The Catholic Letter

Tips and Tricks to Living a Christian Life

The Nature of Prayer and How We Use It

In our modern world of science, we’re sometimes tempted to think of prayer, petition, and merit as a mathematic equation. “Pray about X for Y number of hours, fasting for W days, and X will be answered.” We’ve come to expect an immediate answer to our problems…like a simple program that has occasional bug, but generally works well with a few clicks of the mouse.

This kind of error is one that puts limits on God. We end up thinking of Him as a reaction to us, as opposed to us being a creation of His. But it also limits us, because we close our minds to the nature of God…and the nature of prayer.

Prayer can stretch and bend as much as God allows it. It’s not a method of payment…even though our minds naturally tend to understand it as one. It’s a simple line of communication. One open to God. And the benefit of this line isn’t at all like a line of credit. It’s not there for us to receive a service or good. It’s there to strengthen our relationship with God.

Of course that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to ask for something. But without a proper understanding of prayer, it won’t be nearly as fruitful. For example, I had a friend who once mentioned that he was afraid to add something unimportant to his list of intentions because he feared it would take some of the pie from more urgent matters. As if the fruitfulness of prayer could be graphed.

It reminded me of when my wife and I were waiting for our second child. We were afraid that love for the second one would take away some of the love that our first child received. Our understanding of love was that it could be divided. The way our time and resources were divided.

But by the time our sixth child arrived, we had long ago stopped worrying about such nonsense. By then, we knew that we could love each one of them more than anything else. Because love does not divide…it multiplies. Another child doesn’t mean less love for one person, it means more love for everyone.

And so it is with our prayer…because our prayers strengthen our relationship with God. So when we add to our intentions, it only adds to our prayer. And where earthly fathers might be forced to divide his time between children, our Heavenly Father isn’t.