How does prayer give grace?

I would like to know how exactly prayer gives grace. I understand that humans are composite beings of matter and spirit. In this sense I can understand the sacraments because they are both matter and spirit also.

  1. But I cannot understand prayer. Prayer is pure spirit. How exactly does one lift one’s heart to God when we are stuck in a physical body?
  2. Is it possible to go through life with only prayer and having no need of the sacraments?
  3. There are two situations here:
    Grace from God going from sacrament to person;
    Grace from God going directly to person in prayer.
    Is one more important than the other?
  4. I also think with prayer there is a danger of thinking of God in a pantheistic sense i.e. God is ‘everywhere’ I don’t need to go to Church.
  5. How are prayer and the sacraments interrelated? How are they different?
    So what is going on here? It has implications for Protestants who have only one valid sacrament.

1… God comes to us, we only have to open our hearts…

2… all things are possible thru God… the sacrements are
for us, to help us achieve the life God wishes for us…
and the salvation he wants us to have…

3… every touch of the Spirit is important, in every way it

4… God is everywhere… but He is most ‘present’ when
people are gathered together in His name… my solitary
prayer is wonderful, but it makes me even more anxious
to be with others, worshiping… makes me want to
receive Jesus physically in the sacrements… so prayer
doesn’t diminish the desire for the sacrements, but rather
increases that desire…

5… as you yourself said, the sacrements are like, physical
manifestations of Jesus’ gifts to us. (( and i don’t mean to
sound as if i’m diminishing the spiritual aspect of the
sacrements, because nothing could be further from the
truth, the physical touching of the Body and Blood of
my Lord, is truly the most spiritual experience of my
life )) They are ours, connecting us physically to God
and to each other as a community of believers…

   Prayer is a gift... to be able to seek that closeness to 
   God anywhere we are.. to be able to ask for help or to 
   give thanks or praise Him anywhere.. 

   But, one is not exclusive of the other, they are perfectly 
   complimentary.. and anything that opens our hearts to 
   God, gives grace.. 

i was a protestant … now i realize how much i was missing…
i knew some things, i felt spirit come over me sometimes at
church or in prayer… but now, i feel the spirit EVERY TIME
i take the Lord’s Body and Blood… then, i would spend a few
minutes in prayer every day… now i spend much, much more
time in prayer and study… the more i have, the more i want…


  1. Becareful with the statement that we are “stuck in this body” as we are not stuck in anything - we are this body. The human person is not a soul in a body but is rather a soul-body.

  2. No, the Sacraments are necessary for salvation (Trent) and it is in and through the sacraments that Sanctifying Grace is imparted to those who are receiving them. Sanctifying Grace is literally “God’s life in us.” The exception to this is perfect intentions at the time of death or a perfect desire that cannot be fulfilled through no fault of the individual. Prayer does not equate in any way to the effects of the Sacraments.

  3. Yes. What you are talking about is the difference between Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace. Sanctifying grace which is given primarily through the Sacraments is the grace that makes us Children of God and allows God to dwell in us. Actual Grace is the grace that helps us do the ordinary and extraordinary in our lives such as living the life of virtue as opposed to the life of vice.

  4. Think of prayer as building a relationship. No relationship can grow if only one person is talking to the other and the other is not communicating back. Prayer is our communication with He who has loved us first. If we do not foster this communication then we will not grow in our relationship with the Lord.

  5. They build upon one another. The Sacrament of Baptism remitts origianl sin and makes us adopted Children of God the Father. In Confirmation the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are enlivened in us to live the life of virtue as a faithful Christian. The Holy Eucharist sustains us and preserves us in Grace. It is the food that gives us the strength for our journey in life. Marriage is for mutual help in salvation and raising children in the faith. Holy Orders is to offer sacrifice and serve the flock of Christ. The Annointing of the Sick remitts sin and partisipates in the healing ministry of Christ. Confession restores Sanctifying Grace in us after we have fallin inot mortal sin and severed our relationship with God. Each of these sacraments in some way impart Sanctifying Grace because they are true encounters with Christ. Prayer helps us to enliven our soul so that we can live the life of Grace ever fuller. Think of prayer as blowing on glowing embers.


State of grace provide fire
Sacraments provide fuel
Prayer supplies air

Prayer and sacraments complimentary but independent

  1. What is the difference between prayer before the Tabernacle and prayer at home?

  2. What is the difference between God indwelling in us by being in a state of grace and God indwelling in us during Communion?

  3. Can someone in mortal sin receive actual grace? is this e.g. grace of repentance?

  4. Why are the rosary and stations of the Cross considered to be the best prayers?

  5. Is thinking of God a prayer? What about studying theology? I wonder if my prayers are not really prayers but a sort of spiritual gluttony. For me, reading about God and the Saints is easy, but rosary is hard.

To me, I think prayer transform me to be able to see the Lord’s blessings, more than I think I get points, for example, for asking Him for stuff that I probably don’t need.

As far as what is prayer, many Catholics aren’t aware of the richness of Catholic prayer “techniques,” especially contemplative, although the CCC marks them as very important.

The CCC (2697-2724) on Christian prayer.

A lot of people say, “make your whole life a prayer.” Some think that is silly and cliche but I do not. Perhaps it is most often a cliche, but that’s another matter. I think that a person who has spent the time and effort to really hear Christ’s teachings and become one with His Word – not just literally but unitive (see above CCC sections on prayer) – will transform into a mentality that practically every moment and every decision is a joy because once the heart becomes transformed, behaving as a Christian and doing the Right Thing for the situation becomes natural as opposed to contrived and strained. So yes, “make your life a prayer” may seem superficial to those who have not experienced it, and frankly I can see why with all the hypocracy, emotion-as-faith, and cliches that are bandied about in the name of God.


I agree to making life a prayer. A day spent in God doing ordinary things is far better than a day of excitement without God, that’s for sure.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit