So what do we say to God, now that we have full access to him in Christ? The Church’s Tradition, based on her Jewish roots, the revealed examples of masters of prayer in Scripture, and two millennia of the wisdom of the saints, give us five purposes of prayer:
One way to remember them by the acronym A TRIP. Prayer is the greatest of all trips we can take, a trip to Heaven. Our spirit is already present in Heaven before God when we pray. There is no distance, no separation.
Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. To adore is to acknowledge what truly is, to live in reality. We do not know God truly until we adore him. For if we know the true God, we will adore him and humble ourselves. throughout Scripture, whenever a man meets God – the real God – he describes it in words like, I fell at his feet as one dead. He doesn’t chat with God, he adores. God is not an uncle, he is an earthquake.
Christ’s incarnation and death did not take away God’s holiness, it took away our sin. It did not make God less adorable, but us more adoring.
It is always healing to our spirits to count our blessings and thank God for everything that is good. It is also realistic, or honest to reality. For whatever means he uses – nature, family, friends, our own talents – it is God who is the First Cause of all life and goodness. In the poorest life there are always immeasurable riches to thank God for.
Our gratitude too should be Christocentric. If we do not feel grateful, we should turn again to the crucifix. That is what God did for us. We should practice giving thanks especially when we do not feel thankful, for that is when we need it the most. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer. We can come into God’s presence only on our knees.
We should examine our conscience and confess our sins privately each day and sacramentally at least each month, if possible, for the same reason we offer adoration and thanksgiving, a just and proper admission of reality, of truth. In the presence of other sinful men, we may seem to be “OK” but in the presence of the all-holy God, honesty compels repentance, a continual conversion or turning of the heart and life from our habitual self-centeredness.
We should always turn again and again to Christ and his Blood as the “more than sufficient” divine answer to our sins. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Since Abraham, intercession 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.
It is good to keep a prayer list of people to intercede for daily. We should also ask others to pray for us, as well as praying for them. All men on earth need each other’s help, spiritually as well materially, especially those in authority in ‘church, state and families.
The saints in Heaven no longer need our intercession, but we need theirs, and God loves to answer our prayers by glorifying his intermediaries. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world. Their bodies are gone from the earth but no their love. They are the great cloud of witnesses who surround us like spectators in a stadium. The Church Triumphant in Heaven, the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and the Church Militant on earth are one Body in three places, united in prayer through the Communion of Saints.
Petition (asking) should not be the whole of our prayer, there are four other essential purposes. Nor should it habitually be first in time, for if it is prefaced and surrounded by adoration, thanksgiving, repentance, and intercession, it gets a place perspective more in tune with reality.
Nevertheless, we should not try to be “high minded” and scorn this obvious and popular purpose of prayer, for we do need many things, and God does want us to ask for them. In fact, he often withholds good things from us until we pray for them, because he sees that what we need first and most is to pray. We need to petition for the same reason we need to adore, to thank, to repent, and to intercede, to be honest to reality, to live in the truth of humility instead of the illusion of pride. For to petition is to admit what we are, beggars. 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. Petition is not the highest kind of prayer, but precisely because it is not, it is humble and honest, and thus pleasing to God.
In all five kinds of prayer, including petition, we should ask the Holy Spirit to help us to pray, for Scripture says that he helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pry as we ought, but the spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
Every need can become the object of petition, for my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
To pray means in ordinary language primarily to petition, to ask. Thus, when Catholics pray to saints, they do not adore or worship them, as Protestants often charge, but merely petition them to intercede with God for us, as we would petition any living friend on earth to do the same.
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Thanks and God Bless