What is the point of prayer?


#1

Ok, I’m fairly new to the Catholic Church people so bear with me.
Let’s take the ‘our Father’ and the ‘Hail Mary’ as examples.

Why do we pray them? Lets say I pray and pray for someone and they die. If it was God’s will to take them then what good did all my praying do?

In the Our Father we say “thy will be done”. If this is true, and God’s will is done, then what is the point of praying?

In Mass we say aloud several prayers, as well as the Hail Mary. What is the purpose of this?

Basically, if God knows what I’m thinking before I even think it, as it says in the bible, and if nothing happens without God’s consent, then why pray?

Is the person who died going to be treated better on the other side because people down here prayed for them?

Is there ANY benefit to praying? Jesus prayed and still God’s will was done, he couldn’t have the cup passed from him. If our loved ones are dying and die, our prayer couldn’t stop them from dying.

Those are vocal prayers, but then there is contemplative prayer, which I don’t really want to get into because its not my area of experience, except to say also…why practice contemplative prayer either? We remove ourselves from our families, and have a nice inner experience, or a horrible inner experience, whatever, and then we come back to people. What is the point in that? Even if one has the most sublime experience, is there a constructive point to it?

I guess that is my question, is prayer constructive or a monumental waste of time? An exercise in vanity and futility. (oh yes, God hears me now, or God likes me now…)

Maybe the devil put all these negative thoughts in my head I don’t know. I just know that God’s will will be done and there ain’t a darn thing I can do about that.


#2

I can’t answer all the theology behind it, but I will say this:

We should pray because we are instructed to by Jesus. He must have His reasons.

Also, prayer is communication. Immagine being married to someone you never talked to or listened to :eek:

And prayer is largely about changing us rather than about changing God or God’s mind. It is not a “spiritual vending machine.” :slight_smile:


#3

Hi Tommywommy

I find it interesting that there is only one response to a question about the purpose of prayer. Hmmm, perhaps that is the most telling answer.

I hear what you’re saying, but I think I said as much in my post. God knows what you’re thinking before you do, so how can you NOT be communicating with God?
Maybe that is why we are to pray constantly. Because if we are not praying, maybe we are forgetting that we are praying even though we don’t know it?

Many people do believe that God answers their prayers. And many people have had direct answers to their prayers. And the bible says- ask and you shall recieve.

However, this is what I am calling into question. The nature of our relationship with God and what that entails for us. Am I praying for my own benefit? Because it helps me remember and know God better? Or is there another dimension?

Anyways, always too many questions.
Last night I was pondering the Virgin Mary, and how perhaps, sinse she is not omnipotent, perhaps we do need to pray TO her, and because of her proximity to God, she does influence God. But then God is God, I still don’t understand how anything “influences” God.
But maybe, praying to angels causes them to intervene, but still, nothing happens outside of God’s will.

:slight_smile: If I had the answers I wouldn’t be asking the questions


#4

Hi, Lisa. Welcome home to the church!

How prayer “works” is an interesting topic and I can’t offer much lofty thought about it. I do know that prayer is communicating with God, either formally - rote prayer, much like a greeting on a Hallmark card - or informally, kind of like writing on a blank greeting card.

God knows past, present and future because He is “I Am”, meaning He is. I’ve heard it said that prayer is more for our benefit – formulating our needs and intentions and presenting them to God in recognition that, ultimately, we are not in control.

About the “thy will be done” part – that’s scary. But that’s what God wants us to fully adopt – that we are seeking His will freely; that we surrender our freedom in total love for Him, perhaps like we surrender the freedom of our single life when we marry the one whom we love. So, we’re saying, ‘you know, I’d really like that promotion or that apartment, but I trust that if You don’t want that for me, it’s in my best interest and I’ll abide by that decision. Still, I’m letting You know that I’d reeeeeally like it, but, again, I’ll let You decide.’

About praying for an ill person – we pray that this person should live his/her life in the health that best helps them accomplish God’s will in their lives. I think heaven is going to be wonderful and I am hopeful of “getting on that bus,” even if I have to stand. However, I do not want to meet God face-to-face before I’ve done what I think He wants me to do with the time and talents He’s given me. Much as I know God is merciful and I must rest on His mercy, I am fearful of having to face Him and account for not having done what He wanted me to do – and that fear, as I grow older, is not so much 'cause I’m going to get a Divine kick in the backside, but 'cause I am letting down the God who has been infinitely good to me and has never let me down. So, when I pray for those who are ill, I usually add an ‘if it’s Your will that so-and-so should die, bless them with the grace of a happy death, so that they will meet You joyfully.’

