"A ninth reason [to pray]: we pray to be transformed. This is somewhat different from praying to God for help — but it’s related. Knowing that we are flawed and imperfect, many of us look to God to help us grow into better people. This is not to say that we are all terrible sinners or irredeemable reprobates. Rather, we are all human beings in need of God’s grace.

"In my own life, that desire manifests itself especially during prayer. If I do something sinful, I am filled with a remorse that becomes more obvious when I spend time with God. A few years ago, I did something selfish that affected a friend. In my prayer the next day I saw how uncharitable it was and was moved to seek out my friend and apologize. I was also reminded of my need for God’s grace and my desire for more charity. We might also become aware not of one particular sin, but of a general pattern in our lives, a place where we are unfree. We may ask for freedom from this in prayer.

"There is a kind of petitionary prayer here too, but of a different nature. 'Help me to be a better person, God' might be called a prayer of transformation.

"Not long ago, I had been praying that God would change me in a particular way, and not much seemed to be happening. Then, suddenly, it was discovered that I would need some minor surgery. Lying in the hospital bed a few weeks later, tethered by tubes to various machines, I started to think about all the things I was hoping to change in my life: my flaws and failings, all the things I hoped God would change or eradicate. As I enumerated them, these things that were distracting me from being the kind of person I wanted to become seemed, in a word, ridiculous. In other words, I saw the emptiness of whatever was moving me away from God.

"During those days I felt God saying to me in prayer, 'What kind of life do you want to lead?' It was not so much a matter of waiting for God to change me or remove my flaws; God was telling me that the change was largely up to me. It was a transformational moment, as it seemed to offer me freedom and reminded me of my own agency in life. Transformation is another reason for prayer."