1-God calls man to pray

Compendium of the Catechism

  • What is prayer?
  • 2558-2565
  • Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God, or the petition of good things from him in accord with his will. It is always the gift of God who comes to encounter man. Christian 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.



The last part of this Course of Catechesis is about prayer. Prayer, like breathing, or the beating of the heart, should be something natural and normal in our lives. The first reaction of a creature who discovers his creator – like a child with his parents – is to call him and to communicate with him. In the same way, prayer is to talk with God whom we recognize as our Lord, to whom we owe everything and to whom we have to show reverence and gratitude while telling him about our needs and asking his forgiveness for not having responded to his provident and merciful love.

Someone once said that “man is never taller than when he kneels down”, meaning that prayer is a sweet duty that enables a creature to dialogue with the Creator of the universe who is the source of all good.

Main ideas

  1. What is prayer?

Prayer is something so transcendent that one might be tempted to define it solely in solemn and awe-inspiring terms. Yet the old catechism defined prayer in all its simplicity: “prayer is to talk with God”. And in fact if anyone, moved by faith, humility and confidence, begins to talk with God, with or without words, he is truly praying. Saint John Damascene says that prayer is “the elevation of the heart to God”. Saint Teresa wrote that “prayer is a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us”. Prayer then is to talk with God, or, as John Paul II put it once “a confident and loving dialogue with God” so as to adore and thank him, to implore his pardon and to ask him what we need. Prayer is to talk with God, our Creator and Lord, in the same way as we talk with our parents and friends.

  1. Prayer is essential to man

Prayer is the result of knowing and recognizing God as Creator, and of knowing ourselves to be his creatures.

Knowledge of God, even if blurred, is acquired along with all other knowledge, once man realizes his dependence on others. Man comes to realize that he has not given life to himself, but that life has been given to him, along with other things he needs. Even if his parents and educators do not cooperate much, a child discovers God easily. That is why children pray so well. It is adults who become selfish and proud who do not pray, or do not pray well, and demand reasons from God. Man, in the same way as he talks with his parents, asking them for what he needs, and kissing and embracing them, also needs to manifest his reliance on God, but since he does not see God, in this case his love is expressed in prayer.

On the other hand, man’s self-knowledge makes him conscious of his limitations and needs, and he confesses them to God in prayer, asking him for help to deal with them.

  1. Prayer in the Old Testament

The Old Testament offers the example of patriarchs, like Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David who were men of prayer; and of prophets who spoke with God as with a friend. The Psalms are masterpieces of prayer of figures of the Old Testament (and remain a fundamental part of the Church’s prayer). In them they poured out their needs and hope, above all for their long-awaited Saviour.

  1. The prayer of Jesus

The Word Incarnate, the only Son of God, being a perfect model of prayer, leads his disciples into the intimacy of the Father with the Holy Spirit. He teaches us with his example and with the words of the Our Father how to talk to God.

  1. a) Jesus prays. The Gospel shows that Jesus frequently dedicated himself to prayer, often alone. Jesus’ prayer shows his identification with the Father’s will unto the Cross, and his absolute certainty of being heard.
  2. b) Jesus teaches to pray. Jesus taught his disciples to pray the Our Father. In order to pray it well, one needs a clean heart, a living and persevering faith and filial daring. Christians pray as God’s children and make their petitions more powerful through Christ’s intercession, in whose name they present them to the Father.
  3. c) Jesus heeds prayer. Though Jesus often took the initiative in fulfilling the disciples’ needs, the miracles narrated in the Gospel are often an answer to the petition of people who prayed to him. Jesus listened to them and granted their petitions.
  1. The prayer of the Church

Sooner or later a Christian realizes the importance of prayer, realizes that the Church leads a life of prayer – nay, that the Church exists in order to pray. Thus the importance of prayer – the invaluable help from people who pray – is understood, as well as the need for each one to intensify his prayer. On the other hand, it is the Holy Spirit who arouses in Christians a life of prayer, so rich and varied – be it adoration, blessing, praise, petition, intercession, or thanksgiving – according to the manifold feelings of a soul in conversation with God. The Holy Spirit is the master and teacher of Christian prayer.

  1. The prayer of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In order to help us discover and lead a life of prayer pleasing to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary goes ahead of us preparing the way. She treasured and pondered in her heart – as Saint Luke said – all that happened in her life, in a continuous dialogue with God. She has taught us to pray with her Fiat (Let it be done) and with the Magnificat (her hymn of humility and praise). She introduces us into friendship with Jesus, as she did in Cana when she said “Do whatever he tells you”. After the ascension of her son into heaven she accompanies the apostles as they meet in prayer in the Upper Room, who “with one heart joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1,14). We should always follow the example of the Virgin Mary our mother.

Resolutions for Christian life

Resolutions to move forward

  • We should always be keen to improve our life of prayer.
  • Set aside a few minutes every day to talk with God, but especially when we get up and at the end of the day.
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