Why should I bother to pray?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked yourself this question at least once in your life. Whether it’s motivated by the fact that “God already knows what I need” or by “God doesn’t answer my prayers”, the fact of the matter is that the question does get raised by all of us. Even worse, we sometimes take it a step further and stop praying. In an attempt to highlight the importance of prayer and combat the desire to give it up, here are 10 positive things that happen EVERY time we pray from the heart:
1. We Receive – Without exception, sincere prayer is always effective. Although we don’t always receive what we want, we always get “something”. According to Jesus, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt 7:7-8) As we read further, however, He assures us that we’ll only receive good things and will never get something that will hurt us (spiritually). Sometimes this frustrates us because we’re often confused about what we TRULY need. If we look at this from a “glass half full” point of view, even when God says “no” to our requests, we are receiving protection from something that could potentially hurt our chance at salvation!
2. We Follow God’s Will – In the Bible (the inspired word of God), St. Paul writes that we should “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and goes on to say that this is God’s will for us. When we pray, we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do at that moment in time. How often can we say that with certainty about our other activities?
3. We Profess Our Faith – When we pray, we acknowledge our belief in God. While it sounds like a “no brainer”, it really is a significant profession of faith. We’d be foolish to pray to Him if we didn’t believe that He exists or that He can help us. Each time we turn to the Lord in prayer, we’re saying “Lord, I believe in You”.
4. We Imitate Christ – The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Jesus prayed often, especially before the decisive moments of His mission (CCC 2599 – 2606). Whenever we pray, we imitate Our Lord. Whenever we’re tempted to think that “prayer doesn’t do any good”, thinking about Jesus at prayer should put an end to that baseless line of thinking.
“If He who is without sin prayed, how much more ought sinners to pray?” (St. Cyprian of Carthage)
5. We Enter Into A Relationship With God – In her autobiography, St. Teresa of Avila stated that prayer is “being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing with Him who, as we know, loves us.” According to the Catechism, “prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 2565)
6. We Increase Our Chances For Salvation - To put it simply, prayer will help you get to Heaven. Far from just “asking for things”, prayer is an expression of love and a relationship with God. When we pray, we show our love for God and express a desire to do His will. How important is that? Here’s what St. Alphonsus Liguori had to say…
“Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
7. We Obtain What God Wants To Give Us – While there are some gifts that God will give us even if we don’t ask (the grace that moves us to grow closer to Him, for example), there are other gifts that won’t be granted unless we ask. Jesus attests to this with the words of the Lord’s Prayer (which contains several petitions) and with His teaching that the Father will “give good things to those who ask Him.” (Mt 7:11) Further evidence can be seen in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he urges us to let our requests be made known to God (Phil 4:6). By not asking, we deprive ourselves of many good things that God wants us to have.
“God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what He is prepared to give.” (St. Augustine)
8. We Practice Humility – The Bible is filled with verses supporting the virtue of humility:
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)
Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)
Every time we pray, we acknowledge that we are dependent on God and that He is almighty. This holds true whether our prayer is one of praise, petition or thanksgiving. It’s difficult to be proud when you’re kneeling in prayer
9. We Obtain Peace – Praying will bring us peace. According to the Bible:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Prayer = Peace. This is VERY appealing to those of us who are prone to anxiety!
10. We Use Our Time Wisely – Unlike useless activities such as worrying and complaining, prayer is a very good use of our time. Since studies have shown that the brain can’t think about two things simultaneously, time focused on prayer means time not spent worrying or pursuing other destructive tasks. Jesus told us to “ask and we shall receive” (Mt 7:7) and that worrying does no good (Lk 12:25). It makes sense to listen to His advice!
Obviously, the prayer that I’m speaking of above is sincere, “from the heart” dialog with God. “Going though the motions” or babbling rote phrases will not produce the above results. When we truly mean the words we pray, however, we can count on every one of these benefits. Remember this the next time you’re tempted to put off praying, thinking that it will do no good. There is no more productive activity we can do on this earth!