Prayer is necessary because (1) God has commanded us to pray, and (2) it is an unconditional means of obtaining grace. The need for prayer is rooted in man’s very nature as a creature of God who receives gifts from His generosity.
1. Prayer is necessary because God has commanded us to pray.
The First Commandment of God binds man to religion and to the worship of God: “I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2–3; Deuteronomy 5:6–7). The First Commandment obliges us to offer to God alone the supreme worship that is due Him. Man must recognize and honor God as His Creator. Religion consists in giving God the recognition and honor He deserves.
Prayer to God is an act of the virtue of religion, the highest of all the moral virtues which leads us to fulfill our duty to our Creator by showing Him respect and submission. Created by God and totally dependent upon Him at every instant, we must always be in a state of reverence toward Him. When we pray, our mind, our noblest faculty, recognizes God as Creator and Lord, and expresses our need for Him.
Other virtues are involved in prayer, especially the Theological Virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Through faith we know God and His merciful power to which we appeal. Charity governs our desires, and in so doing, brings order to our petitions. Hope gives us the confident expectation that these desires will be granted. The virtues of humility and penitence then cooperate with the virtue of religion to deepen our sentiments of reverence toward God.
God requires prayer, not because of any need of His (for He has need of nothing) but because of His justice and holiness. He is our Lord, our Father, and the source of all our good. Hence, honor is due to Him, and He cannot deny Himself by allowing this honor to be given to another.
Prayer is the means ordained by God for His creatures to reach Him and remain with Him. We were created by God to know, love, praise, adore, and serve Him. Through prayer we attain these ends, as far as we can do so on earth. In Heaven, there will be eternal prayer.
Our Lord often taught the necessity of prayer. He said, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name” (John 16:23). Our Lord tells us that we should pray “always” (Luke 18:1). St. Paul says: “Pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which means that we should always be ready to pray at the proper times and that our prayers should constantly influence our other actions.
2. Prayer is necessary because it is an unconditional means of obtaining grace.
The sacraments and prayer, together with good works, are the divinely instituted means of obtaining grace. Whatever fruits our good works produce in us must derive nourishment and strength from God, the source of all grace. We all need this important means of grace called prayer. Without it, it is impossible to lead a Christian life and to die a happy death.
Without God’s grace, there is no Salvation; without prayer, no grace can be expected in those who have reached the age of reason. Prayer, therefore, is a grace itself. Without the grace of God, we can do nothing in the supernatural order. We cannot overcome temptation or gain spiritual merit for any good deed performed.
God knows all our wants and needs even before we express them to Him, and He is ever ready to help us; but He has established prayer as the condition for obtaining His grace and favors.
Moreover, since our minds have been darkened and our wills have been weakened by Original Sin, it is difficult to resist temptation or stay out of grave sin without the help of God’s grace, which is given in answer to our prayers. Prayer, therefore, is the remedy for our human weakness. When we pray, God gives us the strength to do that which we cannot do by ourselves.