A novena (from the Latin novem, “nine”) is a prayer, or set of prayers, prayed for nine days, hours, weeks or even months. It is often prayed to ask God for special prayer requests or petitions. Novenas are often used to ask specific saints to pray for us.
The very first novena was recorded in the New Testament. It was the nine days of prayer by the Apostles and Blessed Mother from the time Jesus ascended into heaven until Pentecost Sunday.
Over the centuries, four specific types of novenas have emerged: novenas for mourning, preparation, petition, and indulgences. Some novenas may fall into more than one category.
- Mourning novenas are often set before burials.
- Preparation novenas are joyful and said in anticipation of a feast day or celebrate the founder of a religious order.
- Petition novenas ask God for intervention, signs, requests, or other needs as well.
- Indulgence novenas are acts of penance for previous wrongdoings. Usually, these novenas are done in conjunction with the Sacrament of Confession and church attendance.
It is not necessary to pray at the same time every day (although you can), or to fast, or to pray the rosary in addition to the novena; however, you can still do all of these but they are not required. All you need to do is to say the daily prayers sincerely.
Novenas should not be seen as magical chant or spell that guarantees desired results. God controls the universe and we certainly do not control God.
To put it in a nutshell, novenas work, and we should pray them because they are a valuable form of conversation with God and His saints. They flow from faith, and God always attends to the prayers of His faithful.