Is this prayer permissible?

Salvete, omnes!

We are told in Sacred Scripture to make our requests known to God through prayers and petitions in everything.

So, is the following prayer permissible? – A prayer along the lines something like “O Lord, I pray that You might give me the desires of my heart, if they be lawful and if they be according to Your Will.”

I ask if this is permissible, whether it be at the beginning of each day or even less frequently, because it seems that frequently we are told in Scripture to “pray always” and “without ceasing”. It also seems that it is implicit that we are to pray much more specifically and even for each individual circumstance. So, then, is such a generalized prayer even permissible? Or, rather, is there some reason that we are to pray always and about every circumstance as it arises? Is there indeed any reason why the prayer I give as an example is NOT permissible? If so, what reason(s) is/are these? And, if there are reasons against it, please do not cite the Scripture passages I just cited, but please give cogent reasons why we must pray about every single circumstance as it comes up. Also, if the prayer I gave as an example is permissible, please give valid reasons why that also deal with the Scriptures that I have questions about in regard to this (the ones I’ve alluded to above).

I ask about this because I just feel that praying like what I said above is, frankly, not only more efficient but also covers all the possible “bases” that may come up during the day, so that we don’t always have to stop and pray 24/7 about them throughout the day as each and ever circumstance comes up. And, after all, does not God know the desires of our heart before we even ask Him?

Gratias multas.

Of course. But unless we pray for them specifically (at least sometimes!) we may not realize what they are. I know that when I’m going to ask God for something, I sort of stop and think, “Do I really want to ask for this?”

As for whether it is ever permissible to pray that prayer, I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be. Whether it’s permissible to pray that prayer instead of praying for individual things as they come up, well, given that the purpose of prayer is a relationship with God, not a set number of requests, I think it might not serve the same purpose as praying throughout the day. Efficiency is not really the point.

OTOH, if you want to pray that prayer instead of praying for individual things as they come up because you want to be freer during the day for other kinds of prayers (like prayers for other people you meet, and especially prayers of thanks), then I should think it would be fine. I don’t think that the “pray without ceasing” thing means you have to keep asking God for stuff all day. :slight_smile: Just that you have to keep remembering Him and building your relationship with Him throughout the day.


Prayer is a fascinating subject for me. Supposedly there are 4 types of prayer: thanksgiving, petition, asking for forgiveness, and praise/adoration.

Only one type, petition, asks God to intervene in the world. But think about it for a minute. If God is omniscient and knows everything, He knew you were going to say a particular prayer at a particular time from before creation. So He is not “intervening” in a world already created, He is designing that world before creation begins. And if you didn’t say the prayer (you have free will, of course), that would also be factored in in the design of creation. So God isn’t interfering at a particular time and place–He doesn’t swoop in like Superman to solve a problem or to cure Aunt Hazel of cancer. This is, frankly, a very Protestant point of view. Some Catholics think this way too, but to me that is pure superstition. In one sense, you are limiting God by thinking this way: why? Because you are saying that God can only work directly. He cures cancer, or makes you win the lottery, or causes that tornado to miss your house but destroy the house next door. This is an “active” God as some theologians have called it, or, in my own words, a “tinkering” God who is constantly adjusting His creation. Is God really so stupid as to have to interfere constantly? To use an imperfect analogy, that’s like a painter who constantly returns to his painting to “improve” it by changing this and that. That of course means that he didn’t do a very good job in the first place. What’s wrong with the concept of a God who works indirectly through natural laws that he created at the beginning of the universe?

As for praying constantly, you may be confusing various types of prayer. Only one type of prayer is verbal: “Please let me win the lottery.” Don’t you also pray by admiring a sunset, helping someone in need, or loving your husband/wife? Take the rosary, for example. You say specific prayers on each bead. But you are also supposed to be contemplating certain mysteries, like the crucifixion. Let’s mix in some modern psychology and neuroscience. Let’s say that you sit down and say “OK, I’m going to contemplate the sorrowful mysteries for 15 minutes.” I guarantee that within 1 minute your mind will drift to dinner, your lost cat, or the laundry. It’s very difficult to just “contemplate.” But now you distract your mind…how? By saying the memorized prayers as you count beads. Now your conscious mind that was busy thinking about your cat is busy saying Hail Mary’s. This frees up another part of your mind to actually concentrate on contemplation. This is similar to techniques used in other religions. It’s not unique to Catholicism. And of course those who criticize Catholics for reciting repeated prayers–as in the rosary, for example–are simply showing that they don’t understand the rosary at all. It’s a means to contemplate various “mysteries.”

