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September 07, 2006



This is how I answer the questions - why ask God for what He already knows we want? / Do we pray in the hope of changing God's mind?. (With acknowledgement to St Thomas Aquinas).

God made us and knows that it is good for us to ask Him for things and as a loving Parent He wants us to have good things. eg Leo prays for X to occur, yet from all eternity God has willed that if Leo asks for X then Leo will receive X, but if Leo does not ask for X then Leo will not receive X. God also knows whether Leo will ask for X.

This is similar to pushing at an open door - you have to push to get through. Or being invited to apply for a job the employer wants you to have - but you have to apply.

Brian John Schuettler

Prayer is so very pleasing to God, be it a prayer of adoration, petition or thanksgiving...the wonderful spiritual benefit for each of us is starting and nourishing a communication with Our Lord that brings with it a growth in Grace. In my book I even entitled the chapter on prayer as "Communicating With Grace".
An excellent post, Jimmy!


A beautiful and thoughtful post, Jimmy, but isn't there more to prayer? Doesn't intercessory prayer actually help others in mysterious ways? Doesn't it in some way help to complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ? Consider the case of Monica and Augustine. Surely Monica's years of prayer helped to make her a saint, but did they also have something to do with Augustine's conversion? Your account only tells what prayer does to the pray-er. Could you talk about what it can do to the pray-ee?

Tim J.

I heard someone say recently that prayers do not change God's mind, but that God uses our prayers to create change.

Not that God lacks anything, but he gives us prayer as a way to participate and cooperate in His grace. He gives us a way to help, because He loves us.

It's like when I was a kid and got money from my Dad so I could buy him a Father's Day present.

Ed Peters

Well argued, as usual. Et Plutonis delenda est.

J.R. Stoodley

Excelent post Jimmy and excelent comment Tim J. I have trouble thing of what to say. I guess I would just want to emphasise that God's will is supreme. God's will shall be done, including through our own prayer, which is part of God's plan just like the thing prayed for. Also through prayer, and through the phenominon of prayers that are not (seemingly at least) granted, we learn to submit our wills to Gods, and eventually perhaps to unite our wills to him even to such a degree that they become one will. This to a great degree is the purpose of all prayer, including intercessory prayer.

This intercessory prayer should be just one part of a persons spirituality though, at least under normal circumstances. I feel that all forms of prayer a person is graced with should start to flow together in a way, becoming more parts of a single prayer, an awareness and relationship, than distinct prayers.


Great question and answer.


I still think something is missing from the discussion. Just as our physical actions can affect the cosmic fate of others, so can prayer, but in what way? I am sure there is good orthodox Catholic teaching on this. Jimmy, give us more!


Curious, consider the possibility that God has not revealed the precise nature of how our prayers can affect other things.

The Parable of the Unjust Judge is baffling enough: the proper behavior of a Christian praying for something is to pray as if you were badgering a corrupt judge to hear your case without a bribe.


A good example is people praying to St. Joseph to sell their homes....although it is a material request, he does help with it...I have prayed to him and he always comes through.

Also, the whole EWTN network was built on Mother Angelica's faith in God, knowing that if the network was His will, it would happen.
Every time she needed money for bills or expenses, He would produce a donor.

We should never put materialistic things before God, but He does help us with any need in response to prayer.


Well, Ed, apparently there is no soil to sow your salt. Pluto wins!


Storming heaven with prayers builds the virtue not only of confidence in God's love and care, but also of persistence! :)

Jordan Henderson

I wonder if anyone will read my comment, being a whole 2 days out from the original posting. That's a problem with the Internet and blogging, these days. It all goes by so fast, better hurry and comment or it'll be stale.

I was waiting for someone to comment on this, I was so sure that someone would, but... It's up to me.

"Secondly, I don't see how being plaintive about our problems would motivate God to do anything to help us--after all, there's nothing we have to offer Him."

Please, don't believe that for a moment. We have, to God, one of the most precious things of all to offer Him. Ourselves.

Prayer is a very special way to offer ourselves up to God.

I would recommend going over the Section in the CCC on Prayer. Whenever I don't feel like reading anything else, I turn to this Section for inspiration and it usually ends up with me praying more deeply:


For you, I especially recommend this Article:


I've always loved that phrase "The Battle of Prayer". It's very evocative. We are at War with evil in the World, evil out there, evil in ourselves. It's the single most important thing we can do to fight the evil in ourselves. Prayer is our primary weapon, it strengthens and tests all other weapons.

One further piece of advice. Look first to Scripture, the CCC and other writings (Encyclicals and the like) when you have a question.

St. Cecilia

Thank you for this reflection. I am struggling with prayer at the moment and this reminded me of a few things that I had since forgotten.

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