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 The Importance of Prayer

Would you say that you are a better pray-er today than you were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago? If we want to grow in our Christian life, we have to grow in our prayer life. In past ages, this was kind of taken for granted. Everyone knew that prayer was necessary, as necessary as breathing or eating. But we live in a secularized culture, a culture based not on faith in God, but on faith in our own abilities to create heaven on earth. God is seen as something irrelevant. And as a result, prayer — personal conversation with God, contact with the Savior, developing a relationship with Christ — is seen as optional and tangential.

Here is how Pope Benedict XVI explained the secular challenge (16 April 2008): People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. John 10:10).

If we are going to grow in our prayer life, the first thing we need to do is be convinced of its importance. Pope Francis made this point powerfully early on in his pontificate. He spoke to tens of thousands of pilgrims who had come to his Wednesday audience about this primary, essential dimension of every Christian’s life: To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, to perceive His constant presence in our lives; we have to stop and talk to Him, give Him space with prayer. Every one of us… should ask ourselves: how much space do I give the Lord? Do I stop to dialogue with Him?

Ever since we were little, our parents have accustomed us to begin and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that the friendship and the love of God accompany us. Let us remember the Lord more often in our days! But what is prayer? Is it enough for us just to say some prayers? Is prayer just asking God for what we want or need? The essence of prayer goes even deeper. Prayer, for Christians, is fundamentally not something we do, not just something we put on our to-do list. Rather, it’s a relationship. In fact, the Catechism actually defines prayer as a relationship. In discussing the mystery of our Catholic faith, it tells us: This mystery, then, 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 – CCC 2558.

Pope Benedict XVI said the same thing to a gathering of 20,000 young people in New York (April 2008). He told them: What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer…

This is actually a unique vision of prayer, when compared to other world religions. It goes back to when Jesus called his first Apostles — he appointed them to “be his companions,” to be with him, to spend time with him, to enter into a real, interpersonal relationship with him. This is prayer. And this is why prayer is often so difficult. Our relationship with God takes place only through faith. We can’t touch him and hear him the way we hear each other — but only through the mediation of faith. And our faith is often very weak, so we get distracted easily, and we find it hard to encounter God in prayer. But that’s okay! All God needs is our sincere and constant effort, and he will teach us everything else.




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