Catholic Q&A

In our house we do not believe in any particular religion. However, since I was a child we would join our hands together and pray to God. Is this type of prayer okay in Christianity?

Of course! There is only one God, and no matter where or how you pray, he listens to you. Regardless of our religious beliefs, to join hands and give thanks to the one who governs and rules over all things visible and invisible, one who always nurtures us with grace, is good.

However, human beings have a tendency to be selfish, and so we inadvertently fall at times into the trap of praying for personal benefits. In the Gospel of John there is an episode wherein a Samaritan woman, while debating the issue of difference in faith with Jesus, remarks as follows, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”(John 4.20). Jesus thereupon answered her saying, “The time will come when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” (John 4.21). In other words, to God differences in religious beliefs and forms of prayer are insignificant. What matters is not the form, but the heart. Hence Jesus continues saying, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4.24).

What does the expression “worshipping in spirit and truth” really mean? Let us avoid convoluted debates. Briefly stated, “spirit” is the breath of God’s creation that animates all things. It is only when we are inhaled by that breath that we become capable of detaching ourselves from selfishness, and offer genuine worship. Hence, when we pray, it means that we are already being guided by grace. True prayer would be to surrender ourselves to this guidance.

We Christians believe that worshipping in spirit and in truth is something that has been conveyed to us through Jesus Christ, and we believe also conversely, that it is only when we are united with Jesus Christ in spirit that can we offer true worship. In union with Jesus we cry out to God, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8.15). We believe also that God the Father loved Jesus, and he will love us as well with the same love. This is the Trinitarian structure of prayer, which is a characteristic of Christianity.

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