About experiences of God in prayer – well, those come and go, according to God’s favor. These experiences are not even to be sought after. God knows when we need them and when it’s best that we walk strictly by faith. When I’ve had these experiences, I’ve come away more firmly convinced of the Presence of God, especially when visiting the Eucharist in an Adoration Chapel or after Communion or after Confession. These will be helpful now – as an experience of God – and later – to bolster our belief when we have “dry” periods or “dark nights,” as Mother Theresa did for over thirty years. We bring these experiences back with us as we live out the mundane daily tasks of our lives. They remind us that God is there and that these mundane tasks are not so mundane, but are important – check out the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux and her little way.

What is the point? Well, God is not Someone/Something to take off the shelf on Sundays, play around with for an hour and replace for another six days. God is a Person who loves us madly – head-over-heels – and wants us to feel the same way about Him. And how can we love someone we don’t know. That’s why we need to pray – to get to know God more deeply, to communicate with Him. By prayer, we recognize that He is with us always and wants to be the center of our lives, as any lover would, and as we are the center of His attention. Anyway, I’m rambling and probably not saying things as I’d like to, so I’ll sign off and wish you a Prayerful and Blessed Holy Week ahead and a joyful Easter. (And I hope some of this helped.)

God bless,
Dan


#5

Part 4 of the Catechism is about prayer and there are only four parts to the Catechism. Learning about prayer is a good thing because it is one of the most important and biggest parts of life. :slight_smile:

All of the following is a quote from the [Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church ](“http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html#Prayer in the Christian Life”)

The triple-digit numbers are refer to paragraphs in the Compendium. The four-digit numbers refer to paragraphs in the Catechism.

534. What is prayer?
2558-2565 2590

Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God, or the petition of good things from him in accord with his will. It is always the gift of God who comes to encounter man. Christian prayer is the personal and living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is infinitely good, with his Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit who dwells in their hearts.

550. What are the essential forms of Christian prayer?
2643-2644

They are blessing and adoration, the prayer of petition and intercession, thanksgiving and praise. The Eucharist contains and expresses all the forms of prayer.

551. What is “blessing”?
2626-2627 2645

The prayer of blessing is man’s response to God’s gifts: we bless the Almighty who first blesses us and fills us with his gifts.

552. How can adoration be defined?
2628

Adoration is the humble acknowledgement by human beings that they are creatures of the thrice-holy Creator.

553. What are the different forms of the prayer of petition?
2629-2633 2646

It can be a petition for pardon or also a humble and trusting petition for all our needs either spiritual or material. The first thing to ask for, however, is the coming of the Kingdom.

554. In what does the prayer of intercession consist?
2634-2636 2647

Intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It conforms us and unites us to the prayer of Jesus who intercedes with the Father for all, especially sinners. Intercession must extend even to one’s enemies.

555. When is thanksgiving given to God?
2637-2638 2648

The Church gives thanks to God unceasingly, above all in celebrating the Eucharist in which Christ allows her to participate in his own thanksgiving to the Father. For the Christian every event becomes a reason for giving thanks.

556. What is the prayer of praise?
2639-2643 2649

Praise is that form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It is a completely disinterested prayer: it sings God’s praise for his own sake and gives him glory simply because he is.


#6

Hi Lisa, prayer has been one of the more difficult aspects of faith for me. I converted to Catholicism from atheism. Prayer was more than awkward. It was to be frank, quite ridiculous, to me at first. It was the deacon over our RCIA who told me that it was OK to feel awkward when you pray. So I prayed, my awkward prayers. I am still not such a good pray-er, but I try to be better at it.

I had the same questions as you, especially the part, if God knows everything, why?

