While I understand that God does not need our prayers, my confessor assured me that I still need to say them. While I believe this, will you explain in greater detail why this is true?
— Paula in Springfield
Great question, Paula! Pope Francis recently responded to the question of the necessity of prayer as well. He said, “Yes, it is necessary. Because if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to go forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life. Prayer draws down on us the Holy Spirit’s presence who always leads us forward.”
What I found interesting in the Holy Father’s response is that the focus was not on God needing our prayers, but on our needing to pray. Strictly speaking, God does not need anything. God is perfect and complete in himself. There is a beautiful reminder of this in regard to praise of God in one of the prefaces of the Mass, “For, although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation.” We add nothing to God when we pray, but receive everything we need. Prayer is a necessity for us.
Humans are body and soul creatures. Therefore, we have a spiritual nature that we must be attentive of. Prayer is our way of communicating with God — a spiritual reality. Communication is necessary in any relationship and our relationship with God is no different. Without communication, a relationship will die. Prayer is our part in that divine relationship.
Prayer is a really the simple act of lifting our heart to God. This is done by taking the time to mentally tell God what it is that we are going through and asking for the grace we need to keep going.
A basic part of communication is listening, but for me that is sometimes the hardest part in my relationship with God. I can easily make the list of things going on that he needs to do, but it is much harder for me to stop and do my part in communication, that being listening. It can be difficult to discern God’s communication in prayer. What is it that is from him? What is it that is really my own mind? What is it that is really a distraction? If we take the time to consistently stop and pray, both telling and listening, we will come to know the voice of God.
When the Apostles ask Jesus to teach them how to pray in Luke 11, Jesus teaches them a prayer that is common to us — the Our Father. It is in this simple prayer that we learn so much of what prayer really is. It does not have to be complicated. We approach God as a loving Father, and we ask him for what we need. Then we stop and listen to what he has to say back. God certainly does not need our prayers, but as a loving Father he certainly wants them, even if it is our necessity.
Father Michael Meinhart is parochial vicar at St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville.