WHAT IS PRAYER?


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.[1]

Prayer as God's gift

2559 "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God."[2] But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or "out of the depths" of a humble and contrite heart?[3] He who humbles himself will be exalted;[4] humility is the foundation of prayer,Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought,"[5] are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God."[6]

2560 "If you knew the gift of God!"[7] The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us.
Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.[8]

The Universal Call to Prayer

2566 Man is in search of God. In the act of creation, God calls every being from nothingness into existence. "Crowned with glory and honor," man is, after the angels, capable of acknowledging "how majestic is the name of the Lord in all the earth."[1] Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to men's essential search for God.[2]

2567 God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation.

2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.[64] This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

2609 Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to "seek" and to "knock," since he himself is the door and the way.[65]

2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will."[66] Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: "all things are possible to him who believes."[67] Jesus is as saddened by the "lack of faith" of his own neighbors and the "little faith" of his own disciples[68] as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.[69]

2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying "Lord, Lord," but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father.[70] Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.[71]

2612 In Jesus "the Kingdom of God is at hand."[72] He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.[73] In communion with their Master, the disciples' prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.[74]

2613 Three principal parables on prayer are transmitted to us by St. Luke:

- The first, "the importunate friend,"[75] invites us to urgent prayer: "Knock, and it will be opened to you." To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will "give whatever he needs," and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts.

- The second, "the importunate widow,"[76] is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith. "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

- The third parable, "the Pharisee and the tax collector,"[77] concerns the humility of the heart that prays. "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" The Church continues to make this prayer its own: Kyrie eleison!

In the Age of the Church

2623 On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Promise was poured out on the disciples, gathered "together in one place."[92] While awaiting the Spirit, "all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer."[93] The Spirit who teaches the Church and recalls for her everything that Jesus said[94] was also to form her in the life of prayer.

2624 In the first community of Jerusalem, believers "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers."[95] This sequence is characteristic of the Church's prayer: founded on the apostolic faith; authenticated by charity; nourished in the Eucharist.

2625 In the first place these are prayers that the faithful hear and read in the Scriptures, but also that they make their own - especially those of the Psalms, in view of their fulfillment in Christ.[96] The Holy Spirit, who thus keeps the memory of Christ alive in his Church at prayer, also leads her toward the fullness of truth and inspires new formulations expressing the unfathomable mystery of Christ at work in his Church's life, sacraments, and mission. These formulations are developed in the great liturgical and spiritual traditions. The forms of prayer revealed in the apostolic and canonical Scriptures remain normative for Christian prayer.

I. BLESSING AND ADORATION

2626 Blessing expresses the basic movement of Christian prayer: it is an encounter between God and man. In blessing, God's gift and man's acceptance of it are united in dialogue with each other. The prayer of blessing is man's response to God's gifts: because God blesses, the human heart can in return bless the One who is the source of every blessing.

2627 TWO fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father - we bless him for having blessed us;[97] it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father - he blesses us.[98]

2628 Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us[99] and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the "King of Glory,"[100] respectful silence in the presence of the "ever greater" God.[101] Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications.

II. PRAYER OF PETITION

2629 The vocabulary of supplication in the New Testament is rich in shades of meaning: ask, beseech, plead, invoke, entreat, cry out, even "struggle in prayer."[102] Its most usual form, because the most spontaneous, is petition: by prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end. We are sinners who as Christians know that we have turned away from our Father. Our petition is already a turning back to him.

2630 The New Testament contains scarcely any prayers of lamentation, so frequent in the Old Testament. In the risen Christ the Church's petition is buoyed by hope, even if we still wait in a state of expectation and must be converted anew every day. Christian petition, what St. Paul calls {"groaning," arises from another depth, that of creation "in labor pains" and that of ourselves "as we wait for the redemption of our bodies.

For in this hope we were saved."[103] In the end, however, "with sighs too deep for words" the Holy Spirit "helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words."[104]

2631 The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"[105] It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that "we receive from him whatever we ask."[106] Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.

2632 Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come, in keeping with the teaching of Christ.[107] There is a hierarchy in these petitions: we pray first for the Kingdom, then for what is necessary to welcome it and cooperate with its coming. This collaboration with the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is now that of the Church, is the object of the prayer of the apostolic community.[108] It is the prayer of Paul, the apostle par excellence, which reveals to us how the divine solicitude for all the churches ought to inspire Christian prayer.[109] By prayer every baptized person works for the coming of the Kingdom.

