What are the four purposes of prayer?

Mission Lab

The four purposes of prayer are: (1) adoration, (2) thanksgiving, (3) repentance, and (4) petition.

1. Adoration.

Our first and foremost duty is to acknowledge God’s supreme dominion over us, as our Creator and Father; our absolute dependence on Him, as His creatures and children; and His supreme excellence. The worship of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is called the worship of adoration. The honor we give to the angels and saints is called veneration.

Adoration is due to God alone, because God alone is supreme. All other beings are creatures, being made by God and ruled by Him.

Adoration is the essential act of prayer, because it expresses the creature’s awareness of the Creator. Consecration of ourselves to God is an ideal prayer of adoration.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1–2).

“Seven times a day I praise thee for thy righteous ordinances” (Psalm 119:164).

2. Thanksgiving.

We pray to thank God for His favors. God’s purpose in creating the world was not only to give us material goods and security, but also to inspire in us grateful thoughts about Him, so that we might reach our sublime destiny. Our entire beings are God’s free gifts of love. He has given us immortality so that we can know, love, and possess Him for all eternity. Through the Redemption, He has raised us to a supernatural plane; that is, He has made us His children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, and heirs of Heaven. By His providence, He watches over us day and night with unfailing care and bestows on us many blessings. When we wander away from God through sin, He forgives us through the saving grace of the Sacrament of Penance. When we become hungry and tired in soul, He nourishes us with His own Body and Blood. In our prayers, we can put our gratitude into words for these marvelous gifts.

“But be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:18–20).

For all this generosity, we can make only one fitting return—the offering of Jesus Christ to God the Father in the Mass. We should unite ourselves to Jesus and offer ourselves, too, with all that we are and do, in thanksgiving for the limitless graces and blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Frequently during the day, as we go about our work, we should turn our thoughts and affections to God by offering Him prayers of gratitude.

3. Repentance.

We pray to obtain from God the pardon of our sins and the remission of their punishment. When we break God’s law, we offend God. Sorrow for sin makes for fruitful conversation with God. The terrifying fact that you have actually offended the all-good and all-holy God should ever keep you in the attitude of the penitent sinner.

4. Petition.

We pray to ask for graces and blessings for ourselves and others. We need God every moment of our lives in the natural order. We depend upon God for everything, and for that reason, we pray to Him for help. We may ask for temporal as well as spiritual favors.

Our need for God in the supernatural order is even greater. God is the limitless source of all good, and He longs to share this good with others. He has even assured us that our goal is to reign with Him in Heaven and to share His own happiness there forever. We should appeal to God in prayer frequently. Our Lord has urged us to make such appeals: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).