Where does prayer come from? Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.
The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, 2562-2564)
“Man is in search of God,” the Catechism reminds us. Many priests, pastoral theologians and religious folk speak of the “God-shaped hole in our souls”; friendships, loves, wealth, success, power and fame still leave us crying for more, dissatisfied without knowing why. Our spiritual lives begin when we finally acknowledge that “hole” for what it is, rather than attempt to fill it with material goods, desperate activity and frantic pleasure-seeking. In acknowledging his need for and dependence on God, Man does not surrender his own dignity or intrinsic worth. Instead, he finds them given new strength as a child of God, who says to him, “You are my beloved son.”