The Apostleship of Prayer began in France in 1844. At that time Father Francis X. Gautrelet told a group of Jesuit seminarians who were eager to work on the missions:
"Be apostles now, apostles of prayer! Offer everything you are doing each day in union with the Heart of our Lord for what He wishes, the spread of the Kingdom for the salvation of souls."
In 1861, the first Messenger of the Sacred Heart was published (a Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart is published monthly by Father Frederick Power, S.J., in Toronto). Besides promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this periodical also tried to develop in its readers an awareness of the needs of the Universal Church.
In time the Pope himself proposed a particular monthly intention and since 1929 a specific mission intention has also been proposed to the faithful for their prayerful attention.
On its 100th anniversary in 1944, Pope Pius XII gave thanks to God for the Apostleship of Prayer, calling it "one of the most efficacious means for the salvation of souls, since it concerns prayer and prayer in common."
He commended the organization for its goal: "to pray assiduously for the needs of the Church and to try to satisfy them through daily offering."
Here is a current version of the Morning Offering, a prayer that links the intentions of Christ’s Heart with those of His Mother under the title of her Immaculate Heart, with those of bishops and fellow Apostles of Prayer, and closing with those of the Pope now widely advertised (in the Canadian missalettes Living with Christ and Prions en Eglise) and Catholic websites (that of the Ottawa Archdiocese).
In naming the Pope’s intentions (there is one General Intention per month and one Mission Intention) one can summarize the theme or express the wording published by the Holy See:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month:
Foreign Debt Relief (“that international efforts to help poorer nations bring prompt, concrete results to relieve the crushing burden of foreign debt”)
The Church in Areas of Violence (“that local Church communities serving areas torn by violence may be supported through the love and help offered by Catholics around the world”).
The saintly Father Walter Ciszek, S.J. (November 4, 1904-December 8, 1984), who suffered long years of imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag for his clandestine missionary work in Russia until his release in 1961, tells of the spiritual importance of such a prayer, which has been part of my spiritual life for decades now:
"In prayer we speak to God, we ask his help, we seek his pardon or we promise amends, we thank him for favors received. But we cannot pray as if we were talking to the empty air; so in the very act of praying we unconsciously remind ourselves of the reality and presence of God, thereby strengthening our belief in him.
And that is why, again in my opinion, the Morning Offering is still one of the best practices of prayer—no matter how old-fashioned some may think it. For in it, at the beginning of each day, we accept from God and offer back to him all the prayers, works, and sufferings of the day, and so serve to remind ourselves once again of his providence and his kingdom" (Walter Ciszek, S.J., He Leadeth Me).