September 22, 2005

The Importance of Prayer

By Michelle Bauman *

From the beginning of time, man has attempted to get in touch with some greater Supernatural Force or Divine Being.  The ancient peoples of the world did this through hymns, songs, and rituals of thanksgiving, praise, and petition.  Today, thousands of years later, people across the globe continue to lift their minds and hearts to God in prayer.  Prayer is Man’s natural reaction to the yearning for God that is implanted deep within him.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us “In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father,…with his Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 2565)

Jesus encourages us to pray when he says, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Lk 11:9)  He goes on to show that this is true by performing various miracles for people who ask him to do so, curing a leper and a blind beggar who come before Him in good faith, and promising the Kingdom of Heaven to the good thief who repents at Calvary.

In addition to hearing the prayers of the people, Jesus Himself is found praying numerous times throughout the Gospels, both alone and in the company of his disciples and crowds of followers.  He prays before the most important times in His life, including His Baptism, Transfiguration, and many of the miracles He performs.  During His Passion, the most trying and difficult hours of His life, prayer flows once again from Jesus' mouth.  He prays for strength in the Garden of Gethsemane and continues praying up until His very last words on the cross: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46)

If Jesus, the perfect, divine God-Man prayed so frequently and fervently during His life on earth, how much more do we, as sinners, have a need for prayer as a part of our daily lives? Communication is an important part of any relationship, and our relationship with God is no exception.  Through communication, both parties in a relationship come to know each other better.  However, since God already knows each one of us completely and intimately, even more deeply than we know ourselves, how can He benefit from our prayers?  Can our praises make God any
greater, wiser, more powerful, or more perfect than He already is?  Or can our petitions reveal something about us to God that He didn't already know?  Of course not.  As a perfect Divine Being, complete in power and knowledge, God has nothing to gain from our prayers.  Nevertheless, God deeply desires our prayers, not for His benefit, but for ours.  Since God already possesses a perfect knowledge of us as our Creator and Lover, prayer does not help Him get to know us better.  Rather, prayer allows us to gain a better knowledge of God, and in doing so, it helps us obtain a better knowledge of ourselves, as images of God. 

Through our prayers of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, we acknowledge our pettiness and insignificance compared to God's greatness and power, as well as our dependence on Him for everything that we have.  Our prayers of repentance keep us aware of our sinful human nature and allow us to experience God's boundless mercy. Finally, our prayers of petition force us to think about what we truly want and need.  Through daily prayer, we come to a deeper understanding of both ourselves and God. We do not pray for God's sake, but for our own sake, so that our relationship with our Lord may be more complete and our lives may be filled with God's goodness.

Michelle Bauman is a senior at the University of Dallas, where she is studying politics and journalism.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.