Preces (Latin preces, plural of prex, "prayer") are, in liturgical worship, short petitions that are said or sung as versicle and response by the officiant and congregation respectively. This form of prayer is one of the oldest in Christianity, finding its source in both the pre-Christian Hebrew prayers of the Psalms in Temple Worship,[1]

In Anglicanism

An example familiar to Anglicans (and Lutherans, in their Matins services) is the opening versicles and responses of the Anglican services of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer:

Priest: O Lord, open thou our lips:
People: And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
Priest: O God, make speed to save us:
People: O Lord, make haste to help us.
Priest: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
People: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Priest: Praise ye the Lord.
People: The Lord's name be praised.

This particular form has existed in all of the liturgical churches since well before the Reformation. The responses continue later in the service, after the Apostle's Creed.

There are many musical settings of the text, ranging from largely homophonic settings such as those by William Byrd and Thomas Morley, to more elaborate arrangements that may even require organ accompaniment.

In Roman Catholicism

The Latin Rite

In the Roman Rite, the term preces is not applied in a specific sense to the versicles and responses of the different liturgical hours, on which those used in the Anglican services are based. In the Roman Rite Liturgy of the Hours, the word preces is freely used in the Latin text with its generic meaning of "prayers", but it has a specialized meaning in reference to the prayers said at Morning and Evening Prayer after the Benedictus or Magnificat and followed by the Lord's Prayer and the concluding prayer or Collect. They vary with the seasons (Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Eastertide, and Ordinary Time), being repeated generally only at four-week intervals, and with the celebration of saints. In the most widely used English translation of the Liturgy of the Hours, they are referred to as Intercessions, and are very similar to the General Intercessions found within the confines of the Mass.

An example is that of Morning Prayer on Thursday of Week 2 in Ordinary Time:

Versicle: Blessed be our God and Father: he hears the prayers of his children.
Response: Lord, hear us.
Versicle: We thank you, Father for sending us your Son: - let us keep him before our eyes throughout this day.
Response: Lord, hear us.
Versicle: Make wisdom our guide, - help us walk in newness of life.
Response: Lord, hear us.
Versicle: Lord, give us your strength in our weakness: - when we meet problems give us courage to face them.
Response: Lord, hear us.
Versicle: Direct our thought, our words, our actions today, - so that we may know, and do, your will.
Response: Lord, hear us.

Pre-1962 Latin Rite

In earlier iterations of the Roman Breviary before 1962, however, the preces proper referred to a series of versicles and responses which were said either standing or kneeling, depending on the day or season in which the prayers were to be uttered. There were two forms, the Dominical or abridged preces, and the Ferial or unabridged preces. These were said, as in the Anglican communion, at both morning (Prime) and Evening (Vespers) Prayer. Here follows the Dominical preces from the common Prime office, from an edition of the pre-1962 Breviary online.[2]

Versicle: Lord, have mercy upon us.
Response: Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us.
Our Father. (Said aloud, and the rest silently until:)
Versicle: And lead us not into temptation.
Response: But deliver us from evil.
I believe in God. (Said aloud, and the rest silently until:)
Versicle: The Resurrection of the body.
Response: And the Life † (Sign of the Cross) everlasting. Amen.
Versicle: Unto thee have I cried, O Lord.
Response: And early shall my prayer come before thee.
Versicle: O let my mouth be filled with thy praise.
Response: That I may sing of thy glory and honour all the day long.
Versicle: O Lord, turn thy face from my sins.
Response: And put out all my misdeeds.
Versicle: Make me a clean heart, O God.
Response: And renew a right spirit within me.
Versicle: Cast me not away from thy presence.
Response: And take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Versicle: O give me the comfort of thy help again.
Response: And stablish me with thy free Spirit.
Versicle: Our help † (Sign of the Cross) is in the Name of the Lord.
Response: Who hath made heaven and earth.

After which would follow the General Confession of sins.

This form of prayer has ceased to be used in the Roman Rite, aside from some of the more traditional groups.

The Mozarabic Rite

In the Mozarabic Rite the Preces or Preca are chants of penitential character used only in Lent. They are in the form of a litany, with a short response (usually miserere nobis - have mercy on us) to each invocation

The Opus Dei Preces

In the Catholic prelature of Opus Dei, the Preces are a special set of prayers said by each member every day.[3] It is also called "Prayers of the Work." Preces is the Latin word for "prayers."

