Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part Four: Christian Prayer
Section One: Prayer in the Christian Life
Chapter Two: The Tradition of Prayer
2650 Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior
impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray. Nor is it
enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also
learn how to pray. Through a living transmission (Sacred Tradition) within
"the believing and praying Church," the Holy Spirit teaches the
children of God how to pray.
2651 The tradition of Christian Prayer is one of the ways in which the
tradition of faith takes shape and grows, especially through the
contemplation and study of believers who treasure in their hearts the
events and words of the economy of salvation, and through their profound
grasp of the spiritual realities they experience.
Article 1: At the Wellsprings of Prayer
2652 The Holy Spirit is the living water "welling up to eternal life"
in the heart that prays. It is he who teaches us to accept it at its
source: Christ. Indeed in the Christian life there are several wellsprings
where Christ awaits us to enable us to drink of the Holy Spirit.
The Word of God
2653 The Church "forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian
faithful . . . to learn 'the surpasSing knowledge of Jesus Christ' (Phil
3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.... Let them remember,
however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so
that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For 'we speak to him when
we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles."'
2654 The spiritual writers, paraphraSing Matthew 7:7, summarize in this
way the dispositions of the heart nourished by the word of God in prayer
"Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer
and it will be opened to you by contemplation."
The Liturgy of the Church
2655 In the sacramental liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and
of the Holy Spirit proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery
of salvation, which is continued in the heart that prays. The spiritual
writers sometimes compare the heart to an altar. Prayer internalizes and
assimilates the liturgy during and after its celebration. Even when it is
lived out "in secret," prayer is always prayer of the Church; it is a
communion with the Holy Trinity.
The Theological Virtues
2656 One enters into prayer as one enters into liturgy: by the narrow gate
of faith. Through the signs of his presence, it is the Face of the Lord
that we seek and desire; it is his Word that we want to hear and keep.
2657 The Holy Spirit, who instructs us to celebrate the liturgy in
expectation of Christ's return, teaches us-to pray in hope. Conversely,
the prayer of the Church and personal prayer nourish hope in us. The
psalms especially, with their concrete and varied language, teach us to
fix our hope in God: "I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me
and heard my cry." As St. Paul prayed: "May the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy
Spirit you may abound in hope."
2658 "Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into
our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Prayer,
formed by the liturgical life, draws everything into the love by which we
are loved in Christ and which enables us to respond to him by loving as he
has loved us. Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches
the summit of prayer. In the words of the Cure of Ars:
l love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last
breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would
rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and
the only Grace I ask is to love you eternally.... My God, if my tongue
cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it
to you as often as I draw breath.
2659 We learn to pray at certain moments by hearing the Word of the Lord
and sharing in his Paschal mystery, but his Spirit is offered us at all
times, in the events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us. Jesus'
teaching about praying to our Father is in the same vein as his teaching
about providence: time is in the Father's hands; it is in the present
that we encounter him, not yesterday nor tomorrow, but today: "O that
today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts."
2660 Prayer in the events of each day and each moment is one of the
secrets of the kingdom revealed to "little children," to the servants of
Christ, to the poor of The Beatitudes. It is right and good to pray so
that the coming of the kingdom of justice and peace may influence the
march of history, but it is just as important to bring the help of prayer
into humble, everyday situations; all forms of prayer can be the leaven to
which the Lord compares the kingdom.
2661 By a living transmission -Tradition - the Holy Spirit in the Church
teaches the children of God to pray.
2662 The Word of God, the liturgy of the Church, and The Virtues of faith,
hope, and charity are sources of prayer.
Article 2: The Way of Prayer
2663 In the living tradition of prayer, each Church proposes to its
faithful, according to its historic, social, and cultural context, a
language for prayer: words, melodies, gestures, iconography. The
Magisterium of the Church has the task of discerning the fidelity of
these ways of praying to the tradition of apostolic faith; it is for
pastors and catechists to explain their meaning, always in relation to
Prayer to the Father
2664 There is no other way of Christian Prayer than Christ. Whether our
prayer is communal or personal, vocal or interior, it has access to the
Father only if we pray "in the name" of Jesus. The sacred humanity of
Jesus is therefore the way by which the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray to
God our Father.
Prayer to Jesus
2665 The prayer of the Church, nourished by the Word of God and the
celebration of the liturgy, teaches us to pray to the Lord Jesus. Even
though her prayer is addressed above all to the Father, it includes in all
the liturgical traditions forms of prayer addressed to Christ. Certain
psalms, given their use in the Prayer of the Church, and the New Testament
place on our lips and engrave in our hearts prayer to Christ in the form
of invocations: Son of God, Word of God, Lord, Savior, Lamb of God, King,
Beloved Son, Son of the Virgin, Good Shepherd, our Life, our Light, our
Hope, our Resurrection, Friend of mankind....
2666 But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of
God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken
by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over
to us and we can invoke it: "Jesus," "YHWH saves." The name "Jesus"
contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation.
To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is
the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen
One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who
loved him and who gave himself up for him.
