2-Learning how to pray

Compendium of the Catechism

  • What is the importance of Tradition in regard to prayer?
  • 2650-2651
  • In the Church it is through living Tradition that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God how to pray. In fact prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of an interior impulse; rather it implies contemplation, study and a grasp of the spiritual realities one experiences.



The Apostles told Jesus: “Lord, teach us how to pray!” And he taught them the Our Father. We also often feel like telling him: “Jesus, please teach me how to pray!” In prayer, like in most other things, it is necessary to learn. A Christian usually learns to pray in the heart of a family, “the domestic Church”. Children are taught to talk to God, to Jesus, to our mother Mary, to the angels and the saints through simple and treasured prayers handed down from parents to children. The same applies to the Church, which is a “community of prayer”. If we behave as good children, our good mother the Church teaches us to pray and helps us to be souls of prayer.

Main ideas

  1. Main sources of prayerWhen we pray, God wants to hear our own voice, the one that comes from the heart, but he also wants to hear the echo of his own word. The main source of prayer is the Word of God. In Sacred Scripture it is God who talks and teaches us to pray. He who reads the Scriptures learns how to pray.

Moreover, the Liturgy of the Church, announces, makes present and communicates the mystery of salvation, teaches us to pray, praying with us and within us.

The theological virtues, faith, hope and charity, refer us directly to God and, when put into practice, keep us in constant communication with God through prayer.

Everyday situations, work, family life, friendship, rest…, are sources of prayer, occasions of meeting Christ, because, as Saint Josemaría Escrivá says, “the theme of my prayer is the theme of my life”.

  1. To whom do we pray?

The public prayer of the Church, or liturgical prayer, is usually addressed to God the Father, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The Church prays to the Holy Trinity, one God and three persons. The reference to God the Father is clear because, being the beginning without beginning, he is the wellspring of grace and of all good. We know of the unique mediation of Jesus Christ through his Holy Humanity, from his own lips, and from Saint Paul. And the intervention of the Holy Spirit is clear from the following words: “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words” (Romans 8,26).

Thus the prayer of the Church is the pattern for personal prayer with the one and triune God; that is, the prayer of a Christian is directed to God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

But, given our human condition, in order to reach God more easily we seek the intercession of the angels and the saints –especially the Mother of God and Saint Joseph— to present our needs to God. Yet we should always bear in mind that the angels and the saints are only secondary mediators who help us reach God.

  1. Praying in communion with the Holy Mother of God

Ever since the episode in Cana when she said, “Do whatever he tells you”, Our Lady continues to lead us to Jesus. That is why, though Jesus is the one and only Mediator, God has wanted to closely associate the Virgin Mary with his redemption by drawing us to him through her motherly attraction. Therefore, we pray to God and we pray through Christ, but Mary, with her example and behaviour, is a sure path of prayer. The Magnificat is a model of prayer —based on humility— thanking God for the wonders he has worked in Mary; and we, with her, praise God. And besides praying with Mary, we pray to Mary to entrust to her our petitions and our praises. Mary is so close to her Son that it is as if their silhouettes converge. Yet, in recognition of his divinity, it is of Christ that Saint Augustine said: “He pleads for us as our priest; he prays in us as our head, to him we direct our prayers, as to our God”.

  1. The Hail Mary the best prayer to Mary

As God’s mother and our mother, Mary continuously intercedes before her son Jesus Christ for each one of us. That is the reason for our recourse to her with filial confidence, and we can do it in many ways but the best one is praying the Hail Mary which echoes the greeting of the Archangel announcing the mystery of the incarnation, “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”; followed by the praises of Elisabeth, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”. The Church has rounded off these praises with the prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death”.

Although we know that the centre of compassion lies in the sacred and merciful heart of Jesus and in the sweetest heart of Mary, very often we turn to the intercession of the angels and saints who, while they contemplate and praise God, also take care of us on our pilgrim path to heaven.

  1. The school of piety

The Christian family is the natural school to educate children in prayer, yet this piety is fostered and completed by the teachings of priests and religious in catechesis, in groups of prayer and in spiritual direction.

  1. Where to pray

We can talk with God always and everywhere because he sees and hears everything and he is everywhere. Nevertheless, the best place to pray is in the church, where he is present in a special way. In the Tabernacle, Jesus, true God and true man, is present with his body, his blood, his soul and his divinity. He is the very same Christ who was born in Bethlehem, who lived in Nazareth and died on the cross. Besides, it is there that Holy Mass is celebrated. The Mass is the most sublime and effective prayer because it is the prayer of Christ and of the whole Church united to Christ her Head.

We should sincerely love the Mass and attend it whenever we can, because in each celebration of the Eucharist Christ offers himself in an infinite act of adoration and thanksgiving, atoning for all sins and pleading for the needs of all men.

Resolutions for Christian life

Resolutions to move forward

  • Meditate on the words of the Hail Mary in order to better understand what we pray.
  • When we are in church, carry out with attention the little details of love and respect: use of Holy Water, genuflexion before the Tabernacle, bowing one’s head before a crucifix or an image of Our Lady, etc.
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