The prayer was originally composed by Josemaría Escrivá in December 1930. It was the first common activity of the members of Opus Dei in history. Escrivá commented, "Since the heart of Opus Dei has to be like this, it is clear that the Lord wanted that we start with prayer. Prayer will be the first official act of the members of the Work of God."[4] Escrivá in accordance to what he preached in The Way 86, about "using the psalms and prayers from the missal" for one's prayer, composed the prayer putting together phrases that he took from established liturgical prayers, and from the psalms. The prayers have undergone several changes through time.[5]

The Preces, which is called "the universal prayer of the work", is described by one journalist as including "blessing of everyone from the Pope to Virgin Mary to the prelate of Opus Dei".[6] John L. Allen describes its contents as follows: "invocations to the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the Guardian Angels, and Saint Josemaría, then prayers for the Holy Father, the bishop of the diocese, unity among all those working to spread the gospel, the prelate of Opus Dei and the other members of the Work, and invocations to Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Peter, Paul, and John (the Patrons of Opus Dei)".[7]

I will serve!
V. To the Most Blessed Trinity.
R. Thanks be to you, God, thanks be to you: true and one Trinity, one and highest Deity, holy and one Unity.
V. To Jesus Christ the King.
R. Lord our Judge; Lord our Law-giver; Lord our King: he himself will save us.
V. Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.
V. Rise, O Christ, help us.
R. And save us by your name.
V. The Lord is my light and salvation: whom shall I fear?
R. If my enemies surround me, my heart will not be frightened; when danger arises against me, in him will I hope.
V. To the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix.
R. Remember, O Virgin Mother of God, to speak well of us, when you stand in the sight of the Lord.
V. To Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
R. God made you like the Father of the King and Lord over his household: pray for us.
V. To the Guardian Angels.
R. Our Holy Guardian Angels, defend us in danger lest we perish in the Great Judgment.
V. To our founder Saint Josemaría.
R. Intercede for your children so that, being faithful to the spirit of Opus Dei, we may sanctify our work, and win souls for Christ.
V. Let us pray for our Most Blessed Pope, N.
R. May the Lord protect him, enliven him, and make him happy on earth, and deliver him not into the hands of his enemies.
V. Let us pray for the (Arch)bishop of this diocese.
R. May he stand courageously and tend your flock, O Lord, in your sublime name.
V. Let us pray for the unity of the apostolate.
R. That all may be one, as you, Father, and I are one; that they may be one, as we are one.
V. A kingdom divided against itself will be destroyed.
R. And a city or house divided against itself will not stand.
V. Let us pray for our benefactors.
R. Deign to grant them, Lord, life everlasting on account of all of their good works in your name. Amen.
V. Let us pray for The Father [the current Prelate of Opus Dei].
R. Your mercy, O Lord, be upon him from eternity to eternity: for the Lord guards all those who love him.
V. Let us pray for our brethren in Opus Dei, living and dead.
R. Make safe, my God, your servants that hope in you.
V. Send them, O Lord, your help from your holy place.
R. And from Sion watch and keep them.
V. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord.
R And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.
V. Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come to you.
[If a priest leads the Preces, he stands and adds `The Lord be with you', and while remaining standing recites the prayer:]
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Let us pray.
O God, who is rightfully ever merciful and forgiving: hear our prayers. Enkindle, O Lord, our heart with the fire of the Holy Spirit, that we may serve you with a chaste body and please you with a clean heart.
Direct, we beseech you, Lord, our actions by your inspirations, and further them by your assistance, so that every word and work of ours may begin always from you and by you be likewise ended. Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.
[All say:]
Grant us, all powerful and merciful Lord, joy with peace, a life of penance, time for true contrition, grace and the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and perseverance in Opus Dei.
V. Saint Michael.
R. Pray for us.
V. Saint Gabriel.
R. Pray for us.
V. Saint Raphael.
R. Pray for us.
V. Saint Peter.
R. Pray for us.
V. Saint Paul.
R. Pray for us.
V. Saint John.
R. Pray for us.
[If a priest is present, the leader says:]
Father, bless us.
[The priest blesses:]
The Lord be in your hearts, and upon your lips, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen.
V. Peace.
R. Forever.


  1. "Bible (King James)/Psalms". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  2. Archived April 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Opus Dei". 22 November 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  4. "Opus Dei". 2 November 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  5. For instance, the prayers to the archangels or the prayer for the Father were added in 1932 and 1938, respectively. Both links in Spanish.
  6. Thigpen, David E. (21 April 2006). "A Day With Opus Dei". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  7. John L. Allen: Opus Dei. New York: Doubleday, 2005: 30-31.
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