Meaning of Life
There a God?
of Christ
Catholic Faith

Why does God ask us to pray?

Prayer shows our trust and faith in God. He does not need our prayers, but we do. They are a source of grace. So in His infinite love for us, God wants us to receive this grace that we can only get by a voluntary act of will, a free choice to make the effort to show our belief in God through prayer. Frequent prayer will strengthen our faith and trust and lead us to heaven, and that is God's goal.

Does God always answer our prayers?

Yes. Our children ask us many things, and we always answer. But sometimes the answer is "no." Like any good parent, God always answers our prayers, but He will say no when to grant our requests would not be in our ultimate best interest.

To God, our "best interest" means only our salvation. If the best way to lead us to salvation is a hard, painful life in which He has to say "no" to all of our requests for worldly happiness, then He will say no to all. He will say "yes" to whatever is good for us.

What kind of things should we pray for? Can we ask God for anything at all?

In the Gospels, God said that he would grant our prayer requests. But He also makes it very clear what we should and should not be praying for. God has said in many places that He wants us to place all of our emphasis on getting to heaven. He knows that eternity is infinitely more important than the few short years of our earthly lives.

It is not hard to verify. If he meant prayer to be like a genie in a bottle, I would be a billionaire and you would not have all your problems. So what does that mean? It means that God wants only to get us to heaven. Therefore the prayers He is referring to are ones that ask for grace, patience, faith, and other salvation related matters. These are the things we are to pray for: how we can love God more, how we can have the strength and patience to care for His other children, and how we can attain heaven.

But most of all, pray for forgiveness, both for ourselves and for others. We are assured that if we ask for forgiveness in the name of Christ, He will grant it. But remember, we must be truly sorry for offending Him. That means truly vowing not to commit that sin again. If we think that we get automatic forgiveness, and can just nonchalantly do the same thing over and over and use Christian forgiveness as a "get out of Jail free" card, we are not forgiven.

God certainly does want us to be happy here on earth too. He has given us a clear blueprint for this: follow His commands. Love Him, and love our brethren as much as we love ourselves, no--positively no--exceptions. We still may suffer, as Christ did, but we will be as happy as we can possibly be.

Does God mind that we ask for worldly favors, even though He may not say yes?

No. It shows our faith in Him. He likes to hear from us. Go ahead and pray for money and jobs and good relationships. I know I do. He will give us everything that He possibly can, if it does not interfere with our eventual salvation. But do not be disappointed when He says no. Accept His decision. He will love you all the more for it.

How should I pray? What words should I use?
Talk to Him wherever you are; prayer is not reserved for church. It is your own words. And it goes beyond words: it is living our life in Christ, and is a bond of love and trust.

Talk to Him often throughout the day, envisioning Him right there beside you. Talk to Him as you would to a loving father, or best friend. Just make casual conversation, telling Him of your hopes and your troubles, and also about the good things that are happening to you. His love for you is infinite, and He wants to hear every detail.

The best way for you to endure hard and painful times is to ask God often not to leave your side. "Stay with me, Father. Stay right here with me and give me your blessing," should always be your prayer.

Ask about how He is doing, too. Tell Him that you hope that He is happy, and that you hope that He can enjoy exciting World Series games and good movies and walks in the park on a beautiful autumn day. Tell Him that if He wants to, He is welcome to experience these things through your eyes.

The Lord's Prayer is a good way to start and end the day. It is the only actual prayer that He ever gave us, so He must think a lot of it. Say it slowly, and try to mean every part. For the full text of it, together with an explanation of all the words, go to The Lord's Prayer.

Is there a good prayer for giving thanks before meals?

The classic prayer is this: "We give thee thanks, Almighty God, for these and all the gifts which we receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen."

This not only thanks Him for the food on our table, but for all His grace given to us throughout our lives.

It is referred to as "saying grace." It is a wonderful and beautiful custom, almost forgotten in this secular world.

The following may be difficult for you, but you could be a shining example to many people if you always took a moment before meals and asked everyone to excuse you for a moment while you give thanks. Do not ask them to participate, but do make the prayer audible. God will be astounded.

Should we pray to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?

Since there is only one God, He hears all prayers.

Of the three ways in which God has revealed Himself to mankind, the Holy Spirit is the one we know least about. So it is most difficult to envision the Holy Spirit when praying. One of the reasons God became man was so we could have a real person, Jesus Christ, to relate to. As true man, he went through all the pain and temptations and problems that all of us do. So most people find it easiest to pray with Christ in mind. Christ always refers to God as the Father, and mankind as His children. So many people like to think of a kindly, loving Father that they can pray to and ask for help.

God does not answer us in the ways that we would think of as an answer. Not even the greatest of saints ever heard Him say a word to them. God already knows all of our needs, and since He is infinitely loving, He will give us everything we need (not everything we want!) without our having to ask for it. Prayer is for our own good. It affirms our faith in God, and we receive much grace from God as a result of praying.

How can it be beneficial to pray for others, especially after they are dead? Is it fair for us to influence their fate? If they are dead, aren't the books closed?

God will not withhold any grace for others because of our failure to pray for them. But He has expressed a desire for us to pray for all others, and so we should.

The key to understanding prayer is in understanding the nature of “time.” On earth there is a definite time-line. We are born, we live, we die. In that order.

