Why Should We Pray

Let’s be clear from the start.

We don’t pray to make God happy. We pray to make ourselves happy.

We don’t pray to tell God what we want. We pray to ask God what he wants from us.

We need prayer in order to be mindful of God and his vital importance in our lives. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus observed: “We must remember God more often than we breathe.”

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Just as we cannot stay alive without breath, so do we tempt death without prayer. Prayer safeguards our solid, life-giving relationship with God, whose Spirit saves us from falling into the slavery of sin.

Prayer insures that our most cherished treasure is our friendship with Jesus. As our Lord reminded us: “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also” (Matthew 6:21).

We need to remember that prayer does not keep God “up-to-date” regarding our lives. As the Catechism reminds us, “Our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom” (2736).

Just as we cannot stay alive without breath, so do we tempt death without prayer?

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We need to pray in order to exercise our free will in a way that reveals that our ultimate desire is to be one with God. In prayer we discover our truest dignity, for “God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise” (1721).

Prayer keeps us realistic about our limitations and powerlessness. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux attests: “It is prayer, it is sacrifice that gives me all my strength; these are the invincible weapons which Jesus has given me.”

Prayer purifies and refines our lives as it filters out the distractions, the deceptions and the delusions of the world.

Prayer provides a firm foundation for building and shaping all the other relationships in our lives. Prayer alerts us that we are not alone in our lives of faith. For prayer not only draws us close to God, but it unites us to every other holy one who loves God as we do.

Prayer gently reminds us that God can never be reached by thoughts alone. It is only through lived love that God can be reached. We need the embrace of prayer to find the truth and happiness for which we never stop searching.

This article is excerpted from the booklet A Life of Prayer: A Guide for Men by Father John Peter Cameron, O.P.  Order a copy.

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