2633 When we share in God's saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.[110] It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.[111]

III. PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.[112] He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."[113] The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."[114]

2635 Since Abraham, intercession - asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ's, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.[115]

2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.[116] Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel[117] but also intercedes for them.[118] The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: "for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions," for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.[119]

IV. PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

2637 Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. Indeed, in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for his glory. The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head.

2638 As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you"; "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."[120]

V. PRAYER OF PRAISE

2639 Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory. By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God,[121] testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. Praise embraces the other forms of prayer and carries them toward him who is its source and goal: the "one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist."[122]

2640 St. Luke in his gospel often expresses wonder and praise at the marvels of Christ and in his Acts of the Apostles stresses them as actions of the Holy Spirit: the community of Jerusalem, the invalid healed by Peter and John, the crowd that gives glory to God for that, and the pagans of Pisidia who "were glad and glorified the word of God."[123]

2641 "[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart."[124] Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.[125] Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this "marvelous work" of the whole economy of salvation.[126]

2642 The Revelation of "what must soon take place," the Apocalypse, is borne along by the songs of the heavenly liturgy[127] but also by the intercession of the "witnesses" (martyrs).[128] The prophets and the saints, all those who were slain on earth for their witness to Jesus, the vast throng of those who, having come through the great tribulation, have gone before us into the Kingdom, all sing the praise and glory of him who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb.[129] In communion with them, the Church on earth also sings these songs with faith in the midst of trial. By means of petition and intercession, faith hopes against all hope and gives thanks to the "Father of lights," from whom "every perfect gift" comes down.[130] Thus faith is pure praise.

2643 The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer: it is "the pure offering" of the whole Body of Christ to the glory of God's name[131] and, according to the traditions of East and West, it is the "sacrifice of praise."

IN BRIEF

2644 The Holy Spirit who teaches the Church and recalls to her all that Jesus said also instructs her in the life of prayer, inspiring new expressions of the same basic forms of prayer: blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.

2645 Because God blesses the human heart, it can in return bless him who is the source of every blessing.

2646 Forgiveness, the quest for the Kingdom, and every true need are objects of the prayer of petition.

2647 Prayer of intercession consists in asking on behalf of another. It knows no boundaries and extends to one's enemies.

2648 Every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving which, sharing in that of Christ, should fill one's whole life: "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess 5:18).

2649 Prayer of praise is entirely disinterested and rises to God, lauds him, and gives him glory for his own sake, quite beyond what he has done, but simply because HE IS.

“The reason I live is to worship you.”

St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians affirms that we exist “to the praise of his glory” (Eph
1:14 ). The foundation of our relationship with Go is the entrance into worship of the glory of God. Only after that has been established can we go on to the Sprit-led intercession. I’d like to invite you to look with me briefly at what the Bible says about worship.

Well-Ordered Worship

The first word is the leiturgia, often simply translated “worship.” You know this word; it is the Greek version of our word, “liturgy.” Most Catholics think immediately of the Eucharist, but it is wider than the format of the Mass. All Sacraments are done during the celebration of a liturgy. The Divine Office prayed by priests, religious and many lay people is the Liturgy of the Hours. The Greek originally meant “people’s work” but for Christians it came to mean any ordered format of prayerthat believers engaged in. An example of this is in Acts 13:1-2 when the prophets and teachers of the community at Antioch were worshiping (leiturgia), the Holy Spirit spoke and asked the community to set apart Saul (Paul) and Barnabas for the missionary work that He had for them. This worship birthed the first great missionary expansion of the Church.
What a powerful moment of worship that must have been! When we worship at an event such as Your Kingdom Come, it is a liturgy in the sense that we are all engaged together in a sacred work that is ordered of the Holy Spirit in order to “position” ourselves to do His bidding. Because it is the worship of leiturgia it is not a “free for all.” Yet every YKC is a spiritual work done freely by all of us, in which each takes his or her part to do an active work for God. The work is of hearing and obeying in prayer. It means actively seeking to exercise the spiritual gifts God has given you. Come to Spirit-led worship events with a heart stirred up for an active work on your part. Passive contemplation is for another time. Stir up your gifting, tell the Lord you are ready to do His bidding in prayer.

