Catechism of the Catholic Church / Part Four: Christian Prayer
Section One - Prayer In The Christian Life
"Great is the mystery of the faith!"
professes this mystery in the Apostles' Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in
the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be
conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part
mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate
it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the
living and true God. This relationship is prayer.
For me, prayer is a surge of
it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love,
embracing both trial and joy.1
"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
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
"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
"You would have asked him, and he would have given you living
Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living
"They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out
cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no
Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a
response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.11
Where does prayer come from?
Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who
But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or
the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times).
According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays.
If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.
The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the
Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place "to which I
The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others;
only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully.
The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives.
It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death.
It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation:
it is the place of covenant.
Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ.
It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit
and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of
the Son of God made man.
In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God
with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and
with the Holy Spirit.
The grace of the Kingdom is "the union of the entire holy and royal
Trinity . . . with the whole human spirit."12
Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the
thrice-holy God and in communion with him.
This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have
already been united with Christ.13
Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends
throughout the Church, which is his Body.
Its dimensions are those of Christ's love.14
1 St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.
2 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94,1089C.
3 ⇒ Ps 130:1.
4 Cf. ⇒ Lk 18:9-14.
5 ⇒ Rom 8:26.
6 St. Augustine, Sermo 56, 6, 9: PL 38, 381.
7 ⇒ Jn 4:10.
8 Cf. St. Augustine De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4:
PL 40, 56.
9 ⇒ Jn 4:10.
10 ⇒ Jer 2:13.
11 Cf. ⇒ Jn 7:37-39;
⇒ Isa 12:3;
12:10; ⇒ 13:1.
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio, 16, 9: PG 35, 945.
⇒ Rom 6:5.
14 Cf. ⇒ Eph 3:18-21.
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