Any relationship requires regular communication in order for it to flourish, which is particularly true in our relationship with God. This communication with God is known as prayer, and it is absolutely central in the lives of Catholics.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how they should pray, he taught them the “Our Father”, which is the model of all authentic prayer, and contains within it all the different forms of prayer. These different forms of prayer—blessing (and adoration), petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise—connect to different times and situations in our lives:
- Blessing is a two-step movement. First God gives us a gift, and then we respond with joy and gratitude.
- Adoration is closely related to blessing. When we adore God, we acknowledge that we are creatures before the One who created us. Adoration, which is reserved for God alone, can take the form of joyful noise or respectful, humbled silence.
- In some blessings, we or someone else actually invoke God’s power and care on another person, place, thing, or undertaking. The gestures or touch that often accompany these blessings symbolise the bestowal of God’s grace on the receiver.
- Petition is asking God for something we need. In this prayer form, which is also called supplication, we ask, beseech, plead, invoke, entreat, cry out, even struggle in prayer.
- Intercession is a prayer of petition in which we ask God’s help for another person or group of people. When we offer a prayer of intercession, we join our love for others with God’s love for the people we are praying for.
- In thanksgiving we remember that we are creatures and God is our Creator. The more we pray thanksgiving, the more we grow in awareness that all we have comes to us as a gift from God’s abundant love.
- Praise embraces all other forms of prayer and carries them to God, who is our source and goal. Praise is the form of prayer that expresses our love for God simply because God IS.
- The Holy Spirit inspires new expressions of prayer using the same basic forms of blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.
We can also distinguish between public and private prayer. Public prayer, known as the liturgy (which literally means “the work of the people”), is the official prayer of the Church. This includes the celebration of the Mass, celebrating any of the seven sacraments, and praying the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or the Breviary. Private prayer includes the prayerful reading of Scripture, Christian meditation, and personal devotions such as the Rosary or various other litanies.
Here is a selection of common Catholic prayers.