The Catechism of the Catholic Church in its superb “Part Four” on Christian Prayer reads as follows: “In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him: ‘Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
When we approach God in prayer, our Lord wants us to trust. He assures us, “[W]hatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (John 16:23). We must realize that in prayer we are entering into a personal conversation with God, “a communion of love with the Father.” This communion is possible because it flows from the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the entire Trinity, God Himself, is present, with us and we with the Trinity. We must not encumber this communion, for through its intimacy we become even more trusting.
So often people will ask why they do not receive what they ask for in prayer. Didn’t our Lord say, “[A]sk and you will receive”? Of course, but in prayer we must ask for what is right. St. James in his letter warns us: “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). If we ask for what is good with trust in God’s Will, then we ask “rightly,” not “wrongly.” We are saying to God, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42). That is perfect prayer. Ultimately, in all things we are asking for God’s Will to be done. St. Thomas Aquinas beautifully expresses it: “We pray not that we may change the divine disposition, but that we may impetrate that which God has disposed to be fulfilled by our prayers, in other words, ‘that by asking, man may deserve what Almighty God from eternity has disposed to give’ [St. Gregory, Dialogues]” (Summa, II, IIae, q. 83, a. 2).