Many years ago, when I was a catechist preparing 7th graders for confirmation, one of my students asked me a very serious question that I have not forgotten since:
“If God knows everything, why do we need to ask Him for anything in our prayers? Since we can’t tell God anything that He does not already know, why bother to ask at all?”
I honestly do not remember what answer I gave the student, but his question stayed with me for many years.
However, a few months after my ordination to the priesthood, I recall praying the Fourth Eucharistic Preface in Ordinary Time and was struck that it answered his question!
The Preface said:
“You (God) have no need of our prayers for our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayers add nothing to Your greatness but help us to grow in grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The point is simple: When we ask the Lord for anything in our prayers, we are not telling Him something that He does not already know.
However, our prayer is meant to help us to accept the gifts that God wishes to give us in answer to our needs.
In other words, when we pray, God wishes to give us what we “need,” not necessarily what we “want,” because what we need will help us to grow in grace and peace in this life and help prepare us to receive everlasting life.
The point of our prayer is to help us to open our hearts to accept what God wishes to give us in answer to our prayers — to accept what we need from Him, even if it is not what we want.
On this National Prayer Day, we need to ask ourselves a basic question: What is it that we are looking for from the Lord in our prayer? For if we are not looking to accept what God generously wishes to give us because of His great love for us, then we need to re-examine what we are asking for.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano is the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. This post originally appeared on the Fairfield County Catholic website. Reprinted by permission.