I love novenas…and I hate novenas. I love the focus of them…and I hate the fact that if I forget a day, I’ve forgotten something HUGE AND BIG. Or that’s how it feels.
And at this season in my life, I’m finding it’s easier than ever to forget or ignore things that are important, like novenas I want to pray.
Enter a service I’ve been using since 2011, Pray More Novenas. The idea is that you get the novena reminders and prayers in your email. As it happens, you’re also praying with a huge community: over two hundred thousand people from around the world!
John-Paul and Annie Deddens are the masterminds behind this brilliant idea, and John-Paul was kind enough to speak with me about their inspiration and goals for Pray More Novenas.
How did the idea for Pray More Novenas start?
My wife and I had recently started dating and she asked me to pray the Immaculate Conception novena with her. Several of her friends at the Newman Center were planning to pray it together. I thought about it for a minute and turned her down. I could tell that she was disappointed, but I had always been disappointed by Novenas in the past. Actually, I wasn’t disappointed in the novenas themselves, but rather in my own discipline to complete an entire novena. Not exactly the best reason not to pray with my future wife! After that novena was already underway I realized that there were probably other people who struggled to finish novenas as well. That’s when I got the idea to send reminder emails out with the prayers for each day in them. I launched the website a few weeks later.
As I recall, PMN started very small. How has it grown?
In terms of size, it started out with more than 500 people on the first novena. That was the Christmas Novena of 2010, we were praying for an end to abortion. With that much interest starting out, I knew that I had found a need and set a goal to do about one novena a month. Now in the middle of 2015 we are up to almost two hundred thousand people from all over the world praying together. We have members in Australia, Ireland, China, and Iran just to name a few! In terms of scope, it hasn’t changed much really. We still pray one or two novenas a month all together.
What’s been the greatest blessing for you?
The greatest blessing for me has been being able to see how God answers prayers in a powerful way. Annie and I get to see big answered prayers every day. One of our favorite things we do after each novena is ask people to share their answered prayers, if they experienced any from that novena, and then we share those answered prayers with the members of Pray More Novenas in an email. We’ve found it to be so uplifting, and it gives us a moment to reflect on the power of prayer when we all come together for each novena. It also gives us a moment to truly be in awe of what God is doing with these prayers.
And I think Annie would say that another blessing from this has been how we, even just the two of us, have been able to grow in our faith because of these novenas and the community that has grown over the years. Even when our prayers aren’t answered, we’re learning more about how to cling to our faith in those times, just as many other members of Pray More Novenas do with their unanswered prayers. And the more that we pray, the more that those prayers have changed us; we used to come to prayer asking God for what we want, but we’re learning more how to pray and ask for God’s will. That has been very transformative for us.
I remember that you and your wife Annie met thanks to a novena. Can you share that story and how she has become part of the PMN apostolate? How has her involvement changed/guided things?
Annie was studying journalism and working for a radio station. She decided to do a story on 40 Days for Life and she interviewed me. I was a pro-life activist and was running Students for Life of Illinois as well as the local 40 Days for Life campaign. I came to find out much later that Annie had prayed a novena to St. Anne to find a husband. Soon after, she and I met through that interview. We credit that novena to St. Anne for bringing us together. You can read that story in Annie’s own words here: http://www.catholicwifecatholiclife.com/st-anne-bring-me-a-man-as-fast-as-you-can/
For the first few years, I ran PMN as a side project while working in the pro-life movement. However, it eventually became too big for me to do on the side by myself. About a year after we were married, Annie quit her job as a TV news producer and started working full time on PMN. I later left my job to do the same. We joke that I’m the head of Pray More Novenas, and she is the heart. We decide on which novenas to pray together—and we do take suggestions from members of Pray More Novenas! Then, Annie or I will write the intentions for the novenas and the emails that we send out. Other than that, Annie spends most of her time responding to emails we receive during and after the novenas. She also writes here: http://www.catholicwifecatholiclife.com/
Is there a way people can support your work, if they feel called to, financially or otherwise? How?
The best thing to do is to sign up at www.praymorenovenas.com. We are supported by donations, but we really prefer that you sign up before even thinking about giving. We see this like listener supported radio and we want to be a blessing to you first and foremost. In fact, if you go to praymorenovenas.com now you’ll have a hard time finding a donate button. But, once you’re signed up we do have an opportunity to donate at the end of each novena.