What is prayer?

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

2559 “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.” (CCC)

Where does it come from?

2562 Where does prayer come from? Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain. (CCC)

Methods of Prayer

  • Vocal
    In vocal prayer one communicates by outward action, usually verbal expression, either in public or private. The prayer(s) can be expressed in a set form of words or spontaneously in conversation with the Lord.
  • Meditation
    It is also called mental prayer and consists in the exercise of the different parts of the soul, memory, imagination, intellect, and will, toward the consideration of some mystery, principle, truth, or fact.
  • Contemplation
    It is a gaze of love and faith resting upon the Lord Himself. It is a kind of prayer that looks at God by contemplating and adoring His attributes more than by any kind of typical dialogue.

Types of Prayer

  • Adoration
    We praise the greatness of God. It is prayer offered to God in acknowledgment of His supreme perfection and dominion, and of our complete dependence upon Him.
  • Contrition
    We acknowledge our sinfulness and ask forgiveness and mercy. Contrition is a sorrow of soul and a hatred of sin committed, with a firm purpose of not sinning in the future.
  • Love
    We express our love for God. This prayer is a divinely infused habit, inclining the human will to cherish God for His own sake above all things, and man for the sake of God.
  • Petition
    We ask the Lord for our spiritual & physical needs. In this prayer we make requests of the Lord for His assistance in our lives or in the lives of others.
  • Thanksgiving
    We thank Him. This prayer recognizes the greatness, graces and presence of God and thanks Him for all His manifest blessings.

Where to begin

The simplest way to begin prayer is to just begin. Open up your heart and mind to the presence of the Lord and simply speak to Him about your present state, your needs, etc. Thank Him for being with you, praise Him for His greatness and His boundless love. Ask Him to teach you how to pray and to send you graces and virtue. It is always good to join the saints, angels and others in the world by saying the prayer Jesus gave us: the Our Father. Say it slowly, with purpose and attention. Don’t forget to be silent for a few minutes and allow the Lord to speak to your heart.

There are many standard prayers of the Church and many ways to pray. Take your time and explore the many resources available.

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