The challenge to pray is oftentimes found in the fallen definition we give to it. We think that prayer only works when we get what we want. If we ask for something in prayer, then God is supposed to give it to us. If we don’t receive what we ask for, then – we think – prayer doesn’t work. What’s the point?

If we allow ourselves to grow beyond our fallen definition of prayer and seek divine wisdom, we receive a very different understanding of prayer. Prayer is about communion with God, about speaking and listening to him. Prayer is about being with God. It’s about being taught by him and learning his ways.

While the heart of prayer is union with God, petition and supplication are a part of prayer. It’s good for us to ask God for what we need. There are times in which what we ask for is in accord with God’s will. Just as there are times when God’s will points us in a different direction from what we ask of him. Our task is to accept the answer he gives, whether it matches our request or not.

With this understanding, we can rejoice in prayer knowing that the outcome is not our responsibility. All will end well by God’s providence.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church records times in which the Lord Jesus answered prayers during his public ministry: “Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief) or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman).”

The Catechism is keen to stress that the answered prayers of the Lord Jesus during his earthly ministry were all in service to the Resurrection. The prayers were answered according to the requests of the petitioner so that these answered prayers could “anticipate the power of His death and Resurrection.”

Miracles, signs, wonders, and healings are all in service to the Resurrection, as the promise and hope for eternal life. God’s perspective is eternal. When things are given to us in this life, they are meant to point us to eternal things.

The Catechism continues by pointing out: “The urgent request of the blind men, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David’ or ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ has been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’”

Here again the blind men are healed and given their sight as a sign of the validity and credibility of God’s mercy. The earthly blessing is meant to direct us to the heavenly blessing.

Understandably, we focus on the things of this world, but God and his actions among us are constantly trying to guide us to see heavenly things and to approach the things of this world from the light of eternity.

The Catechism isn’t done with this point and explains further: “Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: ‘Your faith has made you well; go in peace.’”

It is faith that must be nourished since it is faith that allows us to see everlasting realities. Faith allows us to see things from the perspective of God. And so, healings are given so that faith might be strengthened and encouraged. The healing isn’t given as a good in itself. It is in service to faith and its work in opening up an eternal horizon to us.

On this point, the Catechism quotes the Doctor of Grace: “St. Augustine wonderfully summarizes the three dimensions of Jesus’ prayer: ‘He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us.’”

Saint Augustine shows us the different aspects of prayer and the ways in which the Lord Jesus desires to work in us and through us. The focus is the transformation of our minds and hearts to the heavenly realities of life. Eternity is the goal. The Lord, therefore, comes to us as priest. He is our head. And he is our God.

As priest, head, and God, he invites us to pray in him. Our voice is spoken in him and – to our great amazement – His voice is spoken in us. In this exchange, we enter into a union with him. Such a union begins here and reaches fulfillment in heaven.