What is Prayer?
This entry was posted on April 2, 2014.
Prayer is a formal word for a simple action: “conversation with God”. If you wake up in the morning and say, “Hi God,” your greeting is a prayer. Prayer is simply an acknowledgement of God’s existence and His presence in our lives.
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy!” – St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits and autobiographiques
We converse with those around us —either strengthening or weakening our relationships (depending on how we communicate)— and the same is true with God; it is just as easy to interact with Him.
Since God is perfect, and never erring, He never pushes us away, nor does He ever ignore us, etc.,. Ever patient, He always listens and always answers. He answers in three ways: “yes”; “in time”; or “I have something better for you”.
Therefore, if we have a poor prayer life, i.e., a negative or non-existent relationship with God, the problem is with us, not Him. He seeks us out lovingly every moment of every day. There is not a single second where He doesn’t try to draw us to Himself. In fact, He desires us to the point of thirsting for us:
“Christ comes to meet every human being. It is He who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; His asking arises from the depth of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for Him.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Part 4, 2560
Now God is everywhere; nothing is hidden from Him. He knows our most secret thoughts, desires, and actions. So why tell Him what He already knows?
We tell Him for our own personal benefit. Firstly, so that we have an active relationship with God, which is as simple as remembering His place in our lives; secondly, that we may adapt our inclinations to match His— that is, we pray to order ourselves rightly; thirdly, to build up or confidence and trust in Him (Summa Theologicae, SS: Q. 83; Reply 1-3); and lastly, He wants us to freely chose Him.
God always wishes us to share in all that He has. However, He doesn’t wish to force these gifts, this response is always our choice.
How often does God want us to respond to Him? Unceasingly. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) This is no different than a lover asking his beloved to always respond in kind to his loving calls and embraces. What lover only wants to be loved sometimes? Even if the beloved (us) doesn’t feel like it, the beloved should makesan act in the will to love.
“Prayer cannot be reduced to a spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray”. CCC, Part 4, 2650
Furthermore, love unites. And in doing so, the lovers are made perfect. We were created for this purpose—to “be perfect”. (Matthew 5:48) We are made in the image and likeness of God, and consequently, are happiest when our wills are aligned with His.
Prayer, then, is the art of us learning how to listen and respond; it is engaging in a live dialogue with God. Since prayer is our response, the quality and depth of it, is up to us: it is what we make it. The more we pray, the better we get at it, and the more joy we will have.
To help us understand prayer, the Church has often looked at prayer as falling into basic categories: blessing, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, intercession, and petition. No type of prayer is wrong, and often, our prayers are a mixture of many.
What are we waiting for? Here are some kick-starters to assist in a more rich relationship and communication with God:
• Start saying hi to God every day;
• Tell God your thoughts and feelings;
• Be still and listen for His response;
• Shake things up— if you only ask for things, trying praising God also;
• Familiarize yourself with formal meditations such as the Rosary, Divine Chaplet, and Stations of the Cross;
• Go to Confession, daily Mass, and Adoration;
• Learn how to immerse yourself in Scripture through Lectio Divina;
• Read and celebrate the lives of the Saints;
• Do random acts of kindness;
• Pick a virtue and make it part of your character through habituation;
• Forgive that person.