The Redemptorist Father Ferreol Girardey discusses the objects of prayer. The object of a prayer may be either (1) a thing one asks of God in order to supply a spiritual or material want, or (2) a person for whom one prays.
Concerning prayers to supply spiritual wants, Father Girardey writes: “Since our soul, which is the image and likeness of God, is incomparably more noble and precious than our body, and [since] our final end, our principal and only indispensable obligation in this life is to save our soul, [therefore] we are bound to pray, first of all and before all else, for the wants of our soul, that is, for its salvation, and all the rest is secondary. Such is the command of our divine Saviour: ‘Seek first,’ He says to all men, ‘the kingdom of God and His justice,’ that is, heaven His kingdom, and the means of keeping the commandments of God, which His justice, His sovereign rights over us require us to keep faithfully, ‘and all the rest,’ that is, all that concerns our corporal and temporal welfare, ‘shall be added unto you’ (Matt 6:33).”
“Our divine Saviour does not wish us to bestow our principal care on our temporal welfare, nor to worry about our material wants; and He promises us that, if we faithfully direct all our aspirations and all our efforts to our salvation, He will Himself supply our earthly wants either directly, or will enable us to do so ourselves without there being any need for us to worry about them or letting them interfere with our salvation. We have a tangible proof of this in the case of those who have given up all their goods for His sake to follow Him and imitate His life and virtues, as is done by the members of the religious orders. So long as they are faithful to their obligations, God Himself provides for their material wants.”
“Our divine Saviour does not mean that we should only pray and attend only to the needs of our soul, and not occupy ourselves at all with our bodily wants, for, since the fall, man is condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, and he must, therefore, work; but he should not worry so about temporal things or labor so as to neglect his salvation.”
Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).