An inquisitive mind genuinely asks: why should I pray? God is omniscient and knows all my needs even when I don’t ask. The Scriptures say that God has plans to prosper me. Therefore, I only need to depend on the providence of God and move on. After all, God doesn’t change His decision, no matter how hard I pray. So, I am going to do my daily chores, go to work, eat, and sleep. Life is an opportunity to have fun; enjoy it! Prayer is unnecessary, right? Then, perhaps, we don’t have to waste time on it. What do you think?
Why should I pray?
Let’s consider prayer as going out on a date! The purpose of dating is to find your soulmate. You want to know, understand, and love each other better. While communication is the key to a successful relationship, openness and active listening are indispensable to it. So too, prayer is an innate yearning of a soul to enter into a deeper relationship with God.Just as a bird stretches out its wings to soar, so does a devotee stretch out his/her arms in prayer in an attempt at knowing, understanding and loving the all pervading and unfathomable creator. Since man is created in the image and likeness of God, the desire for God is inherent in man.That is why St. Augustine said, “O Lord, Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” In other words, God created us to know Him, understand Him, and love Him. It is in prayer that we meet Him.
O Lord, Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.
Prayer is God’s thirst for man’s soul, and man’s thirst for his creator meeting each other; it is like the ‘thirsty’ Samaritan woman finding her ‘Beloved’ at the well of Jacob never to thirst again! Jesus waits upon us to quench our thirst because He is the source of ‘Living Waters’ – the Holy Spirit. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It refers to the providence of God for us, which only God has the knowledge of. Its unfolding happens only in our earnest prayers and patient waiting. Just as the petals of a rose flower open up slowly to the patient eyes of the beholder, the divine plan will be revealed to the praying soul. Presupposing that God only provides good things is hope; but sitting passively in the divine presence is foolish. Faith is active and dynamic; prayer and meditation are its expressions. God’s omniscience (knowledge of everything) is no justification for us not seeking Him in prayer, rather we are encouraged to pray unceasingly.
For I know the plans I have for you
We know that God is all good. He can’t ‘will’ evil, He is not a liar, nor can He allow an evil doer to enter Heaven. Just as He is ‘Merciful,’ so is He ‘Just.’ Because of His justice, even if He is merciful, He can’t save us without our consent and cooperation. That is why St. Augustine said: “He who created us without our help, will not save us without our consent.” It is not a limitation of God, rather, it is His nature. We are endowed with ‘free will’ and ‘freedom of choice.’It is a dichotomy in human nature, however, that we exercise such freedoms and choices in our everyday life, but adamantly oppose the concept when it comes to spiritual matters.In fact, we are invited to enter into a love relationship with God by choice. In this relationship, there is autonomy and mutual respect; love is never forced. Prayer, thus, is the admiration of the Lord by the human soul; the Lord, in turn, is pleased to shower His choicest blessings on such a blessed soul.
On the other hand, it is also the duty of man to pray to God. I am reminded of the Second Liturgical prayer in Syro Malabar Qurbana (similar in Latin Liturgy, too) which says, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, holy Father, Lord of heaven and earth, through Christ our Lord.” This prayer is based on the Book of Revelation chapter 4, verse 8, which reads: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” It means that we worship God for who ‘HE IS’. In other words, we don’t pray because we add to God’s glory, nor do we pray to change His decision, but to admire Him for His great glory. That is why we pray during the Latin Liturgical Prayer, “WE praise Thee, we bless Thee, we adore Thee, we glorify Thee, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.”
WE praise Thee, we bless Thee, we adore Thee, we glorify Thee, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty
The Sacred Scriptures, which is the primary source of knowledge of God, testify that Jesus Himself asked us to pray: “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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mathew 7: 7-8) Therefore, prayerful meditation of the Scriptures is needed to find what God wants us to do. Ignorance of the Word of God is perilous. The Scriptures, also, say that it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us to pray: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8: 26,27) We should call upon the Holy Spirit – the divine counselor and helper – to bless us with the gift of prayer and the revelation of the secrets of heaven treasured in the Word of God.
We read in the Bible that Jesus, often, prayed to His Father. He conversed with the Father and sought counsel from the Father in all crucial moments of His life. One of the secrets of Jesus’ prayer is that He believed in the Father’s readiness to grant Him what He needed. On the occasion of raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus prayed: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I ‘knew’ that you always hear me..” (John 11: 41,42) In the very next verse, we see Lazarus coming out of his grave! “The Our Father..” known as “The Lord’s Prayer,” which Jesus taught His disciples, has all the secret ingredients of an effective prayer. It is the acceptance of God as the father of all, declaration of Jesus’ Sonship, promulgation of our universal brotherhood, supreme form of praise and worship, seeking after the will of the Father, supplication for our daily bread, petition for mercy and forgiveness, desire for reconciliation, plea for deliverance from the evil one, and reaffirmation of the sovereignty of God!
Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I ‘knew’ that you always hear me.
Furthermore , at the end of Jesus’ earthly mission, in the agonizing moments in Gethsemane, His prayer rose and knocked at Heaven’s Gate: Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22: 42) His cry pierced the Father’s heart just as His would soon be pierced with a spear. Yet, the bitter cup of suffering didn’t leave Him because the ‘Messiah’ had to be crucified! It is on such occasions that we really need to pray harder so that we could entrust ourselves willingly to the ‘Supreme Will’ and receive consolation from heaven: “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22: 43) I work in a Cancer hospital and have witnessed patients who pray departing peacefully. If we pray, we can also say like Jesus: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
Therefore, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” ( Isaiah 2:3) Let us all join with the heavenly choir and sing: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3) Let us raise our praises and petitions together with the ‘Fiat’ and the ‘Magnificat’ of the Divine Mother. Let’s also offer ourselves to the Heavenly Father as a love offering along with the Eternal Offering of the Son of God. Let us pray; Peace be with us!
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.