Give me a simple definition of prayer?

The Old Baltimore Catechism gave the definition of prayer as “the lifting of our hearts and minds to God.” However, we have to remember something that I think renders this definition incomplete. Simply put, we cannot magically lift ourselves to God. If only that were true! God instead lowers himself to come to us. It is God who is always willing to stay connected to us and we often turn our backs on God and disconnect.

So I think perhaps a better definition of prayer does not depend on our doing anything but rather on what God has already done. God is there for us and we need to stay open to that experience. So an amendment to the aforementioned definition could read: “Prayer is an opening of our hearts and minds to God.” We open our hearts just a bit wider to let God in to move us to be better people, to engage with the poor and the lonely, to stay in right relationship. We also open our minds to know intellectually who God is and what we can do with God’s help.

Bottom line: Stay open to God. Make time for God and listen to where your heart is being moved and your mind is being challenged. For it is there that you will ultimately find God at work in your prayerful listening. For some good methods of prayer, check out How To Pray in this section of the site.

Mike Hayes

Mike co-founded in 2001. Currently, Mike is the director of campus ministry at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. A frequent speaker on ministering to young adults, Mike is the author of "Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20s and 30s" and "Loving Work: A Spiritual Guide to Finding the Work We Love and Bringing Love to the Work We Do."