Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Thursday 30 May |
Saint of the Day: St. Dymphna
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Should our prayer be focused on the gifts or the Giver?

Jezus Dobry Pasterz

Zwiebackesser | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 04/21/24

It can be tempting to focus all of our attention in prayer on the gifts that we want to receive, instead of focusing on the Giver of those gifts.

Often our prayer can seem more like the words of a demanding child than those of a loving son or daughter of God.

We may even go so far as to be like Veruca Salt in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I want the works
I want the whole works
Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises
Of all shapes and sizes
And now
Don’t care how
I want it now
Don’t care how
I want it now!

Essentially we treat God more like a candy dispenser than a loving Father, who knows what we need more than we know ourselves.

Gifts or Giver?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on this spiritual temptation in its section on prayer, pointing to Jesus as the example we need to follow:

The prayer of Jesus makes Christian prayer an efficacious petition. He is its model, he prays in us and with us. Since the heart of the Son seeks only what pleases the Father, how could the prayer of the children of adoption be centered on the gifts rather than the Giver?

CCC 2740

This is not to say that we shouldn’t pray for certain gifts during prayer, or repeatedly ask God for something.

God encourages us to be persistent in our prayers, as Jesus related to his apostles in the parable of the persistent widow:

The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? 

Luke 18:6-7

However, what we are often tempted to do is to exclusively pray for gifts or benefits, neglecting prayers of praise and thanks to God.

Psalm 103 provides a prayer that we could incorporate into our daily routine that reminds us of the Giver of those gifts:

Bless the Lord, my soul;
    all my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, my soul;
    and do not forget all his gifts,
Who pardons all your sins,
    and heals all your ills,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
    and crowns you with mercy and compassion,
Who fills your days with good things,
    so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

It should be our hope and goal to not pray like Veruca Salt, demanding all the gifts in the world from God, as if we had control over him like a genie.

Instead, we should strive to have the faith of the Psalmist, praying to God for many gifts, but also praising and thanking God for his goodness to us, focusing more on the Giver than the gifts.

CCC PrayerJesus ChristPrayer
Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.