Catechesis on prayer – 18. The prayer of petition

Continue his reflections on prayer, Pope Francis notes that when we ask God for all our needs and questions, petition is an act of placing ourselves in a relationship of filial trust in Him.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray with the “Our Father”, a prayer full of petitions, but with a certain order. First, it prays for the highest gifts, the sanctification of his name, the coming of his lordship, the fulfillment of his will — we ask for the grace that we might welcome the Kingdom and cooperate with its coming. Second, we ask for our simple and daily needs, such as “daily bread” — the things we need for life, but also for the Eucharist, necessary for life in Christ; we pray for the forgiveness of our sins — and the grace we need to forgive each day and for peace in our relationships; and finally, that he help us during temptation and deliver us from evil and any attacks of the evil one.

As we read in the Catechism:

“By prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end. We are sinners who as Christians know that we have turned away from our Father. Our petition is already a turning back to him” (no. 2629).

Especially the Holy Father notes that we all have bad times when everything collapses and our illusion of complete self-sufficiency fails. Sooner or later, we experience darkness or dryness, melancholy or loneliness, betrayals or threats. When it seems that all is vain and there are only dead ends, the Pope says, “there is only one way out: the cry, the prayer ‘Lord, help me!’ Prayer can open up a sliver of light in the densest darkness. ‘Lord, help me!’ This opens up the road, it opens up the path.”

Because of a desire for God within us (and all creation), we should not be shocked if we feel the need to pray, and we should never be ashamed to ask when we are in need.  We cry spontaneously, it rises out of our heart, a cry to God who is our Father. Prayer of petition is part of accepting our limitations, our nature as creatures. Prayer presents itself as a cry; even when this inner voice may remain silent for a long time, one day it awakens and cries out; we beg, we plead, we ask.

And we trust that God listens to the cry of those who invoke him, we know that God will respond, our prayer never goes unheard. God always answers in one way or another, it may be tomorrow, but he always answers. It is a question of patience, of waiting. As Pope Francis says:

We are in waiting. This is clear to see. But all our life is also in waiting. And prayer is always in expectation because we know that the Lord will answer. Even death trembles when a Christian prays, because it knows that everyone who prays has an ally who is stronger than it: the Risen Lord.

You are invited to pray with and meditate on Romans 8:18-30 — as we wait for His glory to be revealed in us, we cry out with inexpressible groans, and the Spirit helps us in our weakness, even when we do not know what to pray for.

With prayer of petition, we acknowledge our total dependence on God and trust entirely in his providential care, even at the darkest moments in our lives. In the Bible we see countless prayers to God to intervene in the face of our helplessness; situations of sickness, injustice, betrayal and despair. We make our prayers of petition with confidence in him who has triumphed over all evil through the cross and resurrection of his Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit, who intercedes on our behalf and quietly works to transform all things.

Read the Catechesis on prayer – 18. The prayer of petition