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4 Errors to avoid when thinking about prayer



Philip Kosloski - published on 04/08/24

In the Catholic Church, there are right ways to think about prayer and there are wrong ways. Here are a few of the errors that the Church specifically mentions.

Prayer is certainly a broad topic in the Catholic Church, but at the same time, it does have its limits.

The topic of prayer does not cover everything, and there are right and wrong ways to pray in the Christian tradition.

The Catechism of the Catholic Churchexplains, “In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer” (CCC 2726).

The Catechism then lists the following four errors that we should all try to avoid when thinking about prayer.

Prayer is not simply a psychological activity

The Catechism states that, “Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity” (CCC 2726).

What this means is that prayer is not simply an activity that happens in our brain. It is a spiritual activity that involves both body and spirit. There is a mystery about prayer that is beyond the realm of science.

Prayer is not about reaching a void

The Catechism states that, “others [see prayer] as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void” (CCC 2726).

In some spiritual traditions, prayer or meditation is focused on “emptying” oneself of everything, reaching a “void” or “absence.”

Christian prayer, on the other hand, is about total union with God. We go to the source of everything in prayer and are “filled up” instead of “emptied.”

Prayer can not be reduced to ritual words and postures

The Catechism states that, “Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures.” (CCC 2726).

While certain types of prayer involve formulas and specific postures, such as the Mass, this is not the end goal.

Words and postures are only the instruments that can facilitate our union with God. They should never be seen as idols that are to be worshipped.

Prayer is not incompatible with everyday life

The Catechism states that, “Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they ‘don’t have the time'”(CCC 2726).

Sometimes we may thing that only monks or nuns can pray, because they “have the time.” However, every Christian is called to pray, and it doesn’t have to be in a monastery.

Prayer can be anywhere and can even be in the midst of our busiest days at work.

The next time you think about prayer, try to avoid these errors that the Church specificially points out.

Read more:What is prayer?

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