Why do people pray? What is the point of these ritualistic actions? Does prayer affect us and the world? Is prayer just another method used to numb our pains, to feel good about ourselves, or to practice wishful thinking? Rather, prayer, as done through acts of penance, through contemplation of scripture and meditation, through self-regulation of one’s words, thoughts, and actions, through fasting, and through praise of God, are the methods Christianity has been teaching for the last two millennia.
The French theologian Yves Congar says, “The deep dimension of our being becomes real in prayer, that admirable activity that is proper to the human being and qualifies one as human. We can experience an I-Thou relationship not only horizontally, with a human partner, but also vertically, with that partner who is at one and the same time infinitely beyond and more intimate than our deepest self.”
We yearn for God, the source of our human nature, who, when discovered, allows for flourishing. Loneliness and addictions are the result of our thirsting soul latching on to that which does not satisfy, that which does not bring joy, that which is not God. People pray because they seek grace for individual and communal conversion from a source vastly stronger than our weak human nature. By taking the time of prayer to discover the nature of our humanity or the presence of good and true values or revelation into God’s loving presence, people are transformed. Healing from sickness to health, dispelling ignorance with knowledge, rising from despair to hope, changing our hearts from hatred to love are all grace-filled conversions. Through prayerful encounters with God, faithful people are opened to the transformative power of divine love.
- Fr. Christopher Krall, SJ
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (United States & Canada)