Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God, or the petition of good things from him in accord with his will. It is always the gift of God who comes to encounter man. Christian prayer is the personal and living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is infinitely good, with his Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit who dwells in their hearts.
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Because through creation God first calls every being from nothingness. Even after the Fall man continues to be capable of recognizing his Creator and retains a desire for the One who has called him into existence. All religions, and the whole history of salvation in particular, bear witness to this human desire for God. It is God first of all, however, who ceaselessly draws every person to the mysterious encounter known as prayer.
Abraham is a model of prayer because he walked in the presence of God, heard and obeyed him. His prayer was a battle of faith because he continued to believe in the fidelity of God even in times of trial. Besides, after having received in his own tent the visit of the Lord who confided his plan to him, Abraham dared to intercede for sinners with bold confidence.
The prayer of Moses was typical of contemplative prayer. God, who called to Moses from the burning bush, lingered in conversation with him often and at length, “face to face, like a man with his friend” (Exodus 33:11). In this intimacy with God, Moses attained the strength to intercede tenaciously for his people: his prayer thus prefigured the intercession of the one mediator, Christ Jesus.
The prayer of the People of God developed in the shadow of the dwelling place of God – the Ark of the Covenant, then the Temple – under the guidance of their shepherds. Among them there was David, the King “after God’s own heart,” the shepherd who prayed for his people. His prayer was a model for the prayer of the people because it involved clinging to the divine promise and a trust filled with love for the One who is the only King and Lord.
Our prayer is efficacious because it is united in faith with the prayer of Jesus. In him Christian prayer becomes a communion of love with the Father. In this way we can present our petitions to God and be heard: “Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
Along with the prayer of Mary at Cana in Galilee, the Gospel gives us the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) which is the song both of the Mother of God and of the Church, the joyous thanksgiving that rises from the hearts of the poor because their hope is met by the fulfillment of the divine promises.