I think about prayer a lot, even when I’m not praying. I came across this the other day, it is from Spe Salvi:
32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. When I have been plunged into complete solitude …; if I pray I am never totally alone. The late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, a prisoner for thirteen years, nine of them spent in solitary confinement, has left us a precious little book:* Prayers of Hope*. During thirteen years in jail, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness, the fact that he could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope, which enabled him, after his release, to become for people all over the world a witness to hope—to that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude.
33. Saint Augustine, in a homily on the* First Letter of John*, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. “By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him]”. Augustine refers to Saint Paul, who speaks of himself as straining forward to the things that are to come (cf. Phil 3:13). He then uses a very beautiful image to describe this process of enlargement and preparation of the human heart. “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God’s tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” The vessel, that is your heart, must first be enlarged and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste. This requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined. Even if Augustine speaks directly only of our capacity for God, it is nevertheless clear that through this effort by which we are freed from vinegar and the taste of vinegar, not only are we made free for God, but we also become open to others. It is only by becoming children of God, that we can be with our common Father. To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God—what is worthy of God. We must learn that we cannot pray against others. We must learn that we cannot ask for the superficial and comfortable things that we desire at this moment—that meagre, misplaced hope that leads us away from God. We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. “But who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults” prays the Psalmist (*Ps *19:12 [18:13]). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.
34. For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, in his book of spiritual exercises, tells us that during his life there were long periods when he was unable to pray and that he would hold fast to the texts of the Church’s prayer: the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the prayers of the liturgy. Praying must always involve this intermingling of public and personal prayer. This is how we can speak to God and how God speaks to us. In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the “perverse end”. It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope.
I have been thinking about this, for several days now. Today, at Mass, when Msgr blessed our palm leaves, and he said they were made holy, I realized that this is what the Church and me strive for together, to make ME holy. Like a living, walking, breathing sacramental. As people were lining up for communion, I was thinking, look at all those sacramentals! :smiley:

We pray, as part of our journey, to God. He is the One who makes us Holy. Prayer is an integral part of the purifying process.


#7

Firstly - God may perfectly understand what we are trying to ask for without us needing to pray to Him, but do we understand HIM without it? Prayer like all communication is two-way, we are meant to be listening as well as speaking.

Secondly - so what if God knows what we’re going to say already? He still wants to hear, and we still want to speak - in fact we need to.

What parent doesn’t love to hear their child talk, even if they know full well (often) what the chid is going to say because kids repeat themselves so much? What husband or wife, no matter how much they know that their spouse loves them and how much their spouse knows they are loved in return, doesn’t want both to hear and to say ‘I love you’ anyway - and often!

Who says God’s omnipotence doesn’t mean he isn’t influenced by our prayers? Read the OT stories of Abraham bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom and Moses pleading successfully for the people of Israel after the Golden Calf incident.


#8

One answer to “why pray” is that Jesus tells us to, so if Jesus who is fully God as well as fully man tells us to pray, I think we have to believe it’s meaningful…apart from the fact the He Himself taught the apostles 'The Lord’s Prayer, or “Our Father” And the bible has repeated calls for us to pray.

“If you have hope this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying.” [Romans 12:12] “**We are quite confident that if we ask Him for anything, and it is in accordance with His will, He will hear us; and knowing that whatever we ask, He hears us, we know that we have already been granted what we asked of Him.” **[John 5:14-15] **“If any one of you is in trouble, he should pray; if anyone is feeling happy, he should sing a psalm.” **[James 5:13] “**Pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God.” [Thessalonians 4:18] “Grant, Lord, the prayer of Your servants…so that all the earth’s inhabitants may acknowledge that You are the Lord, the everlasting God.” **[Ecclesiasticus 36:16-17]

Jesus promises, “Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches, always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake when he asks for a fish? … How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” [Matthew 7:7-11] “
Jesus requires purity of intention, for He commands, “When you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.” [Mark 11:25] Jesus urges us to pray humbly, without ostentation, “Go into your private room and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” [Matthew 6:6] Jesus also desires community prayer, in addition to private prayer, for He says, “**if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.” **[Matthew 18:19-20]

Yet when one has prayed faithfully and zealously, with no apparent result—perhaps only deterioration—in the life of one’s self and loved ones, then discouragement may follow. However, Scripture reminds us that, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed He will save. Many are the trials of the just person but from them all, the Lord will rescue him.” [Psalm 33:2, 6]
“There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6-7] “Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm and sober mind.” [1Peter 4:7] “To You, a thousand years are a single day, a yesterday now over, an hour of the night.” [Psalm 90:4]

Paul pledges that the “**Spirit…comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit Himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what He means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.” **[Romans 8:26, 27]


#9

Without the gift of prayer and the trust that makes it possible, how could we approach a Being as great as God. The wonders and immensity of the universe that God created, hint of His unimaginable supremacy. Yet, without haughty magnanimity, He chose to redeem human creatures from sin and mortality, and to make an eternal covenant of love with us. He communicates His intentions and guidelines to us through God-incarnate within Scripture, Church and the Spirit in our lives.

