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St. Paul advises us to "Pray without ceasing." But what is prayer? Find out more.

What is prayer?

St. Paul advises us to "Pray without ceasing." But what is prayer? When we enter into a loving relationship with someone, there is a desire to share every aspect of our lives with that person. We seek their presence, we express our love and gratitude, share our hopes and fears, and listen for their voice.

Prayer flows from the desire for a loving relationship with God. It is a raising of our minds and hearts to the One who loves us, and who continually invites us into a relationship with him. Prayer is our response to God's invitation. As we pour out our hearts to God, we acknowledge God's loving presence in all the circumstances of our lives.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux expresses it this way: "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.


Getting started with prayer

Prayer is an essential part of being Catholic. From a few simple, heartfelt words of thanks, or a cry for help, to the celebration of the Mass, prayer in all its forms is part of the rich tradition of our Catholic faith that gives life to our relationship with God.

We may pray alone, simply speaking our thoughts to God or by praying familiar prayers like the Our Father or Hail Mary. We may pray with others in parish prayer groups, perhaps saying a Rosary together or gathering for a Novena or Stations of the Cross. There are many ways to pray. We invite you to explore these different ways of praying so you may discover the way that is best for you.


The Lord's Prayer - Jesus teaches us to pray

In the Gospel according to St. Luke we read that Jesus "was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.'(11:1)" It was then that Jesus gave us the Our Father, the prayer called the Lord's Prayer, because it came to us from the Lord Jesus.

    "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
    Give us today our daily bread;
    and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
    and do not subject us to the final test,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

This prayer, which is at the heart of Scripture, gives us both the words to pray and a model for prayer. For this reason, St. Thomas Aquinas called the Lord's Prayer, "the most perfect of prayers." He wrote, "In {the Lord's Prayer} we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them."

The Lord's Prayer --


Forms of Prayer

Scripture reveals to us five expressions of prayer:

  • Blessing and Adoration
    Our prayers of blessing are a response to God who blesses us with all good things. With prayers of adoration we worship and praise God, who created us in love, and Jesus, who saved us.
  • Petition
    With our prayers of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God, turning back to him in our times of need.
  • Intercession
    Prayers of intercession are made on behalf of another person. Like the first Christian communities who followed Jesus' example, we are called to live this life of self-less prayer.
  • Thanksgiving
    Our relationship with God should flow from a grateful heart. The greatest prayer of the Church, the Mass, is characterized by thanksgiving. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving.
  • Praise
    The form of prayer which expresses our love and honor of God for no other reason than God is God.

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