There have been several articles in Scientific American in the last year where it has been shown that a knock on the head or electronic stimulation of part of the brain “distracts” the brain and allows other parts of the brain to flourish. For example, in a study of people who have had severe knocks on the head, several have acquired abnormal powers they never had before. One became obsessed with poetry. One became obsessed with music. And before being knocked on the head, neither had any interest in poetry or music. Another guy was having various parts of his brain stimulated by electricity for a totally different experiment. But suddenly he realized that all his life he wasn’t able to “read” people’s expressions. He couldn’t tell if they were angry or happy, etc. After he got a little electrical stimulation to his brain, he could immediately recognize people’s moods by “reading” their faces–which he had been unable to do before. Carry this idea into prayer–supression of some aspects of your brain unleashes other aspects that had been hidden. It’s not miraculous, it’s science. Precisely how it works, we don’t know. But it works. There is a current movie out there about some little girl who has some dread disease, but she falls out of a tree and knocks her head and presto, the disease is cured. Of course the movie makes it into a “miracle,” but it’s simply another example of this phenomenon.

Which is more impressive: a God that has to act directly or a God who created all these subatomic particles that act together in almost infinitely complex ways to create the universe we are only beginning to understand? I am much more impressed with the latter version of God. And is it no less a miracle that natural laws–including the laws of probability–have come up with a “cow” after 15 billion years rather than a God who said “Let there be a cow.” Nature is miraculous!

Good point on the rosary. I read a blog post discussing miracles which referenced the poster’s own novels as well as those of CS Lewis, about most miracles not being God doing something completely outside the realms of reality (excepting the Resurrection), but rather doing something that He does every day that we simply don’t realize, as He generally doesn’t skip steps so to speak. For example, turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana. It was a miracle because water doesn’t just spontaneously become wine, which makes it a supernatural occurrence. The post then talked about how we never remember that God does the same miracle every day through the natural processes of turning grapes into wine through fermentation and so on. Other miracles are similarly described. Healing the sick especially. We recognize Jesus healing the sick as a miracle, and yet we don’t often regard His healing us through our immune systems, medicine, the work of doctors as a miracle because, though it’s the same process, one is something we accept as ordinary and the other as extraordinary.

Most of your answers can be answered by reading the catechism or a good book on prayer.
I see you are very concerned with this question of prayer, as you have started quite a few threads yesterday on the subject. Maybe you might start just one thread, and generate more discussion that way.

Here is the book I am reading now. It is wonderful, and I think it would bring you peace:

The only wrong way to pray is to pray against the will of God.
Time for RCIA.
The OP has mentioned blindness on her profile, so reading may be problematic.
But generally speaking, basic themes are addressed in the catechism.

Thanks for all your responses, guys. Even the more, shall we say, tangential ones are quite insightful. :wink:

As for not praying for situations individually causing harm to our relationship with God, as one poster pointed out, this type of prayer is only one type, petitionary. I just don’t see how asking more generally for the deisres of your heart, if they be lawful and according to His Will, can do much to ruin the relationship, as long as you are communing with Him in other ways, such as, as has been said, admiring a sunset, contemplating the sorrowful mysteries (which I LOVE, by the way!) or on His Great Love generally and thanking Him for this and other things.

I just don’t want to make sure I’m going against any divine law as expressed through Scripture and elsewhere by doing this kind of more “efficient” praying, if you will. I mean, I can also see praying about individual circumstances when they arise, even if that be redundant if you’ve already prayed generally about them before for the sake ofs strengthening the relationship? Surely this, too, wouldn’t be a problem, or would it?

Also, as for the blindness, I do have some limited vision and can read very enlarged print. I have various technologies that allow me to magnify printed text, so that really isn’t a problem. Thanks for the concern, though!

As for starting other threads, I try to start many threads intentionally so that the one thread doesn’t et too tangentially distracted and to keep the topic on-task. Just a personal thing of mine, again, for efficiency’s sake, I suppose. I think it also helps others who may be searching for information/insight on a particular subject to see that particular subject clearly stated in the title. :slight_smile:

Again, I continue to look forward to your responses here! Thanks again!

I think you’d be far more satisfied with the answers given if you were talking to someone in real life; like a Spiritual Director or an RCIA team.
That way, you don’t run the risk of “tangential” responses. :shrug:
Plus you would get solidly Catholic answers, since you say your are interested in Catholicism. :thumbsup:

I couldn’t agree more. I think most “pious” people are so absorbed in the idea of a miracle being something they don’t understand or haven’t seen before that they ignore all the everyday miracles all around them. A little appreciation of nature would go a long way!

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