Catholic Teaching


One can only speculate as to how many articles and books have been written to instruct us on how to pray. Why should you read another article? Maybe because many of us acknowledge that we need to learn how to pray in a better way. Only when we humbly acknowledge ‘we do not know how to pray’ (Romans 8:26) are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2626 – 2643, separates prayer into five forms. These are Adoration, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and Praise. When reading the CCC many of us would feel fairly confident with most types of prayer, but we have lost our ability to adore. We know how to petition for forgiveness of sins, we know how to ask Mary and Jesus to intercede for us, and we know how to thank God for prayers we believe were answered; yet we fail in the most important prayer - the prayer of adoration.

We cannot enter God’s presence without adoring. Adoration is a gesture of courtesy toward God. We acknowledge that God our creator is here, present – that He loves us – that He is creating our soul at this moment and we want to place ourselves in His presence and be surrounded by His hands. This requires an act of will. If we do not have will of our own it is because we no longer adore. This may surprise you, but it is a profound truth. A person who has ceased to adore has gone astray, and because of a lack of will, he allows. himself be carried away by the currents of secular life.
One must attempt acts of adoration. One must ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, as it is He who teaches us to adore (Rom 8:26). Adoration is the foundation of our Christian life and the most profound human act.
Failure to adore is a neglect of grace, and grace will be taken away. Jesus mentioned those who have much will lose it. He was talking about grace.
Adoration does not require a recitation of vocal prayers. As stated in the CCC, adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his God. Adoration is the homage of the spirit to the ‘King of Glory,’ respectfully silent in the presence of the ever-present God. It is amazing what an hour in Eucharistic Adoration or even an hour in a silent church before Jesus in the Tabernacle will do to lead us into a greater intimacy with God. As Thomas Aquinas stated, “It is interior prayer which is important, all vocal prayer be ordered to it.”

According to the CCC – since we are not masters of our beginning, of our adversary, or of our end, we turn to God in petition or supplication. As John Cassian said, “A supplication is a plea or petition made on account of present and past sin by someone who is moved by contrition to seek pardon.” As many of us know, a good confession is a most wonderful experience – a lifting of a burden from our soul.

In this prayer, we join Jesus, who is on the right hand of God in interceding for others, or we may ask the Queen of Heaven to present our request to God. She would surely present it in a way much better than we are able even to comprehend.

As St. Bernard tells us, if you brazenly boast of your gifts as your own, I should perceive you have been deceived. When you give thanks, regard nothing as your own but wisely acknowledge your merits as God’s gifts. St. Bernard also said when we express sorrow for our sins, we should at the same time give thanks to God for His gifts in order to not fall too deeply into the trenches of sadness.

In the prayer of praise we give glory to God. Again, paraphrasing St. Bernard, if I discern in the saints something worthy of praise and admiration and proceed to examine it in the clear light of truth, I become aware that what makes it so really belongs to another, and I praise God for His saints (Psalm 150:1). We do not praise the pen or brush when we judge a script or painting, nor do we attribute eloquence to the lips and tongue of the orator. Thus, everyone who boasts is against the Lord unless his boasting is in the Lord (2 Cor. 10:17).

There are many sayings in the Bible stating the need for humility. It is good for each of us to have a daily prayer for humility in our life and to give God praise for His gifts to us. As stated in the beginning of this article, “Only when we humbly acknowledge ‘we do not know how to pray’ (Romans 8:26), are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer.”

Jim Fritz

Note: Parts of this article are from notes taken in a class taught by Rev. Frederick Edlefsen, St. James Parish in Falls Church, Virginia.



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