Why do we pray?

If God knows everything past, present and future. And, God does not interfere with free will, how do we explain prayer?

Dear Ronno,

If that were the case, we would be in pretty bad shape. Without God’s grace we could not make one move toward Him. But in His limitless generosity He has revealed Himself to us and gives us the grace to incline ourselves to recognize Him. Of course, we are free to reject such grace.

We pray first of all by acknowledging Him and His generosity in giving us existence and everything else He has given us. This form of prayer is called “Worship” or “latria.” To acknowledge Him to be who He is cannot be addressed to anyone but Him. No one else is God. So we don’t worship the saints. We revere and love them, but that’s it.

The prayer of petition, (when we ask Him for things) is not a matter of informing Him of what He does not already know. It is a matter of acknowledging our dependence on Him. But it is more than that. It is an opportunity for telling Him that if He does not give us what we are asking for, we accept that. We want Him more than the gifts He gives us. In other words, we love Him. This is why we pray: to respond to His love for us by loving Him back.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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