What’s a Novena?

The word novena comes from the Latin word, “novem,” which means nine. A novena is nine-day period of prayer (private or public) to “obtain special graces, to implore special favors, or to make special petitions” for yourself or for others. The practice of praying a novena goes back to the days of the Apostles when they along with the Virgin Mary, prayed for a period of nine days until the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).

Why Nine Days?

Novena 9 days of prayerAs illustrated so many times throughout the Bible, Jesus instructs us on how He wants us to live, act, and even pray.

Jesus instituted the first novena when He commanded His Apostles to remain in the city of Jerusalem for nine days after He ascended into Heaven, to pray and wait patiently for the Holy Spirit to appear and to descend upon them. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:
[quote]“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” [/quote] (Acts 1:4)

That first novena was an example of praying to obtain a special grace: preparing for the feast of Pentecost and praying to make a special petition: pleading for the Holy Spirit to come.

Different Novenas

As USCatholic.org explains, novenas usually consist of “a brief scripture passage, a novena-specific prayer that is repeated every day, some type of litany or petition/response prayer, and often a hymn or canticle.”

There are four main types of novenas:

  1. Novenas of mourning
  2. Novenas of preparation, for upcoming celebrations such as Christmas, Easter, or feast days
  3. Novenas of petition
  4. Novenas of penance

Which Novena Should I Pray?


Depending on your need, you can select from a great number of different novenas. Novenas are typically prayed to Jesus, Blessed Mary, saints, the Blessed Trinity, and angels.

There are many reasons why people choose to pray a novena. Some choose to pray prior to a feast or holiday such as Christmas, the Feast of the Assumption, or the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Others in need of a miracle or a special intercession pray a novena to a certain patron saint to help fulfill their specialized needs.

Still others pray for a deceased loved one, for their health, to help them find employment, and the list goes on.

Here you can find just one sampling of some of the many novenas you can pray, including Marian, Sacred Heart, Saint, and Special novenas.

Novenas Aren’t a Quick Fix

As Jesus told His disciples, we must pray constantly and never give up (Luke 18:1).

It’s important to remember that just because we say a novena for nine days, doesn’t mean our prayers will be answered on the tenth day, or the twentieth or hundredth day. Like any prayer, a novena is a spiritual exercise and a way for us to draw closer to God, not a bartering system.

When we expect immediate results, we treat novenas as if they’re an old-fashioned juke box. Unlike juke boxes, where we insert money and immediately get something in return, praying a novena doesn’t necessarily produce instant results. Sometimes we have to pray for a long period before we see any results.


We don’t know. What we do know is that Jesus always has our back and He knows what’s best. We mustn’t become disheartened or give up saying novenas because we don’t immediately see the fruits of our labor.

  • Gwen says:

    Thank you for the explanation of Novenas. I did know they were prayed for nine days, and for specific purposes, but this gives me a better idea as to the significance and to continue to pray as things are indeed in God’s timing; not ours. Thanks so much!!

  • Julie says:

    I appreciate your explanation about Novenas. Prior to reading this article, I really had little information. I knew a novena to be a special prayer involving multiple days of prayer, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Thank you for providing me clarification!

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