I cannot offer God the honour and love that God deserves, and the overwhelming difficulties and anxieties of this world sometimes deflect me from trying in my discouragement and sadness. Therefore, I entreat that God who has mercifully bridged between His human creatures and Himself, will help me to grow in optimistic faith. I wish to cooperate with God’s love to create in me all that God wishes to find in my understanding and actions. As I seek to fulfil God’s desires in and through my life , I thank God for this extraordinary gift of love, prayer, and life that God, our astounding and wonderful God, offers us.

Jesus demonstrated His appreciation of comptmplative pray whe He defended May’s right to sit with Him apparently doing nothing but keeping Him company.

Prayer as an act of charity
Jesus, those who devote much effort to prayer may be labelled ‘lazy’ and ‘impractical’. That is how Your friend Martha regarded her sister Mary. Yet, both sisters loved You dearly. Martha was a virtuous, practical woman who understood that charity requires us to serve others. Her valued guest required food and hospitality. This could not be achieved if everyone sat idle. Martha prepared your meal, but Mary remained idly with you. To Martha she appeared to be failing You.

You kindly defended Mary because of the love she offered to You, love that You often were denied by others. While Mary was offering love and attention to a fellow human, she was also giving her love to God, for You are fully human, but also fully divine. Within one act, Mary of Bethany fulfilled Your two commandments of love.

Those who ask for prayer are seeking genuine charity of remembrance, time and effort. Their need is sometimes desperate, and while in crisis, they may be unable to sustain faith or to pray. They find reassurance in our promise to pray for their intentions! They receive our promise as an act of love.

The understanding that prayer is genuine charity, does not absolve anyone of responsibility to give practical aid to others. As Saint James wrote, love does not say, “eat well and keep warm” and then walk away. Even in our poverty, we may give something. Please help us to be generous, in the act of love that is prayer for others, and in our practical charity.

Dear Jesus, friend of both Mary and Martha, and beneficiary of the acts of kindness and love of each, please grant us to emulate both Your dear friends in our lives. August 2001

“Praise God, for He has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil.” [Jeremiah.20:13] “Be my saviour again, renew my joy, keep my spirit steady and willing; and I shall teach transgressors Your ways, and to You sinners will return.” [Psalm 51:12-13]

Prayer is grace

Our God, we receive Your grace to pray as unmerited gift. We know or interpret You through human concepts; however, by humbly yielding our selves and our logic to faith, we allow You freedom of utterance in us. Even so, we may only experience Your presence and word in silence as we invite You to speak and move within us as we actively and prayerfully live the gospel.

If in our disappointment at Your silence, we experience wavering faith, with courage we pray, “Speak Yourself and live Your life in me, my God. Make thanksgiving, and glorify Yourself continually in me, in all my supposed strengths, as in my sinfulness and inability. Find Yourself to me. Find me to Your truth. Unknowing, uncomprehending though I am, please let me be drawn into the infinite possibilities of Your life and love. Not my will, but Your will be done!”


#10

One of the great Saints of the 20th century and a Doctor of the Church, assures us of the value of prayer, and its efficacy:

It is God’s will that in this world souls shall dispense to each other,
by prayer,
the treasures of Heaven, in order that when they reach their everlasting Home they may love one another with grateful hearts, and with an affection far in excess of that which reigns in the most perfect family on earth.”
“I have often thought that perhaps I owe all the graces, with which I am laden, to some little soul whom I shall know only in Heaven
.” [Saint Therese of Lisieux]


#11

In the beginning, prayer seems like a monolog. But it is intended to grow. Prayer, rightly understood, is a relationship - for a Christian, “a covenant relationship with God in Christ.” Prayer, rightly understood, is then a dialog, not a monolog. As prayer grows, we come to experience His presence and His part in the dialog more and more.

