“Mommy, why do we pray?” That seems like an easy question to answer, but I wanted to give her something to hang on to later in life. Satan tempts us not to pray. Someday she may feel she doesn’t have time to pray, she may be too hurt, angry, or afraid to pray, or she may feel that prayer is futile because suffering and hatred never seem to end.
Prayer is not a petition to change the will of God, but a petition to know the will of God, to ask for grace to understand so we can align our will with His. Prayer is an intellectual act, a thought, a word, a search for understanding. Yes, we pray for certain things, but if we are not seeking those things for the sake of our salvation or the salvation of others, then we are not really praying. “It is lawful to pray for what it is lawful to desire.” -St. Augustine
Praying to get your way so your life is easier is not prayer, it’s complaining. Prayer is to seek the Holy Trinity, to know and to love, to strive for more perfect communion and unity. Properly understood, it’s clear why prayer is not a magical means of manifesting your personal desires. It’s training your heart and mind to know and love God more, which is why even a prayer that is answered is not final, so we pray without ceasing.
How to explain that to a child?
I reminded her of a walk we took one morning. “Do you remember noticing how the sunlight was shining on our path? Think of prayer as asking for light. Grace is God dwelling in your soul, and it is like an inner light so you can see your way, so you can see what’s really there. When you pray to glorify God, you are closer to Him. When you pray for yourself, you see yourself better. When you pray for others, you know and love them more, you know how to give them what they need. Prayer keeps the demons shut out in the dark, and protects you in the light of God’s love.”
Without a nod and a smile, she asked if we could pray for each other. And so we set out together, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”