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Why God Wants Us to Pray Prayers of Petition

In the Gospels, Our Lord tells us that the “Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him” (Matt 6:8).  If God already knows what we need, then why does Our Lord encourage us to ask things of Him in prayer (e.g. Matt 6:9-11)?

St. Thomas Aquinas, in examining this question, responded that: “We need to pray to God, not in order to make known to Him our needs or desires but that we ourselves may be reminded of the necessity of having recourse to God’s help in these matters” (S.T. II-II, q. 83, a. 2, ad. 1).  If God were to bestow all needful things without our asking, there is the real danger that we could grow forgetful of God.  Praying for needful things, even when God knows we need them, helps us to keep God in mind.

Additionally, God has decreed from all eternity that, while He will bestow certain needful things freely, He will only bestow certain needful things upon us if we ask for them in prayer.  This also “is for the sake of our good, namely, that we may acquire confidence in having recourse to God, and that we may recognize in Him the Author of our goods” (S.T. II-II, q. 83, a. 2, ad. 3).

Similarly, God may have decreed from all eternity that certain things will only be granted if they are asked for through the intercession of a certain Saint, Blessed, Servant of God, or group thereof reigning in heaven.  Therefore, if God moves one to ask for a particular favor through the intercession of a certain Saint, Blessed, Servant of God, or group thereof, one should do so, and continue to do so, so long as this conviction lasts.  This may be so that God may make known the sanctity of a certain Saint, Blessed, Servant of God, or group thereof (see S.T. II-II, q. 83, a. 11, ad. 4).

God, then, directs us to pray for things which we need, knowing we need them, for our own benefit.  This benefit includes an increased mindfulness of God, a recognition that all of our goods have their ultimate origin in Him, and an acquisition or strengthening of confidence in God.

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