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Why Pray?

If God knows what we need, why pray?

Father Chad Ripperger of the Diocese of Denver reminds us that St. Thomas said prayer is what we owe to God in justice. We have an obligation in justice to pray to God every day. Systematically neglecting your prayer life is a sin against justice because God created you and owns you, therefore everything about you must be subject to him. You must render back to him your mind and heart through prayer.

Not only do you personally benefit through prayer, but you show reverence and honor to God. If you don’t do that, it’s unjust. If you fulfill your part, God will fulfill his part. Saint Augustine said if you do not pray, you will not be saved.

Fr. Ripperger adds that it is a misconception that as long as you stay out of mortal sin, you’re fine. There are also sins of omission. Not praying is one such sin. The obligation to pray, according to the traditional teachings of the saints, is a grave one. If you don’t pray enough every day or if you systematically neglect prayer, it’s mortally sinful. This is because of your obligation to render back to God through prayer your faculties, because he gave them to you.

And if you save your soul but haven’t developed a good habit of prayer, it has to be purged from you in purgatory.

How much should you pray? For laypersons, Fr. Ripperger says it should be a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes per day. That may vary depending upon your obligations and state in life. For example if you have to work 16 hours a day to make ends meet, then perhaps five minutes might fulfill your obligations. But normally it should be at least 15 to 30 minutes. This can be fulfilled by going to mass (which is the most powerful prayer), saying the Rosary (the second most powerful prayer), or other prayers.

Prayer is a habit, which means it only comes from repeated action. The more you do it the easier it gets, to the extent that at some point you take delight in it.

Prayer is the principal means to happiness, points out Fr. Ripperger. The more you pray, the more you become like those in heaven.

There are of course additional good reasons to pray, which we will get into in future posts.

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