For God, and in heaven and therefore for everyone in heaven, there is no time. There is no time-line at all. Time is how we measure the change in material things. God and heaven are spiritual, not material. God simply exists. “I am the One who is,” said God when asked His name. No past, no future, just an eternal existence in the now.

This is impossible for us, in this world of time, to really comprehend. For God, our lives are eternal and not tied to time at all. Prayers are not heard in “time” by God, before or after a person dies, they are simply heard. We can certainly believe that for God, it makes no difference whether He hears prayers for a person before they die or afterwards, simply because there is no “before” or “after” for Him. Exactly how God allows prayers to affect this world is unknown. We pray because He asks us to. Nowhere did God ever say that we are not to pray for anyone, living or dead.

For these reasons the Church believes that it is wise for us to pray for all people, living and dead, without exception. How God sorts all this out and is influenced or not, we do not know and do not have to know.

Since God is infinitely good and compassionate, won't He always show us the best way to salvation whether we pray or not?

God will always show us the best path to attain heaven. But he will not interfere with our free will by forcing us to stay on the best path. If we make wrong moral choices then God has to show us new paths that will not be as straight or as easy. It is all up to us. Each moral choice is a crossroads, and if we take the wrong turn the way to heaven is harder to find. Not impossible to find, but perhaps longer and more difficult.

God always offers the best path possible for our salvation given the free will choices that we have made up to that point. This is an important condition. This allows our lives to make dramatic turns for the worse if we choose evil. It is then consistent to think that our lives may take dramatic turns for the better if we choose to avail ourselves of prayer.

In Short:

The language in the Bible sometimes gives us the impression that God is sitting in heaven waiting to be convinced that what we pray for is what He then decides to give us or not. But first and foremost, prayer isn't aimed at changing God's mind. Rather, prayer's purpose is to change our minds and attitudes.

God always loves us, always hears and cares for us. If God does not do that, then He is not God.

As creatures dependent upon God for life itself as well as for safety and all our needs, it is in our nature to call out to our creator. The spirit of prayer is always "Father, your will be done, not mine." By that I mean, even as we pray for the most wonderful and good things, e.g. cure of cancer for a sick child, we pray not that God magically cure the child --which would be wonderful-- but that God help the doctors, medicines, etc. to do their work within the circumstances of life.

We live in the circumstances of our lives, good and bad, and God's response is to give us the strength to face and live through those circumstances.

It is what Jesus did Himself. He asked that His sufferings pass as He faced death. But, those were the circumstances of His life; His enemies wanted him dead because of His preaching. God did not strike those enemies dead; rather Jesus placed himself in His Father's hands and faced His terrible death.

God did not want Jesus crucified. What father would wish that upon his child? So, we can pray for what we believe we need and would be good for us. At the same time, we always place our needs and wishes in God's hands and ask for the grace to face life as we find it.

Prayer is not about magic. It is a mystery.


"As a child I was encouraged to pray about all things great and small.
Petitionary prayer for worldly things is a long established tradition in the
Church. If I pray to get a better job or a cure for illness am I just wasting
my time?"

Certainly not. All prayer is always a good thing. God requests it.

But millions of people pray daily, very hard, for things like world peace and cures for diseases, as well as to be spared from natural and personal disasters. Individuals also pray very hard for better jobs, better health, even victory in a sporting event. We know perfectly well that the world chugs along on its own course.

We get thousands of letters from good, formerly religious people who have been taught that God will give them whatever they want if they pray hard enough. Well, they prayed very hard. They did not get what they prayed for. Now they do not believe in God any longer. This resulted from a tragic misunderstanding of prayer, and we want to avoid that same misunderstanding.

Personally, we go ahead and pray for just about everything. We talk to God all day long, and ask for His help with all of our problems. This is natural. This is our human need to call out to our Creator in times of need. But our real, underlying prayer is always "Thy will be done." We trust Him to know what is best for us. We trust in His love and in His protection at all times, whether we ask for it or not.

We do often tell Him, though, that we think it would be great if His will for us coincided with what we really want this time.

Does "faith healing" work, or is it fake?

While the Church does recognize that there may be special occasions when God performs miracles of healing, these occasions cannot be mandated at any particular time. God is not a genie in a bottle, to be summoned forth to do our wishes at our request.

God is already infinitely good, and infinitely caring and merciful. He does not sit around heaven waiting to be asked to heal people in order to start doing it. He already gives everyone as much help as is in their best interest.

The relief of sickness and poverty on earth is our responsibility, to be taken care of with the knowledge of medicine and the hard work that we are capable of giving. We are to take care of our brethren. God will take care of them in eternity.

Every once in a while a person has led so holy a life that the Church considers proclaiming them to be a saint. Such was the case with Mother Theresa. Then, part of the process is to find a miracle or two that this person asked God for, and that He granted. That is always the hardest part. Even for saints, verifying a miracle is extremely rare.

It is true that many illnesses are psychosomatically induced, and can be helped by the power of positive thinking. If we truly believe that we are being healed, our body can sometimes heal itself. The mind and the body interact in ways that as yet, doctors are not fully aware of. The placebo effect is well known. A person with a raging headache will take a pill that she thinks is her regular codeine pain pill, but which is in reality only a sugar pill, and the headache will disappear just as if it were real medicine. The "faith healers" who depend on people's gullibility count on this to happen.

We recommend that to truly heal people, you donate as much money as possible to missions in places like Africa and India that have medical clinics that treat the poor people for free.


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