Why do we pray? Well, why do we seek any relationship with anyone ever, at all? Because we were made for relationship - we were made for love.

I recommend that you seek out and come to understand how prayer is intended to grow - what are the “stages”, or the “grades” of prayer. And how the grades of prayer are, as one procedes from one stage to the next, an “advancement” and a growth in relationship with God. Prayer is to become more personal, more intimate, more authentic - more real - as one matures in his prayer relationship with God.


#12

Thank you all for your very careful and deliberate answers:)

You have given me much to think about.


#13

Hi Lisa, :slight_smile:

well prayer is not only about asking for things. We pray to God to get to know Him better and to develop our relationship with Him.

But since you were asking specifically about ‘request’ prayers (this is only one type of prayer!! keep that in mind) - I’ll focus on those in my post…

It’s true that God already knows everything about us. But He wants us to tell Him, and by this we build your relationship with Him. Imagine you never talked to your friends or family, you would not know them very well, its’ the same with God…
Also, since God is outside of time, I think that our prayers actually DO affect His will. But only if He sees that this is good for us. If we pray for something that would actually harm us (without us knowing it), the prayer would be answered in another way. God is still the one who decides.

But think of it this way… God’s will is unchanging because He is outside of time… but this does not mean that our prayers do nothing. Imagine your prayer coming to God and entering ‘eternity’…so it would affect His eternal will. wow I really don’t know how to describe this so this is probably making no sense… lol!! I guess what I’m saying is… the reason God is unchanging is not because everything is pre-determined, but because He is outside of time, and for something to change it needs to be in time. It’s not like God wanted things to happen one way, and then you prayed, and He changed His mind… it’s more like the way He wants things to happen is influenced (in eternity) by your prayer. Does that make sense at all? That’s how I look at it… so it’s true that God’s will is always done… but it’s also true that our prayers CAN make a difference (in the world and in peoples lives). We have to keep in mind though that we don’t always know what is good for us. Sometimes we pray for suffering to end, but God wants to use it to sanctify us. :slight_smile: He knows what is best. We have to trust Him on that.

About Mary, she’s in Heaven so not bound by time either… Heaven is not just a “different place”… it’s completely different type of existence, which we dont know yet. It’s like…imagine you lived in a 2 dimensional world…you wouldn’t be able to even imagine what a 3 dimensional world is like. Until you experience it. It’s similar with Heaven, perhaps?

We see in the Bible that prayer does make a difference, and that Mary’s prayers make a difference. Remember how Jesus did not want to turn the water into wine (“My hour has not yet come…”) but Our Lady asked Him, so He did… or how the paralyzed man was brought into the room by his friends, and Jesus healed him for the sake of his friends’ faith. So in the same way, God helps us for the sake of His Mother’s prayers and faith and obedience…and when we pray for each other, the same concept applies… that is why we have to pray with trust. :slight_smile:

I think that prayer is sort of a mystery though, but in prayer we should seek to know God better, and that is perhaps its primary function.

God bless! :slight_smile:


#14

Even if prayer doesn’t change God’s mind, it nourishes us.


#15

BTW, as far as Mary influencing God/Her Son - look at what happened at the wedding of Cana (John 2:1-10). She asked Him to fix the lack of wine for their host/hostess and He answers calling her “Woman” (or the second Eve, the ultimate respect) then points out to her that if He starts doing public miracles it will start the “heavenly clock” for His hour or passion. She, understanding this and knowing that He would give her as much obedience as He could (as His Father’s Will allowed), as per the 4th Commandment (being a good Jewish boy), told the servants to “Do whatever He tells you”. He proceeded to do just as she had asked.:wink:
I like to think of it as us taking our "tray of wants/praises, etc to our King and His mother meeting us right before to take our “tray” into Him for us. Right before taking it to Him, she pretties and straightens the tray up, maybe even putting little “garnishes”/posies on it to make it more inviting. Then she takes it in to Him and pleads our case to Him. This doesn’t mean that we can’t take our own “tray” into Him and it certainly doesn’t block us from a direct relationship with Him!:slight_smile:


closed #16

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