4 Part IV: Prayer

Prayer is the personal and living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is infinitely good, with his Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit (who dwells in their hearts). It is very important to keep God as the center of our lives; not friends, not family, not jobs and not other stuff. To do this we must talk to God and spend time with him. We must listen for what God is telling us. This is prayer.

4.1What is Prayer

Prayer is a form of communication, a way of talking to God and putting ourselves in his presence. We each hear God's voice in our own way because he knows each of us and speaks in ways that we can hear him. We hear God with our hearts and our souls.  God's voice is an impression, a knowing that calls us in a certain direction.  Time with God, remaining quiet with God allows this to happen, it allows us to understand what God wants us to do. If we are quiet when we pray, we can sometimes hear God talking back to us. If we are careful in watching what happens after we prayer, we can see God answering our prayers through things that happen such as:
We can pray ourselves, or ask others, including the saints, to pray for us. In any case, we should set time aside every day to communicate with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

4.2  Forms of Prayer

Just like we have different kinds of conversations with people, not all prayers are the same. Here are brief descriptions of five forms of prayer.

4.2.1 Adoration

In prayers of adoration, we acknowledge how much we need God. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of our savior who has freed us from evil. The mass and the other works (liturgies) of the Church are full of prayers of this sort, such as the Gloria (or Glory to God). Among private prayers, the Act of Faith is a prayer of adoration.

Prayers of love or charity are just that—expressions of our love for God, the source and object of all love. The Act of Charity is an example of a prayer of love.

4.2.2 Petition

Prayers of petition are the type of prayer we are most familiar with. In them, we ask God for things we need - primarily spiritual needs, but physical ones as well. Our prayers of petition should always include a statement of our willingness to accept God's will, whether he directly answers our prayer or not. The Our Father is a good example of a prayer of petition, and the line "Thy will be done" shows that God's plans for us are more important than what we desire.

One type of petition is a prayer of expiation or contrition, we ask God for his forgiveness of our sins and ask for his mercy. The Penitential Rite at the beginning of mass, and the Agnus Dei (or Lamb of God) before Communion, are prayers of expiation, as is the
Act of Contrition which is said during the Sacrament of Reconciliation or other times.

4.2.3 Intercessory Prayer

Intercessory prayer is a type of prayer that is made on behalf of someone else. God desires us to take care of one another, both physically and in prayer. We often ask others to pray on our behalf as well. This could be asking Jesus to mediate with God the Father for us. Or it could be Mary or one of the saints or even another person that we know. The prayer of the faithful during mass is intercessory, asking all the people there and in the whole Church to pray for the petition.

4.2.4 Thanksgiving

This type of prayer gives thanks to God for all that he has done for us. As Saint Paul says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." While Grace Before Meals is a good example of a prayer of thanksgiving, we should get into the habit of thanking God throughout the day for the good things that happen to us and to others and just for our mere existence. The Eucharistic Prayer at mass is a prayer of thanksgiving.

4.2.5 Praise

This type of prayer has at its base recognizing that God is God. We give him all glory and honor because he is God. The Gloria and Holy, Holy (Sanctus) during mass are examples of this prayer.

4.3 Expressions of Prayer

The important part of prayer is committing time to God. There are many ways that we can do this. We can say our prayers out loud or quietly. We can read the Bible and think about its meaning for our lives. We can sit and just be in the presence of God.

4.3.1 Vocal Prayer

Vocal prayer combines our body and our spirit and the desires of our heart. We express these in words, often praying them aloud. Because it is external, these prayers can easily be prayed with groups. These prayers are often prayers that we have learned such as the Our Father or other prayers (see PART5). 

4.3.2 Meditation

Meditation makes use of our imagination, thought, emotions and desire. We seek to understand the why and the how of Christian life. Often, this is accomplished by having an object or the Bible or the like as a source of inspiration and the person praying then uses imagination, etc to place themselves more into the presence of God, Father, Son or Holy Spirit. For instance, you could read about the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem and imagine yourself as a shepherd or the innkeeper and what this might mean to you and what God has done for you. The Rosary is a great example of meditation. Each decade offers a chance to meditate on one of the Mysteries of our faith.

4.3.3 Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift from God, a grace that is given to those in a covenant relationship with him that can be accepted only in humility and poverty. In such prayer the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, "to his likeness." Contemplative prayer is a very intense time of prayer. The Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit "that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith" and we may be "grounded in love." Eph 3:16-17. Saint Teresa of Avila says about it, "Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us."

4.4 The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)

Jesus was asked by the apostles to teach them to pray. His response was to teach them the Lord’s Prayer, or Our Father. Because Jesus taught it to us, it is an excellent prayer to say at any time. Here are the words:

Jesus Praying
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day,
our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

4.5 What does it Mean

In this section, we will go through the Our Father, line by line, and discuss its meaning.

4.5.1 Our Father Who Art in Heaven

Jesus tells us to call God, “Our Father.” God is not some remote being that barely cares for us or pays little attention to us. He is Our Father. How much more than our human fathers will he care for us? He is our dad, our daddy, our papa! The Father is in heaven, where we wish to join him. The saints and angels are there and praising him. Since heaven is being with God, when we are living his will here on earth, we already are starting to be in heaven. Notice we don’t say “My Father!” We are praying this prayer with everyone else and for everyone else in the kingdom.

4.5.2 Hallowed be thy Name

Remember the commandment, “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.” Hallowed means holy. God is holy, his name is holy. God has allowed us to know his name because he wants us to have a close relationship with him (he is our Father). We must always respect his name. By respecting God’s name, we respect God.

4.5.3 Thy Kingdom come

Jesus made the Church, God’s kingdom on earth. We pray for the final completion of his kingdom, where we will join with the angels and saints of heaven. We also pray for ourselves to become more holy, that we may live the Beatitudes, so that we will perfect God's kingdom on Earth and join the Kingdom of God in heaven.

4.5.4 Thy Will be done On Earth as it is in Heaven

Doing God’s will is the most important thing we can do. We pray that we and all others do God’s will here on earth. His will is already perfectly done in heaven. We pray that his will be done more perfectly here on earth like it is in heaven. By praying, we ask for God’s help in this, that we don’t sin by doing our own will, acting contrary to God.

4.5.5 Give us this Day our Daily bread

We ask that God meet our daily needs, for food, for water for everything. But we ask only for our daily needs, we wish for God’s abundance to be shared generously with all. However,

 “since man does not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God” Mat 4:4
"unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you"
John 6:53

Thus, we also ask for the Bread of Life, Holy Communion, and to have the Word of God to supply our spirits with food.

4.5.6 And Forgive us our Trespasses, as we Forgive those who Trespass against us

Jesus told us that if we ask for forgiveness from our sins, that God, in his great mercy will forgive us. However, he also told us that God forgives us only if we also forgive others. God’s mercy cannot be outdone by our own mercy to others, but we need to show others mercy. Since it is hard to forgive sometimes, we offer our hearts to the Holy Spirit, so that we can be filled with the ability to forgive.

4.5.7 And lead us not into temptation

We ask the Father to be with us always, especially in the presence of temptation to sin. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand what a test to strengthen us is and what a temptation to sin that we should avoid is.

4.5.8 But deliver us from evil

Evil here is Satan, the devil. Jesus has defeated the devil by the cross, but we pray that we and all of humanity be freed from Satan’s works, his evil. Because we have free will, we can choose evil, so we pray that God gives us the grace to avoid sin.

4.5.9 Amen

So be it – let all things happen according to God’s will. We ask for these things, but “Thy Will be Done!