In simple terms, prayer is speaking to God. Or, as Saint Thomas Aquinas says, “a raising up of one’s mind to God”. But, why bother praying or speaking to God in the first place?
We pray to God because of who He is and because of who we are.
Who is God? He is the Supreme Being who has existed from all eternity, who is infinitely perfect and powerful on the one hand, and who is infinitely merciful and loving on the other hand.
Who are we? We are God’s creatures. He has called each one of us out of nothing, has given us existence and everything that we have and are. Even more, He has called every single human being to become His child through Sanctifying Grace, which he gives us at Baptism.
So, we pray because we need to recognise how great God is (adoration), we need to thank Him for everything He has given us (thanksgiving), we need to apologise for the wrong we have done to Him by committing sin (reparation) and we need to ask Him to give us all the help and Graces we need to get to heaven one day (petition). When we ask God for something in prayer, He will not always give us what we want, but what we need. This is because He is a good Father who knows that sometimes we want things which are harmful to us, and that we often don’t ask for what we really need.
We also pray to God to tell Him how much we love Him. Saint John tells us that “God is love” and everything He has given us is out of love for us. But, we didn’t deserve this love; God chose to love us and we have to respond to this love. “Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us” Saint John says somewhere else. Really, our whole life should be a prayer of love to God, even if we do not always use words.
But, we do not only pray directly to God. We also pray to God through Our Lady, the angels and the Saints. This not because they are equal to God. No, it is because they can pray to God on our behalf. They are God’s best friends and, as a result, their prayers are powerful in His eyes. This is particularly true of Our Lady who is called the Mediatrix of All Graces. Every Grace which God gives us comes through her hands; and she brings all of our prayers to God.