I'm LDS and I'm wondering if it common for Catholics to pray to know their Church is true? Or is it much more common to find historical, theological, and scriptural proofs for belief?
Is it common to pray to know if the Catholic Church is true?
And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. - Matthew 16:18
To my knowledge it is not common for practicing Catholics to pray to know if the Catholic Church is true!
For so-called Catholics in name only or those who simply are very irreligious in their lifestyle, may not even care one way or another. This same set of principles would be true in all other Christian denominations.
Genuine doubts about the faith or in the Church, could very much strengthen a soul’s unity towards God. Everyone has doubts about something.
How common to pray to know if the Catholic Church is true is actually unknown. No one has ever brought this up to me, but I am sure it happens.
This reminds me of the words of St. Paul:
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
8 As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming. Make haste to come to me quickly. - 2 Timothy 4:7-8
The dark night of the soul can effect one on any number of points of one’s faith. As long as intellectual assent is not given there is no sin involved and the Devil loses.
Dark Night of the Soul is a poem written by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross. The author himself did not give any title to his poem, on which he wrote two book-length commentaries: Ascent of Mount Carmel (Subida del Monte Carmelo) and The Dark Night (Noche Oscura).
In Roman Catholic spirituality
The term "dark night (of the soul)" in Roman Catholic spirituality describes a spiritual crisis in the journey toward union with God, like that described by St. John of the Cross.
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, OCD, a 19th-century French nun and doctor of the Church, wrote of her own experience of the dark night. Her dark night derived from doubt of the existence of eternity, to which doubt she nonetheless did not give intellectual or volitional assent, but rather prevailed by a deepening of her Catholic faith. However, she painfully suffered through this prolonged period of spiritual darkness, even declaring to her fellow nuns: "If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into".
While this spiritual crisis is usually temporary, it may endure for a long time. The "dark night" of St. Paul of the Cross in the 18th century endured 45 years, from which he ultimately recovered. The dark night of St. Teresa of Calcutta, whose own name in religion she selected in honor of St. Thérèse, "may be the most extensive such case on record", having endured from 1948 almost until her death in 1997, with only brief interludes of relief, according to her letters.
On the other end of the spectrum, converts to the Catholic Church, most certainly pray to know if the Catholic Church is the true Church.
I am someone who has had many conversations with LDS evangelists. I take it that this question refers to something often said by such evangelists when those they talk to express doubts about the truth of LDS doctrine: "Just pray about it to see if this is the truth or not."
In similar conversations Catholics and most Christians tend not to say things like that. There are a number of reasons for that. Most such conversations are with people who don't believe in God at all. They are not usually open to letting prayer decide the matter. (Why would they if they are uncertain of God's existence?). Such people are also extremely inexperienced in the matter of prayer, and can end up with the wrong conclusion.
Also praying to God to ask about matters of fact is fraught with danger. It may sound like a good idea (God knows the truth, so obviously he would tell you if you asked him) but in practice it doesn't work like that. Otherwise Christians would simply pray for the answers to their mathematics tests and get full marks. God expects us to use other faculties he has given us. Answers like this are considered the "gift of knowledge" which is one of the gifts of the Spirit, given as God wills and hence not automatically available to all Christians, let alone those who don't believe.
Also most Christians are convinced of the rationality of their reasons for believing in God. Resorting to "just pray about it" would seem to be unnecessary.
As a Catholic, I can say that it is common, and laudable to pray for the people guiding the church.
Pinpointing an official position is hard since it's kind of navel-gazey, but praying for the Pope (or at least the Pope's intentions) is a requirement for a Plenary Indulgence; so the church does intend for the faithful to pray for its leaders.
Personally, taking some of the Church leaders who I liked a lot, but proved to be very poor examples. I think it's very important to pray that they will be true to the Church, because people certainly have the capacity to fall off the wagon. And when that happens it causes scandal and causes people to doubt the veracity of the Church.
As for the way someone gets to figuring out that the Catholic Church in particular is true, G.K. Chesterton puts it best
But this involved accuracy of the thing makes it very difficult to do what I now have to do, to describe this accumulation of truth. It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, "Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?" he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, "Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen." The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible.
G.K. Chesterton - Orthodoxy - Chapter 6
He noted a number of incidental things. But his main supposition that the Church was not only the True Church, but a Truth Telling Church.
I have another far more solid and central ground for submitting to it as a faith, instead of merely picking up hints from it as a scheme. And that is this: that the Christian Church in its practical relation to my soul is a living teacher, not a dead one. It not only certainly taught me yesterday, but will almost certainly teach me to-morrow. Once I saw suddenly the meaning of the shape of the cross; some day I may see suddenly the meaning of the shape of the mitre. One fine morning I saw why windows were pointed; some fine morning I may see why priests were shaven. Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture to-morrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare to-morrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.
In fact it all boils down to the Church being true:
The difficulty of explaining "why I am a Catholic" is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.
Why I Am Catholic - G.K. Chesterton
So more important than praying that the Church is true, is praying that one sees the truths of Jesus that the Church proclaims.
I don't know how common it is for Catholics themselves to pray for knowledge as to whether Catholicism is true; however, it seems reasonable enough for non-Catholics to do so. If a Christian is engaged in any kind of intellectual exercise, why shouldn't they pray for help in discovering the truth? That seems like a perfectly rational thing to do.
In my experience there is no suggestion by the Church for members to pray to know if the Church is true as some kind of general rule. This is also the case in my non-denominational Christian experience.
Now for wavering Catholics, or anyone wavering in faith matters, it is unknowable how they commonly resolve the problem. Statistics are not kept.
I'm going to second one thing from one of the other answers, praying for explicit answers to explicit questions is risky.
Having said that, if I were myself wavering in a matter of Christian faith, I would do 2 things: Pray to the God of the Bible to draw me closer, and increase my time within the scriptures of the Bible.
I live in India, a country which has only 2.3 % of the people following Christianity-- all denominations put together. Not even a single Non-Christian, in my entire life, prompted me to re-examine my faith and to find out if the Catholic Church is true. But then, I have come across Non-catholic Christians of various denominations, including two young men from Idaho, US who did ask me to have an introspection , which I politely refused.