There are many psychological benefits of daily prayer. You feel that you have fulfilled an obligation. You also feel that you are better than the others who do not pray everyday. You may even feel that you are right with your God because you have fulfilled an obligation.
But on reflection these benefits are not really genuine benefits. They are benefits that may rather mislead you to your spiritual ruin. Thinking that you are better off than others who do not pray everyday is rather a possible deception rather than a benefit. There are certainly many others who do not pray everyday but are better off than you. The proof for this can be easily done. You just look at the children around you. They are certainly better off than you in spiritual values although most of them do not pray everyday. They are more carefree, more cheerful, more playful, more trusting than you.
In fact the psychological benefits I mentioned above, if you think you have these, are signs that you are not really praying. You may be going to the church and attend Mass daily, or you may be opening your Bible and meditate on the words there daily and speak with the one who you think is your God, or you may gather daily in a prayer circle where after some reflection on the Bible you lift up prayer requests among your companions to God for your self and for others. But if the effect of all these actions is that you think you are better off than others who do not pray, that you have fulfilled an obligation, that you are now right with your God, then certainly it is very clear that you have not really prayed. You have gone through a series of rituals or actions which pretended that you pray but in reality you only boasted your self or ego. It was an ego trip.
The benefits of real, genuine daily prayer are far different from these psychological benefits.
So, first of all, what is genuine prayer? Genuine prayer is frequent, solitary, loving conversation with God. It is frequent. It does not happen once in a while when we are stuck with problems. It is done many times during the day, not just once or three or thirty times. It is something that is spontaneous, as spontaneous as we would converse with a friend.
Genuine prayer is solitary. There is an aloneness and silence surrounding real prayer. You may pray amidst a crowd but even there you are in recollection, by yourself, and silent in your demeanor.
And finally, genuine prayer is a loving conversation. It is a conversation between lovers. You feel a closeness to God which you cannot feel outside of this period of genuine prayer.
This is the kind of prayer which produces great benefits for us, spiritual and otherwise.
The first general benefit from daily, genuine prayer is growth in self-knowledge. We know more of our selves. This is because God is like a mirror. By conversing and looking at him during prayer time we see ourselves more truly. In genuine prayer we see God as he is, not just as we want him to be. And God tells us who we are. We become truly ourselves and see truly ourselves in daily genuine prayer. We see God for who he is and we realize who we are.
The second benefit, which flows from this, is that we become humble. Seeing who God is and realizing who we are makes us see ourselves for what we really are, poor creatures of God. This is not surprising because genuine self-knowledge always produces true knowledge of our weaknesses and strengths before God. We come to know ourselves as poor sinners, if we use the language of theology. We realize our helplessness. We know without God we can do nothing.
The third benefit, which in turn flows from this, is that we become confident. This is paradoxical. Knowing our helplessness we become confident, instead of feeling helpless. This happens because we now know that we can bank on the strength and power of God. As we know our incapacity, we realize God’s infinite capacity to do things through us and for us.
These are the three primary benefits we get from daily, genuine prayer. Other benefits flow from these three primary benefits. We become more active in our work because we know we possess strength and power beyond those of our own. We have less worry in our lives because we know that we can do all things through him who strengthens us. And we become loving and considerate of others because we are near the source of love, God himself, and we know also the weaknesses of others.
If these benefits are enjoyed by us, then we are really genuinely praying every day. But if the opposite attitudes are in us, if we become proud, worried, unloving and inconsiderate of others, we are not really praying everyday no matter what religious exercises we are going through, whether we call them meditation or contemplation or retreat or recollection or prayer rallies.
Daily prayer, genuine daily prayer, makes us know ourselves better, humble, confident, loving, less worried about our affairs, more active in our work and considerate of others.