Today’s Catechism sections discuss prayer, particularly as demonstrated in the Old Testament. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.



2566 Man is in search of God. In the act of creation, God calls every being from nothingness into existence. "Crowned with glory and honor," man is, after the angels, capable of acknowledging "how majestic is the name of the Lord in all the earth."1 Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to men's essential search for God.2

2567 God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation.

Article 1


2568 In the Old Testament, the revelation of prayer comes between the fall and the restoration of man, that is, between God's sorrowful call to his first children: "Where are you? . . . What is this that you have done?"3 and the response of God's only Son on coming into the world: "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God."4 Prayer is bound up with human history, for it is the relationship with God in historical events.

Creation - source of prayer

2569 Prayer is lived in the first place beginning with the realities of creation. The first nine chapters of Genesis describe this relationship with God as an offering of the first-born of Abel's flock, as the invocation of the divine name at the time of Enosh, and as "walking with God.5 Noah's offering is pleasing to God, who blesses him and through him all creation, because his heart was upright and undivided; Noah, like Enoch before him, "walks with God."6 This kind of prayer is lived by many righteous people in all religions.
In his indefectible covenant with every living creature,7 God has always called people to prayer. But it is above all beginning with our father Abraham that prayer is revealed in the Old Testament.

God's promise and the prayer of Faith

2570 When God calls him, Abraham goes forth "as the Lord had told him";8 Abraham's heart is entirely submissive to the Word and so he obeys. Such attentiveness of the heart, whose decisions are made according to God's will, is essential to prayer, while the words used count only in relation to it. Abraham's prayer is expressed first by deeds: a man of silence, he constructs an altar to the Lord at each stage of his journey. Only later does Abraham's first prayer in words appear: a veiled complaint reminding God of his promises which seem unfulfilled.9 Thus one aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity of God.

2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,10 The patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham's remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.11 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham's heart is attuned to his Lord's compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.12

2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, "who had received the promises,"13 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham's faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering."), for he "considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead."14 and so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.15 Prayer restores man to God's likeness and enables him to share in the power of God's love that saves the multitude.16

2573 God renews his promise to Jacob, the ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel.17 Before confronting his elder brother Esau, Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious figure who refuses to reveal his name, but he blesses him before leaving him at dawn. From this account, the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance.18


2590 "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God" (St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94, 1089C).

2591 God tirelessly calls each person to this mysterious encounter with Himself. Prayer unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation as a reciprocal call between God and man.

2592 The prayer of Abraham and Jacob is presented as a battle of faith marked by trust in God's faithfulness and by certitude in the victory promised to perseverance.

St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the appropriateness of praying to God in the “Summa Theologica”, (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 83, 10).

Article 10. Whether prayer is proper to the rational creature?

Objection 1. It would seem that prayer is not proper to the rational creature. Asking and receiving apparently belong to the same subject. But receiving is becoming also to uncreated Persons, viz. the Son and Holy Ghost. Therefore it is competent to them to pray: for the Son said (John 14:16): "I will ask My [Vulgate: 'the'] Father," and the Apostle says of the Holy Ghost (Romans 8:26): "The Spirit . . . asketh for us."

Objection 2. Angels are above rational creatures, since they are intellectual substances. Now prayer is becoming to the angels, wherefore we read in the Psalm 96:7: "Adore Him, all you His angels." Therefore prayer is not proper to the rational creature.

Objection 3. Further, the same subject is fitted to pray as is fitted to call upon God, since this consists chiefly in prayer. But dumb animals are fitted to call upon God, according to Psalm 146:9, "Who giveth to beasts their food and to the young ravens that call upon Him." Therefore prayer is not proper to the rational creatures.

On the contrary, Prayer is an act of reason, as stated above (Article 1). But the rational creature is so called from his reason. Therefore prayer is proper to the rational creature.

I answer that, As stated above (Article 1) prayer is an act of reason, and consists in beseeching a superior; just as command is an act of reason, whereby an inferior is directed to something. Accordingly prayer is properly competent to one to whom it is competent to have reason, and a superior whom he may beseech. Now nothing is above the Divine Persons; and dumb animals are devoid of reason. Therefore prayer is unbecoming both the Divine Persons and dumb animals, and it is proper to the rational creature.

Reply to Objection 1. Receiving belongs to the Divine Persons in respect of their nature, whereas prayer belongs to one who receives through grace. The Son is said to ask or pray in respect of His assumed, i.e. His human, nature and not in respect of His Godhead: and the Holy Ghost is said to ask, because He makes us ask.

Reply to Objection 2. As stated in I, 79, 8, intellect and reason are not distinct powers in us: but they differ as the perfect from the imperfect. Hence intellectual creatures which are the angels are distinct from rational creatures, and sometimes are included under them. On this sense prayer is said to be proper to the rational creature.

Reply to Objection 3. The young ravens are said to call upon God, on account of the natural desire whereby all things, each in its own way, desire to attain the Divine goodness. Thus too dumb animals are said to obey God, on account of the natural instinct whereby they are moved by God.


1 ⇒ Ps 8:5; ⇒ 8:1.
2 Cf. ⇒ Acts 17:27.
3 ⇒ Gen 3:9, 13.
4 ⇒ Heb 10:5-7.
5 Cf. ⇒ Gen 4:4, ⇒ 26; ⇒ Gen 5:24.
6 ⇒ Gen 6:9; ⇒ 8:20- ⇒ 9:17.
7 ⇒ Gen 9:8-16.
8 ⇒ Gen 12:4.
9 Cf. ⇒ Gen 15:2 f.
10 Cf. ⇒ Gen 15:6; ⇒ 17:1 f.
11 Cf. ⇒ Gen 18:1-15; ⇒ Lk 1:26-38.
12 Cf. ⇒ 18:16-33.
13 ⇒ Heb 11:17.
14 ⇒ Gen 22:8; ⇒ Heb 11:19
15 ⇒ Rom 8:32.
16 Cf. ⇒ Rom 8:16-21.
17 Cf. ⇒ Gen 28:10-22.
18 Cf. ⇒ Gen 32:24-30; ⇒ Lk 18:1-8.