Do you pray? Often or just occasionally? Is prayer important to you?
These are essential questions for our life of faith. Like breath in the human body, prayer makes our spirits live. Without it, they die. Prayer helps us live and grow spiritually.
Prayer is God’s Gift
Prayer is a gift of God. “Gift” is a good word to describe prayer, because praying is not something we can do ourselves. ” We do not know how to pray as we ought,” scripture says. (Romans 8,26) God gives this gift to us.
Why? Because God loves us and wants to draw near to us as a friend. How strange that sounds! God all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-knowing, wants to draw close to be our friend. God calls us his friends and looks for our company and hears our prayer. What seems unbelievable is true.
At the same time, prayer fulfills a desire we have as human beings to know God. We’re made in God’s image, and something in our being thirsts for the One who made us. It’s a thirst described in the psalms:
“O God, you are my God, for you I long. For you my soul is thirsting. Like a dry weary land without water… so my soul longs for you, my God.”
We can’t be satisfied unless we are draw near to God. “Our hearts are restless,” St. Augustine says, “until they rest in you.” When we pray, we rest in God.
God gives that gift generously, without considering our worthiness or unworthiness. Sinners as well as saints can pray. People of every religious tradition, or no religious tradition at all, receive the gift. It’s given to every human being. We’re all called to pray.
(cf. The Catholic Catechism: The Universal Call to Prayer. 2566-2567)
All are called to pray
“All” are called to pray. Surprisingly, some who think they are unworthy or ungifted may pray best and be graciously heard. That’s what Jesus taught in his parable about the Pharisee and the Publican who together went up to the temple to pray. The Publican, an outsider who thought himself unworthy of approaching God in prayer, was found more pleasing by God than the Pharisee, a professionally religious person, who seemed to pray so effortlessly. (Luke 18,9-14)
Prayer is God’s gift to the strong and the weak, to the smallest child and frailest of the old. It’s given to those who say, ” I’m not really religious; prayer is beyond me.” It’s given to you, no matter who you are.
That’s not to say we can’t refuse to pray or neglect it. Like any gift, prayer has to be received and, as we know, we can throw gifts away. “If you knew the gift of God,” Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well. A Gift was there before her eyes. At first she was blind to it, then she enthusiastically received it.
Don’t go through life leaving the gift of prayer unused. Thankfully, it’s always there to be taken up!
In the prayers of the church, you often find an acknowledgment that prayer is God’s gift and a request that God give and strengthen that gift in us. At the beginning of her daily prayers, the liturgy of the hours, the church prays two verses of the psalms.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Simple, truthful words. I cannot open my lips in prayer unless God give me the gift. O God, come and assist me; help me approach you.
God graciously gives us this beautiful gift, hastening to help us open our lips and our hearts. Delighting to give us the gift of prayer, God welcomes us into his presence to share his life with ours, his love with our love.
Prayer’s God’s precious gift; cherish it always.