Our study of prayer began with the recognition that the Church speaks of the general types of prayer – adoration, petition, contrition, thanksgiving and praise.  In this article we will find a brief definition of the specific kinds of prayer as they are described in the Catechism.

In looking at prayer, the Catechism tells us that adoration is our first attitude before God, acknowledging that he is our Creator and we are his creatures (cf. 2628).  Psalm 95 reads:  “O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Ps 95:6-7).  The obvious posture of one who makes this prayer is with profound humility and yet deep joy and confidence.

What comes quickly to mind when we look for an example of prayer of adoration are the Divine Praises at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  Coupled with the usual closing hymn, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” we find time-honored and greatly beloved expressions of both adoration and praise.

Possibly the most frequent form of prayer is that of petition.  There sometimes is a tendency to turn to God only when we want something, and to pray only prayers of petition, and then even to be displeased if we do not promptly get what we have asked for.  This is clearly not the Christian attitude.  Prayer is not a bargaining process with God whereby we offer something in return for something else. 

On the other hand Christ himself told us to ask God for things:  “Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name….  ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Jn 16:23-24; cf. Mt 7:7).  This promise is fulfilled for every Christian who truly prays in Christ’s name with a proper disposition and for something that will be helpful to eternal salvation.

We must be confident in our prayer.  God always hears our prayers.  He knows how to give good things to his children (cf. Mt 7:11).  Sometimes, however, we ask for the wrong things.  For what should we pray?

In response to this question the Catechism tells us that, “Christian petition is centered on the desire and search for the Kingdom to come” (2632).  Such prayer is in keeping with the teaching of Christ.  Our prayer needs to be situated in the context of God’s plan for us and his call directed to each of us.  There is, therefore, a certain order of priorities in what is worth praying for.  For some things we must pray.  For other things, we are free to pray.  In keeping with the Our Father, we should ask for God’s glory, the coming of his kingdom, the fulfillment of his will on earth, the forgiveness of our sins, freedom from temptation, protection against evil, and the graces necessary and useful for salvation.

The prayer of contrition is located in the Catechism under the prayer of petition.  “The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness like the tax collector in the parable” (2631).  “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Lk 8:13).  At Mass this prayer takes the form of the Confiteor or other expressions in the Penitential Rite.

In explaining what is meant by a prayer of intercession, the Catechism tells us that it is a prayer of petition which guides us to pray as Jesus did.  “He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners” (2634).  Perhaps one of the most regularly experienced forms of intercession is found in the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass.

The prayer of thanksgiving is the basic prayer of the Church.  “Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is” (2637).  God calls us to be a people who thank him for the great gift that is Jesus Christ our Redeemer and Savior.  Every prayer in some way participates in this great cry of thanksgiving as God’s people come together collectively or individually to render gratitude to God for all that we are and some day will be.

Finally we come to the prayer of praise.  The Gospels often express wonder and praise at the marvels of Christ.  In presenting the reflection on the prayer of praise, the Catechism tells us that it is “the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God” (2639).  Prayers of praise or adulation glorify God simply because he is God.  In this form of lifting our hearts to God we do so to give him glory, not because of what he does, but simply because he is.

Whatever form our prayer takes, it is essential that we pray and pray often.  The language of the Church is prayer.  As a member of God’s family we should be proficient and comfortable speaking in our spiritual native tongue.