Please pray with me:

Heavenly Father, we long to do your bidding. In the Name of your Son Jesus, send your Holy Spirit upon me and upon all my fellow worshipers. Order our work, order our worship so that your purpose is accomplished, your Kingdom comes. The reason we live is to worship you. Amen.

Intimate Worship

One of the dearest statements of worship comes from Jesus to the woman of Samaria. He said to her, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23-24).
In two verses, the word “worship” occurs five times. Jesus is making a point! But here the word “leiturgia” is not used for worship, rather another one. The root for all the uses in this passage is proskuneo. “Pros” in Greek has the sensation of forward, or leaning forward. “Kuneo” is a kiss. The same concept is repeated by the mother of James and John who worshiped Jesus  (Mt 20:20) and the all the disciples after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. (Lk 24:52). It is also characteristic the great worship scenes of the book of Revelation. We can think of two aspects:

1. Worship as proskuneo is intimate and tender.

As you worship, your praise should lead to the inner chamber of the King, to whom you bow and express the intimate tenderness of a kiss. Worship is about a relationship, not a mechanical obligation, much less a cold routine. Every occasion with the King is unique, lov- Three Foundational Worship Words Every occasion with the King is unique, loving and full of communication of the desires and aff ections of your heart toward the One you love most intimately. ...and His heart towards you! full of communication of the desires and affections of your heart toward the One you love most intimately. ... and His heart towards you! I would like to invite you to take a moment now to let the pure motive of love well up within you. Tell him that this is what will motivate your heart to do him the worship of proskuneo . It is the same longing that will allow you to be attentive to the voice of the Spirit within you to tell you the desires of his heart and for whom he would have you intercede.

2. Worship as proskuneo is a submission

to lean to the Master’s hand to kiss it as a gesture of the attitude of obedience and reverence to the One who has authority. As in the worship of leiturgia, we come to do the Master’s bidding, not follow our own notions and ways of prayer. I think our prayer is often too passive— sitting in the pew waiting for music to lead a song or pray in this or that way. Would not the Master have us assume other gestures—such as standing attentively to listen or praise, prostrate in supplication for the persons, places or issues he puts on our hearts? Would he not have a sing with a full voice? Would he have you seek his heart for a manifestation of the gifts and be selfl ess in sharing that so that the Body can be edified?

Please pray with me:

Father, the hour is now here. I long to worship you in Spirit and truth. Teach me intimacy and tenderness in worship. I purpose to come with a submissive heart so that through me, “your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I ask this in the Spirit of God and the Truth that is Jesus you Son. Amen.

Awesome Worship

There is a third foundational aspect of worship. The Greek also uses the verb sebomai—“to revere,” stressing the feeling of awe or devotion. Biblically it is quoted from the Old Testament by Jesus Mt 15:9; and Mk 7:7 referring to that worship which should come from the heart. Acts 16:14 relates that “Lydia... a worshiper (sebomai) of God, listened, and the Lord opener her heart...” Acts 18:7 & 13 reveals the same sense. Awe and devotion are both feelings and actions. “Devotion” comes from the Latin meaning to dedicate by vow. In other words, in devoting myself, I make an act in freedom to bind myself to God, to his Person to his revelation. That is very close to faith. We we come into a worship time, I think it is fitting that we stir in our hearts both the feeling and the act of sebomai— a deliberate lying down of ourselves in order to adhere to the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Presence of his Holy Spirit. In devotion, something must die. Let us die to our own ideas about the way we would like to
pray, to listen to obey and do our spiritual work.

Please pray with me:

Father, in faith I choose now to adhere to you, to your Son and to your Holy Spirit. I lay aside my ways, I take up your ways. I bind myself to them, devote myself to them. I offer my fellow worshipers to your ways, I devote them and consecrate them with me to do your work. May your Kingdom come, your will be done. Amen.

We we come into a worship time, I think it is fitting that we stir in our hearts both the feeling and the act of sebomai—a deliberate lying down of ourselves in order to adhere to the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Presence of his Holy Spirit.

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