What is prayer?

Prayer is a form of communication, a way of talking to God or to the saints.

Why is it so important to pray every day, and stick with it?

Prayer is a major point of emphasis in Scripture. Moses climbed to the top of a mountain to pray to God that his troops would be successful in battle, and as long as his arms were held high in prayer, all went well (Ex 17:8-13). Luke tells us that “Jesus told his disciples a parable on the necessity of praying always without losing heart” (Lk 18:1). Prayer was of paramount importance to Luke, and he stressed prayer more than any other evangelist.
Simply put, prayer is expressing one’s self to God, most often conversationally. Jesus spoke constantly with his Father, and he is the single best example of a prayerful person. From his youth it was his custom to go to the synagogue to pray, and he regularly prayed by reading Scripture and singing Psalms. He also accompanied his parents to Jerusalem at Passover each year to pray in the Temple.

Prayer pervaded Jesus’ entire life and ministry. He prayed at the Jordan at his baptism (Lk 3:21). He went to the desert to pray before he began his ministry (Lk 4:1-2); and he went to the desert again in solitary prayer during his healing ministry (Lk 5:16). He went up a high mountain to pray for discernment before he appointed the twelve apostles (Lk 6:12), and he went up a mountain again to pray before the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28). He prayed in solitude after he fed the five thousand (Lk 9:18) and before he taught his disciples how to pray (Lk 11:1). Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail (Lk 22:32). At Gethsemane Jesus prayed to do God’s will (Lk 22:42); and from the Cross Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Lk 23:34); and about to die, he prayed, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).

Jesus exemplifies prayer. He prayed by a river, in the desert, on a mountain, and in a garden; which means that we can pray outdoors. He prayed in solitude which means that we should pray by ourselves privately. He also prayed every Sabbath in the synagogue or in the temple; which means that we should go to church every week to pray with other people. He prayed with scripture, so we should read the Bible; he sang Psalms, so we can pray by singing hymns or other sacred music; and he prayed in his own words, which means that we ought to spend time chatting with God as if we were talking to our best friend. Jesus prayed at every crucial point of his life, which means we should pray especially hard any time we need to make a major decision or transition. Jesus prayed as a youngster, so we should begin to pray at an early age, and he prayed from the cross, so we should pray non-stop throughout our entire lives up to our final breath. St. Paul recommends that we “persevere in prayer” (Col 4:2); in fact, he believes that we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17).

You can learn more about prayer in Prayer 101: Everything You Need to Know About Prayer in the Catholic Church.

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