“As our body cannot live without nourishment, so our soul cannot be kept spiritually alive without prayer.” (Saint Augustine)
From time to time most of us ask (or feel tempted to ask) ourselves, “Why should I pray?” While some will hesitate to actually ask this question for fear of a lightening strike or other Divine punishment, it raises a valid point and probably should be asked. For if we really examine the answer, it can spur us on to a better relationship with the Lord and increase our appreciation of prayer.
There’s no doubt that the main reason we should pray is because Jesus instructed us to do so. Furthermore, He prayed often, especially before the important milestones in His life. Let’s face it…if the Lord prayed than so should we! However, if you’re interested in arriving at a greater understanding of the importance of prayer, let’s look at 5 practical reasons why we should pray:
1. We Are Granted An Audience With God – Did you ever wish you could meet a celebrity? How about trying to get good seats for a sold out concert or game? Most of us just “aren’t important enough” to make things like this happen. Heck, it’s hard enough to get a doctor’s appointment when we need one! When we pray, however, we are able to speak directly with Almighty God…at any time of day and from wherever we are. And if that’s not enough, we know that He will hear us. What a great honor and privilege!
2. No Prayer = No Heaven – Putting it bluntly, it is not possible for us to get to Heaven if we don’t pray. Why? Because we need God’s help, in the form of actual and sanctifying grace in order to achieve our salvation. On our own, we’re just not good enough. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Prayer is a vital necessity” (CCC 2274) and that “Prayer and Christian life are inseparable” (CCC 2275). According to Saint Alphonsus Liguori, “A person who prays will certainly be saved, but a person who does not pray will certainly be lost.” In addition to praying for temporal goods (earthy possessions), we should pray often for spiritual goods (spiritual possessions) so that we can lead holier lives.
3. It Always Produces Results – Sometimes we feel that our prayers don’t do any good. We erroneously believe that God doesn’t “hear us”. That’s a huge mistake and will cause us to lose many graces that would have been ours had we persisted in prayer. Throughout Sacred Scripture, the Lord assures us that when we ask…we’ll receive:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
“For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9)
“Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.” (Luke 11:24)
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” (John 16:23)
What often drives us crazy is that we sometimes don’t get what we requested. If we study Jesus’ words in context, however, we’ll realize that He doesn’t promise that we won’t always receive what we want…we’ll receive what we need…for our salvation. As hard as it is for us to accept, we sometimes don’t know what’s best for us and pray for things that will put our salvation in jeopardy. God loves us too much to let that happen and will often deny our requests in order to protect us. In the end, the most important thing we can ever pray for is final perseverance as that will allow us to reach our ultimate destiny…Heaven!
4. It Will Bring You Peace – For many people, this is the benefit that will “seal the deal”. Once we realize that praying will bring peace into our anxiety-filled lives, we’d be foolish not to pray. And we DO KNOW that prayer is guaranteed to bring peace. According to Saint Paul…
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)
5. It Can Help Others – Do you ever wish that you could help other people…the poor, the hungry, your children, your spouse, the sick, the souls in purgatory? Would you like to help put an end to the evil of abortion or prevent sinners from going to hell for all eternity? You can help out all of these (and many more) situations by your prayers. Why does it work? Only God knows. What we do know is that it DOES work and that the Lord wants us to pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 18:1) for ourselves and for others. By expanding our vision and praying not only for ourselves, but for others, we can do infinite good in the world!
Now that we’ve looked at some important reasons to pray, how about methods? Is one way of praying better than the next? I personally prefer a mixture of formal prayer (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.) and an informal dialog with God throughout the day. Formal prayer helps me to “find the words” when my mind is blank and informal prayer lets me speak with the Lord throughout the day. More important than the actual method is the fact that we DO pray and that it comes from the heart. By doing so, we’ll not only receive the gifts God wants to give us, we’ll get to know Him better. And that’s a really good thing!
“Would that I could stand on a high mountain where I could be heard by the whole world. I would constantly cry out: Pray, pray, pray!” (Saint Teresa of Avila)