We all know the exhortation to "pray without ceasing." We renew our focus to do just that during the penitential seasons especially. Prayer is really the foundation of all we do, it fosters our relationship with God and strengthens us. The mass itself is filled with prayer, in fact it is one giant prayer. We'll be taking a closer look at many of the prayers we say at mass in a bit. First, I want to look at some different kinds of prayer, basically what it is we pray for and why.
The first form of prayer we'll be examining is prayers of Thanksgiving.
The catechism says:
2637 Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. Indeed, in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for his glory. The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head.
2638 As in the prayer of petition, 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: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you"; "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."
The word eucharist itself means thanksgiving. Before the main Eucharistic prayer during mass, the priest says "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God," and we respond "It is right to give Him thanks and praise."
The act of thanking God, whether in our nightly prayers before bed, in our prayers before mealtime, or at mass is something that reminds us of both our dependence upon God, and His goodness and mercy for all the blessings He bestows upon us.
It seems that often the people who are most thankful for what they have are those who have less than the norm. And so it makes sense that during Lent, while we try to empty ourselves through almsgiving and fasting, while we try to do away with excess and minimize consumption of stuff in general, we in turn learn to recognize the things that truly matter, and to be more thankful than ever for them.
Here's a lovely polyphonic canon sung with simply the words, Deo Gratias - Thanks be to God.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Ps 107:1)
Riches and honor are from you, and you have dominion over all. In your hand are power and might; it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all. Therefore, our God, we give you thanks and we praise the majesty of your name. (1 Chron 29:12-13)
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Phil 4:6)