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What is prayer? We all know that it is important. We know we should do it. Everyone who speaks on the spiritual life tells us that it is essential. But what is it?
The Friar begins the summer season of Spend 5 with Jesus be inviting you to think about prayer.

What is Prayer?

What is prayer?
Photo by Marc Majam on Pexels.com

We all know that it is important. We know we should do it. Everyone who speaks on the spiritual life tells us that it is essential. But what is it? What is prayer?

As with many things, perhaps we can gain some idea with a look in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And it begins, “Great is the mystery of the faith!” And so perhaps to understand prayer, we need to recognize that prayer is deeply connected to faith. Let’s take a look at how this is true.

The mystery of faith requires “requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.” So at the heart of the definition of prayer, it has to be the case that we see it first and foremost as a relationship. All prayer is directed as a response to God who first moves our heart, even if we are not aware of it.

Prayer as God’s Gift

The Catechism of the Catholic Church suggests a couple of examples that help us to realize that prayer is always dependent upon God. And so when we ask “What is prayer?” it can be good to look to the saints. “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” (St. John Damascene). Augustine answers the question, “What is prayer with the reminder “Man is a beggar before God.”

Prayer as Covenant

Another consideration to remember is the answer to “What is Prayer?” requires that we understand what it means to be in covenant with God. The best way to understand what a covenant means is to contrast it with a contract. A contract is when we exchange goods or services. If I hire a painter to paint my house, and the house gets painted, I pay the painter.

But a covenant is quite different. A covenant is the total gift of self. Where human beings encounter this the most is in the sacrament of marriage. And so to be successful in answering the question, “What is Prayer?” we must commit to giving our entire selves to God.

Prayer as Communion

When we consider prayer, the ultimate goal is communion with God. By giving our entire selves to God, we find ourselves in a powerful communion with the triune God. It is a union first begun in our baptism, but it is one that is strengthened when we live out our baptismal vocation.

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