2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer
under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted
by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the
invocation, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us Sinners." It
combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the
publican and the blind men begging for light. By it the heart is
opened to human wretchedness and the Savior's mercy.
2668 The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of
praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive
heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds
fast to the word and "brings forth fruit with patience." This prayer
is possible "at all times" because it is not one occupation among others
but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and
transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.
2669 The prayer of the Church venerates and honors the Heart of Jesus just
as it invokes his most holy name. It adores the incarnate Word and his
Heart which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our Sins.
Christian Prayer loves to follow the way of the cross in the Savior's
steps. The stations from the Praetorium to Golgotha and the tomb trace the
way of Jesus, who by his holy Cross has redeemed the world.
"Come, Holy Spirit"
2670 "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." Every
time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the
way of prayer by his prevenient Grace. Since he teaches us to pray by
recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the
Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at
the beginning and the end of every important action.
If the Spirit should not be worshiped, how can he divinize me through
Baptism? If he should be worshiped, should he not be the object of
2671 The traditional form of petition to the Holy Spirit is to invoke the
Father through Christ our Lord to give us the Consoler Spirit. Jesus
insists on this petition to be made in his name at the very moment when he
promises the gift of the Spirit of Truth. But the simplest and most
direct prayer is also traditional, "Come, Holy Spirit," and every
liturgical tradition has developed it in antiphons and hymns.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them
the fire of your love.
Heavenly King, Consoler Spirit, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and
filling all things, treasure of all good and source of all life, come
dwell in us, cleanse and save us, you who are All Good.
2672 The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the
interior Master of Christian Prayer. He is the artisan of the living
tradition of prayer. To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as
there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and
with all. It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian Prayer
is prayer in the Church.
In communion with the holy Mother of God
2673 In prayer the Holy Spirit unites us to the person of the only Son, in
his glorified humanity, through which and in which our filial prayer
unites us in the Church with the Mother of Jesus.
2674 Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation and maintained it
without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever Since, her motherhood
has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son "who still journey on
earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties." Jesus, the only
mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly
transparent to him: she "shows the way" (hodigitria), and is herself "the
Sign" of the way, according to the traditional iconography of East and
2675 Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy
Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God,
centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries. In
countless hymns and antiphons expresSing this prayer, two movements
usually alternate with one another: the first "magnifies" the Lord for the
"great things" he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human
beings the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the
children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity
which, in her, the Son of God espoused.
2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged
expression in the Ave Maria:
Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this
prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets
Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard
God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he
finds in her.
Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel's
greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of Grace because the Lord
is with her. The Grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who
is the source of all Grace. "Rejoice . . . O Daughter of Jerusalem . . .
the Lord your God is in your midst." Mary, in whom the Lord himself
has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of
the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is "the
dwelling of God . . . with men." Full of Grace, Mary is wholly given
over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
After the angel's greeting, we make Elizabeth's greeting our own. "Filled
with the Holy Spirit," Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of
generations who have called Mary "blessed." "Blessed is she who
believed...." Mary is "blessed among women" because she believed in
the fulfillment of the Lord's word. Abraham. because of his faith, became
a blesSing for all the nations of the earth. Mary, because of her
faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the
earth receive him who is God's own blesSing: Jesus, the "fruit of thy
2677 Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, "And why is this
granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Because she
gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can
entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed
for herself: "Let it be to me according to your word." By entrusting
ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together
with her: "Thy will be done."
Pray for us Sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to
pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor Sinners and we address
ourselves to the "Mother of Mercy," the All-Holy One. We give ourselves
over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens
further, already at the present moment, to surrender "the hour of our
death" wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son's death
on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our
pasSing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.
2678 Medieval piety in the West developed the prayer of the rosary as a
popular substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours. In the East, the litany
called the Akathistos and the Paraclesis remained closer to the choral
office in the Byzantine churches, while the Armenian, Coptic, and Syriac
traditions preferred popular hymns and songs to the Mother of God. But in
the Ave Maria, the theotokia, the hymns of St. Ephrem or St. Gregory of
Narek, the tradition of prayer is basically the same.
2679 Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we
pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends
his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus'
mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the
living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained
by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.
2680 Prayer is primarily addressed to the Father; it can also be directed
toward Jesus, particularly by the invocation of his holy name: "Lord Jesus
Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us Sinners."
2681 "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord', except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor
12:3). The Church invites us to invoke the Holy Spirit as the interior
Teacher of Christian Prayer.
2682 Because of Mary's Singular cooperation with the action of the Holy
Spirit, the Church loves to pray in communion with the Virgin Mary, to
magnify with her the great things the Lord has done for her, and to
entrust supplications and praises to her.
