What Must Prayer Contain?

From Guest Contributor, Matt Patella

I am a cradle Catholic. I went to Catholic middle school, high school, and college. I always prayed, as a matter of fact I was at times required to pray before class started. Prayer was a good intellectual exercise growing up. It was a nice way to work out problems in silence. So prayer turned into an odd brainstorming session. But prayer must contain more than intellect: it must contain love.

I did not understand how important love was in prayer, until a mentor in college explained to me a fairly simple concept. “God is the perfect Good, no amount of prayer will ever change God. Prayer can only change you, and through you the people around you.”

Well where does love fit into that? Well if we don’t love the people around us then our prayer will not affect them and it certainly will not affect our own lives. It is not necessary to like the people with whom or for whom we pray, but without any doubt we must love them.

Love is so central to the prayer that without it we are lost. As Catholics we can experience this love every day and give it out to those around us. And I mean real true love. It is the love that will get in a car and drive eight hours for the funeral of a friend’s father; or the love that compels us to sit up and talk with a friend who is having a hard time in his or her life; it is also the love that wakes  people up early in the morning to serve food at a soup kitchen. This is the love that we need to pray and this is the love that comes from prayer.

If prayer truly is a conversation with God, it is most certainly a conversation of love. It is a conversation that also contains love and then challenges us to distribute that love to the world in our own unique way.

So how may we distribute love today?


Matthew Patella is from Long Island where he went to Catholic school. From there he went on to study at The Catholic University of America, then Boston College and is now back at CUA. In between all of that schooling he took a year to serve as a Cap Corps Volunteer in Garrison, NY leading retreats with the Capuchin Province of St. Mary’s. When walking through book stores he has a tendency to end up in the areas devoted to philosophy, politics, and history.

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