According to the old Baltimore Catechism, formally used to teach generations of Catholic children their faith, prayer is defined as “the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God to adore Him, to thank Him for His benefits, to ask His forgiveness, and to beg of Him all the graces we need whether for soul or body.” In short, it is our conscious and heartfelt communication with our God. Simple, right? Of course.
Yet, past the basic textbook explanation, what is prayer – really, and why does it matter? In other words, who really needs prayer?
One of the greatest advantages of believing in a true living and personal God as opposed to some remote and aloof “cosmic entity” is prayer and that we can have a real and meaningful relationship with him. In fact, it’s that personal relationship with our God that truly defines our faith. The New Catechism of the Catholic Church, describes this relationship called prayer like this.
PRAYER IS A GIFT
All we have to do to realize the great gift prayer really is is to look around honestly at the immensity and perfection of God’s creation. Modern astronomers and physicists remind us daily just how truly insignificant man is in the universe, yet our God allows us and even begs us to communicate with him.
How cool is that? Prayer is easily one of the greatest gifts we could ever imagine.
PRAYER IS A COVENANT
According to the New Catechism, “Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ.” Our prayers are a key element in the contract we as Christians personally enter into with God at our baptism.
Throughout the bible, God repeatedly teaches if we honor, trust and obey him, “he shall be our God and we shall be his people.” In the New Testament, our Lord tells us to pray unceasingly and to seek God constantly in all things. In other words, we as Christians are actually commanded to live our lives in an endless state of prayer as part of our contract with our God.
PRAYER IS A COMMUNION
When we pray, we spend time with God, and it’s through this continual and intimate time spent in his presence, that we come to personally know him. Simple common sense tells us that to really know someone, we have to spend time with them and our relationship to God is no different.
We also spend time with those we love. And as with any person in our lives, we cannot truly claim to love Jesus and desire to be like him without desiring also to be with him. This special time spent with our Lord is prayer, and through its grace we fulfill his command to us to be one with him as he is one with the Father. And since this is the ultimate goal of our Christian walk, prayer then, is absolutely essential to our spiritual growth and journey.
Who needs prayer? WE ALL DO!
It’s God special gift, allowing us sinful and cosmically insignificant creatures to communicate personally with the all-powerful Creator as a child converses with a loving parent. It’s part of our covenant with Him, a personal communion allowing us to be with Him and spend time in His presence until our death when, through His saving Grace we hope to be truly united with Him in heaven for all eternity.