1970), now a candidate for beatification, to guide us in growing our trust in God — to surrender to Him. Mary revealed the 54 Day Novena to a young girl suffering from an illness thought to be incurable; this 54-day prayer is actually comprised of 6 novenas.

Other novenas have been prayed for centuries with no author attributed to them, such as the Holy Spirit Novena. This Novena is traditionally prayed for the nine days before Pentecost, praying for the descent of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: holy fear, piety, fortitude, knowledge, understanding, counsel, wisdom, and the Fruits of the Spirit. You can pray the Holy Spirit Novena with Chika Anyanwu.

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You can find the Holy Spirit Novena in the Challenges tab on Hallow.

There is a wide variety of novenas to pray: with saints, to grow closer to God, or for a particular intention on your heart. So whether you’re looking to grow your trust in God or get to know a saint better, we promise you’ll find one that works for you!

Types of novenas

Anticipation

We pray novenas in anticipation before or after a funeral, praying for the soul of the person who has passed away and asking God to be close to those who mourn them. This could be a saint’s novena that they were close to or a novena to Christ, such as the Sacred Heart Novena.

Preparation

We hope to prepare ourselves for the nine days leading up to a sacrament or another important day with these novenas. For example, some couples might pray a novena before their wedding day, or you might pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena leading up to the Birth of Jesus.

Petition

Novenas in petition ask God to answer a prayer or ask a specific saint for their intercession. First, identify your petition or intention for prayer. Then, select a saint associated with the subject matter. For example, you might pray the St. Joseph the Worker Novena if you’re praying about employment; we offer this novena in Hallow.

Penance

These novenas are prayed as an act of penitence; we pray for nine days asking God for His mercy. They are often given as a penance after the sacrament of confession. In Hallow, you can pray the Divine Mercy Novena with Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus in The Chosen

Why pray a novena?

We pray for novenas for a specific intention or grace, such as for a loved one, healing, forgiveness, clarity with a big decision, etc. However, they aren’t magic. We cannot assume that our prayers will be answered immediately. And, sometimes, what we pray for isn’t exactly what we need. Rather, we pray novenas to grow in patience and place our trust in God, just as the Apostles prayed in anticipation of the Holy Spirit coming to them.

We pray novenas to become disciples, growing in discipline and opening our hearts to God’s will. Whether our intention is answered or not, we finish the nine days in gratitude for God’s presence in our lives. 

When do you pray a novena?

Some novenas are prayed during specific times, such as the Divine Mercy Novena that begins on Good Friday. Traditionally, many people choose to pray novenas asking for a saint’s intercession on the nine days leading up to that saint’s feast day. If you’re praying before a sacrament or event, you’ll pray the novena for nine days before or after it. In truth, you really can pray a novena at any time. Novenas guide us to grow our trust in God — and that’s something we need in all seasons of life.

How to pray: A Novena

Identify your intention.

Before you commit to praying for nine days, take some time to consider what your intention is for prayer. Are you looking to prepare yourself for an event spiritually? Or pray for a loved one that is struggling? Maybe you’re simply looking for encouragement to develop a strong prayer habit. Remember: asking the Holy Spirit for guidance is never a bad idea!

Choose a novena.

After you’ve taken some time to prepare yourself for prayer, select a novena that matches your intention. This might be a prayer for that specific intention, or it might be a novena to a saint who is known and loved in the subject you’re struggling with or feeling gratitude for in this season of your life. Know that it doesn’t have to be a “perfect” fit; by taking time each day to pray for a special intention will hopefully bring you clarity, peace and guide you to put your trust in God.

Dedicate nine days.

Once you start a novena, dedicate time each day to being present with God and pray it with Him. Sometimes staying on track is difficult. We recommend setting aside a specific time and setting a reminder on your phone (or in Hallow) or adding it to your calendar for the nine days. You might also consider asking someone to pray the novena with you to hold each other accountable.

Embrace the novena.

When you set out on this prayer journey, try to embrace it each day fully. Each day might look a little different for you, but try to accompany your time in prayer with other acts of faith. This might be fasting from social media or gossip, or it could be doing a kind thing for someone else each day. Let these nine days of prayer transform you in more ways than just devoting the time to pray each day.

Be patient.

Remember, novenas aren’t magic. If you come to the end of your novena and your prayers appear to be unanswered, know that God hears your prayers and loves you. And often, our prayers are not answered in the way we hoped. Ask for God’s help in trusting in Him and in desiring that His will be done. 


In Hallow, you’ll find the Surrender Novena, the 54 Day Novena, the St. Joseph Novena, and the Divine Mercy Novena and the Sacred Heart Novena with Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus in The Chosen. As we continue to add more novenas to the app, we hope you’ll start praying with us!

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