Article 3: Guides for Prayer
A cloud of witnesses
2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially
those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition
of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their
writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and
constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered
into the joy of their Master, they were "put in charge of many
things." Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's
plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole
2684 In the communion of saints, many and varied spiritualities have been
developed throughout the history of the churches. The personal charism of
some witnesses to God's love for men has been handed on, like "the spirit"
of Elijah to Elisha and John the Baptist, so that their followers may have
a share in this spirit. A distinct spirituality can also arise at the
point of convergence of liturgical and theological currents, bearing
witness to the integration of the faith into a particular human
environment and its history. The different schools of Christian
spirituality share in the living tradition of prayer and are essential
guides for the faithful. In their rich diversity they are refractions of
the one pure light of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is truly the dwelling of the saints and the saints are for the
Spirit a place where he dwells as in his own home Since they offer
themselves as a dwelling place for God and are called his temple.
Servants of prayer
2685 The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based
on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the "domestic church" where
God's children learn to pray "as the Church" and to persevere in prayer.
For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness
of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit.
2686 Ordained ministers are also responsible for the formation in prayer
of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Servants of the Good Shepherd,
they are ordained to lead the People of God to the living waters of
prayer: the Word of God, the liturgy, the theological life (the life of
faith, hope, and charity), and the Today of God in concrete situations.
2687 Many religious have consecrated their whole lives to prayer. Hermits,
monks, and nuns Since the time of the desert fathers have devoted their
time to praiSing God and interceding for his people. The consecrated life
cannot be sustained or spread without prayer; it is one of the living
sources of contemplation and the spiritual life of the Church.
2688 The catechesis of children, young people, and adults aims at teaching
them to meditate on The Word of God in personal prayer, practicing it in
liturgical prayer, and internalizing it at all times in order to bear
fruit in a new life. Catechesis is also a time for the discernment and
education of popular piety. The memorization of basic prayers offers
an essential support to the life of prayer, but it is important to help
learners savor their meaning.
2689 Prayer groups, indeed "schools of prayer," are today one of the signs
and one of the driving forces of renewal of prayer in the Church, provided
they drink from authentic wellsprings of Christian Prayer. Concern for
ecclesial communion is a sign of true prayer in the Church.
2690 The Holy Spirit gives to certain of the faithful the gifts of wisdom,
faith and discernment for the sake of this common good which is prayer
(spiritual direction). Men and women so endowed are true servants of the
living tradition of prayer.
According to St. John of the Cross, the person wishing to advance toward
perfection should "take care into whose hands he entrusts himself, for as
the master is, so will the disciple be, and as the father is so will be
the son." And further: "In addition to being learned and discreet a
director should be experienced.... If the spiritual director has no
experience of the spiritual life, he will be incapable of leading into it
the souls whom God is calling to it, and he will not even understand
Places favorable for prayer
2691 The church, the house of God, is the proper place for the liturgical
prayer of the parish community. It is also the privileged place for
adoration of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The
choice of a favorable place is not a matter of indifference for true
- For personal prayer, this can be a "prayer corner" with the Sacred
Scriptures and icons, in order to be there, in secret, before our
Father. In a Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters
prayer in common.
- In regions where monasteries exist, the vocation of these communities is
to further the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy of the Hours
and to provide necessary solitude for more intense personal prayer.
- Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are
traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims
seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of
Christian Prayer "in Church."
2692 In prayer, the pilgrim Church is associated with that of the saints,
whose intercession she asks.
2693 The different schools of Christian spirituality share in the living
tradition of prayer and are precious guides for the spiritual life.
2694 The Christian family is the first place for education in prayer.
2695 Ordained ministers, the consecrated life, catechesis, prayer groups,
and "spiritual direction" ensure assistance within the Church in the
practice of prayer.
2696 The most appropriate places for prayer are personal or family
oratories, monasteries, places of pilgrimage, and above all the church,
which is the proper place for liturgical prayer for the parish community
and the privileged place for Eucharistic adoration.
Cf. DV 8.
DV 25; cf. Phil 3:8; St. Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum 1, 20,88: PL
Guigo the Carthusian, Scala Paradisi: PL 40, 998.
Cf. Mt 6:6.
St. John Vianney, Prayer.
Cf. Mt 6:11, 34.
Cf. Lk 13:20-21.
Cf. DV 10.
Cf. Ex 3:14; 33: 19-23; Mt 1:21.
Rom 10:13; Acts 2:21; 3:15-16; Gal 2:20.
Cf. Mk 10:46-52; Lk 18:13.
Cf. Mt 6:7.
Cf. Lk 8:15.
1 Cor 12:3.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio, 31, 28: PG 36, 165.
Cf. Lk 11:13.
Cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13.
Roman Missal, Pentecost Sequence.
Byzantine Liturgy, Pentecost Vespers, Troparion.
Cf. Acts 1:14.
Cf. Lk 1:46-55.
Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.
Lk 1:41, 48.
Cf. Gen 12:3.
Cf. Jn 19:27.
Cf. Jn 19:27.
Cf. LG 68-69.
Cf. Heb 12:1.
Cf. Mt 25:21.
Cf. 2 Kings 2:9; Lk 1:1; PC 2.
St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, 26, 62: PG 32, 184.
Cf. PO 4-6.
Cf. CT 54.
St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, stanza 3, 30, in The
Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, eds K. Kavanaugh OCD and O.
Rodriguez OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 621.
Cf. Mt 6:6.
Cf. PC 7.