Prayer is the raising of our hearts and minds to God. We are able to speak to and listen to God because he teaches us to pray. The Catechism tells us that the Holy Spirit reminds the Church of all that Jesus said, and it teaches us about the life of prayer. In doing so, it inspires new expressions of the same basic forms of prayer: blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.
A blessing is a prayer that invokes God’s power and asks for his care for a person, place, thing, or special activity. The Bible is filled with examples of blessings—blessings on offerings to God, on individuals, on groups of people, and on ordinary actions throughout the day. Blessings help make us aware of God’s presence at every moment and in all things. They help us see the goodness available all around us and to remain close to God from whom all blessings flow. They express our own desires for God’s closeness and protection as well as God’s strength and healing.
Blessings call upon God’s love for creation. They are reminders of the goodness and holiness of what God created. We use words, symbols, and gestures to express what’s deep in our hearts.
Any person or object can be blessed. We bless our children, families, sick people, objects of prayer and worship, special occasions, people, relationships, food, buildings, work, animals, and many other situations and things. A common daily blessing is the grace before meals, in which we ask God’s blessing on our gathering, our eating, and our going forth, nourished, to do God’s will. Because we are blessed, we too can bless God and one another in thanks for God’s generous gifts to us and to the world.
Prayers of petition acknowledge our dependence on God, who is our beginning and our end. This form of prayer springs from our heart’s desire to serve God’s kingdom here and to seek the realization of the kingdom to come.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that asking forgiveness, coupled with trusting humility, should be the first movement of a prayer of petition. Jesus tells us to bring our every need to God in his name and assures us that “whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” (John 16:23) What we must remember, however, is that in addition to the asking, there should be an acknowledging of our sinfulness and need for God.
A prayer of petition is a request to God that asks him to fulfill a need. When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that through petition we can ask for God’s help with every need no matter how great or small.
Intercession is a prayer of petition in which we ask for something on behalf of someone else. Since Abraham’s time intercession has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy. Following the example of Jesus, who on the night before he died prayed for us, we offer prayers of intercession for the Church, leaders in government and society, special needs, sick people, and those who have died.
Every joy and suffering, and every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
(from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2638)
A prayer of praise is an expression of our response to God, not only for what he does but simply because he is. In the Eucharist the whole Church joins with Jesus Christ in expressing praise and thanksgiving to the Father.