Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. G. Peter Irving III

5/11/2013 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

If we remember who we are - children of God - we will not fail to make our prayer of petition with childlike simplicity and boldness.


By Fr. G. Peter Irving III

Catholic Online (

5/11/2013 (3 years ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: Fr. G. Peter Irving III, Holy Innocents Long Beach, prayer of petition, aut mali aut male aut mala, St. Augustine, St. Josemaria

LOMG BEACH, CA (Catholic Online). Christian prayer, which is classically defined as a lifting up of the mind and heart to God, is multi-dimensional. It necessarily includes the prayer of adoration, of thanksgiving, of repentance and of petition. Of these four dimensions of prayer, the prayer of petition is in the last place although for many uninstructed Christians, prayer is practically reduced to simply asking God for what we want. "God, gimme this and gimme me that!" "My will be done, not Thy will be done." Such "prayer" is at best greatly impoverished and at its worst non-existent.

That being said, there is no denying that Jesus wants us to pray, that is, to literally "beg" for what we ourselves need as well as plead on behalf of others. While the prayer of petition is not the sum and summit of prayer it is indeed an indispensable aspect of prayer and one which brings with it spiritual benefits. Otherwise, Jesus would not have told us, as he does in the Gospel reading of today's Mass, to ask him for whatever it is we need.

"Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you."

This is an astounding invitation and one which can be misinterpreted and distorted. The "qualifying" phrase here is "In my name." This is not a magical formula that guarantees that we will get whatever we ask for no matter how frivolous and self-absorbed the request may be. "In my name" means, in effect, we are petitioning God to answer our prayer if it is in conformity with his holy will.

It is good to remember that God in his infinite goodness gives us countless favors and blessings even without our asking for them. He knows better than we do what we truly need. When we get to heaven we will look back and see all the good things the Lord has done for us even though at the time it did not occur to us to ask for such things. God is our loving, provident Father.

There are other favors and blessings the Lord has in store for us but our receiving of them is contingent upon our asking for them. All the more reason, then, to heed Jesus' invitation, dare I say, his command to ask boldly and with the confidence of a child of God, for the good things we need. This is how the saints operated and the Lord worked mighty deeds for them and through them.

One of those saints, a modern saint for our times, is St. Josemaria. Author John Coverdale shares this detail about the priest who Blessed John Paul called "the saint of the ordinary."

"Although he had "nothing and less than nothing," through prayer everything would work out as God wanted it. The life of spiritual childhood, he said on one occasion, "entered my heart through dealing with children. I learned from their simplicity, their innocence, and their candor. Above all, I learned from contemplating the fact that they asked for the moon and had to be given it. I had to ask God for the moon. Yes, my God, the moon!" (The Early Years of Opus Dei)

If we remember who we are - children of God - we will not fail to make our prayer of petition with childlike simplicity and boldness.

Keep in mind, however, there are some things which God will never grant us no matter how earnestly and persistently we implore him. Such petitions are denied because God is our loving Father and he knows that what we are asking for will not be conducive to our salvation.

At other times God doesn't give us a definitive "no" to our prayers but instead makes us wait. The following quotations cited by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2737) help to explain why:

"Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer."

"God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give."

God hears every prayer and prayer never fails. But when our prayers either for ourselves or for others seem to go unanswered, this can present a formidable challenge to our faith. When this happens, the Catechism tells us, "Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard" (2734).

St. Augustine provides a succinct explication as to why God sometimes does not answer prayer (or at least answer prayer in the way that we would like). He says that our prayer is not heard because we ask "aut mali, aut male, aut mala."

"Mali" (Latin, plural) means "evil people." We are bad and hence we are not rightly disposed to receive God's gifts. "Male," is the Latin adverb which means "badly." God says no to our petition because we pray badly, without trust in God and lacking humility and perseverance. Finally, "mala," is the Latin plural for "bad things." God denies our petition because we ask for bad things, things which are harmful to us.

During these days in preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost, we would do well to imitate the apostles who gathered around Our Lady and strengthened and guided by her, prayed fervently for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She who is our Mother and our Teacher will help us pray with filial trust in God and also to accept joyfully his most holy and lovable will.


Fr. G. Peter Irving is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is Pastor of Holy Innocents Church in Long Beach, California.


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'

Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for DECEMBER 2016
End to Child-Soldiers: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.
Evangelization: Europe: That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.


More Year of Faith

The Happy Priest on the Baptism of the Lord and our own Baptism Watch

Image of

By Fr. James Farfaglia

The consideration of Jesus' baptism, gives us an opportunity to remember our own baptism.  If you do not know the date of your own baptism, it is a good idea to go through your personal files and find out when it occurred.  CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic ... continue reading

Regret of Judas or Repentance of Peter?

Image of

By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - I didn't steal any cookies mommy! says a little boy whose mother asked him if he was hungry, wiping the ... continue reading

Pentecost: St Cyril of Jerusalem on The Living Water of the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man's self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches ... continue reading

The Wedding Invitation of Jesus: We are Called to Live the Nuptial Mystery Watch

Image of There will be no giving or taking in marriage in the kingdom to come because the very purpose and meaning of marriage itself will be fulfilled. (See, e.g. Mk. 12:18-27) We will be living in the fullness of the Communion of Love with the Trinity. The symbol will give way to the eternal reality, the Sacrament will be fulfilled in the fullness of communion. All of human love will be completed in the Love which lasts forever.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

It is not accidental that the Bible, from beginning to the end, uses marriage as a metaphor and a symbol to reveal the plan of God for the whole human race.  Marriage was God's plan from the beginning as we see in the first book of Genesis. Throughout the Old ... continue reading

The Sower. The Seed. The Field. Understanding the Christian Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

"A sower went out to sow. And, as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for ... continue reading

Reflection on the Catholic Catechism: Understanding the Bible Watch

Image of

By Michael Terheyden

How we interpret the Bible is of immense importance! It directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, and our faith, but it is also related to many of the grave problems in our society and the world. Yet, despite the gravity of this situation, we have good ... continue reading

Christ the King, the Year of Faith and the Catholic Counterculture Watch

Image of On this Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Year of Faith inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI comes to a ceremonial end. However, in reality, it cannot and will not end, because Jesus Christ is King! The Year of Faith was only the beginning for those who choose to live the Life of Faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Church year offers to each one of us to consider the creature called time, receive it as a gift, and begin to really live our lives differently.  This is one of ... continue reading

The Bones of Peter, the Successor of Peter: Close of the Year of Faith Watch

Image of The bones of St. Peter the Apostle

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Sunday which marks both the end of the Church Year and the end of the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis greeted thousands of the faithful and presided over Holy Mass and the ... continue reading

Fr Randy Sly on Becoming a House of Prayer Watch

Image of Jesus drives the money changers from the temple. 

With hearts clear and focused on our Lord, we can follow the advice of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Everything starts with prayer. Love to pray--feel the need to pray often during the day and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better, you must pray more. The more you pray, the easier it becomes. Perfect prayer does not consist of many words but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. (Fr. Randy Sly)

By Father Randy Sly

Becoming a House of Prayer is the best discipline we can take on. St. Ephraem of Syria states that Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy ... continue reading

Jesus Weeps and Offers the Path to Peace Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your ... continue reading

All Year of Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 8:23--9:3
23 For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress? As the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 27:1, 4, 13-14
1 [Of David] Yahweh is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear? ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 4:12-23
12 Hearing that John had been arrested he withdrew to ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
10 Brothers, I urge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 22nd, 2017 Image

St. Vincent Pallotti
January 22: St. Vincent Pallotti, Priest (Feast - January 22) ... Read More