Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

When we pray, how can we know it is God that is answering us, and not our own emotions or ego?

The Lord answers all our prayers, but in his own time and in his own way. There are times when we don't like his answer or can't understand what it is. Is what we see a response from God or our egos? A good spiritual director can be of immense help in discerning what God's will is for us in the many situations which we bring to prayer. Prayer is actually a dialogue with the Lord where, on the one hand we pray for all sorts of intentions (the English word "prayer" means, literally, a petition or request).

Many classical writings point to four kinds of vocal prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, petition and propitiation. But it is also a maintaining contact with God so that we can listen to him. The best example of all prayer is found in Jesus' prayer. At the important moments of his public life, Jesus devoted special time to prayer.

Before choosing the 12 apostles he spent the night in prayer. It was while he was praying with the disciples that he asked Peter the question that led to his profession of faith and the foundation of the Church. The most poignant ones were during his suffering and death. Throughout his life, in different circumstances, there were prayers of praise, gratitude, submission and trust. There were petitions for himself and others. Jesus taught us how to pray, and if we use him as our guide we will pray better at it each day -- and will get even better at understanding his responses.

Prayer is life with the living God. God calls us to prayer, we come to God, individually and together, addressing him with words and in absolute quiet, in joyful adoration and unending love, giving ourselves to him in return for his giving himself to us.