CONDITIONS OF PRAYER
All things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe you shall receive, and they shall come unto you-(Mark xi. 24). Many pray, but they do not obtain what they pray for, because they do not pray as they ought. You ask, says St. James, and receive not, because you ask amiss -(James iv. 3). To be heard by God we must ask with humility, confidence, and perseverance. And what prayers, O my God, wilt Thou ever hear, if Thou hearest not those which are made as Thou wishest them to be made?
Let us consider the conditions of prayer. Many pray, but do not obtain the object of their prayers, because they do not pray as they ought. You ask, says St. James, and receive not, because you ask amiss-(James iv. 3). To pray well it is necessary, in the first place, to pray with humility. God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble-(James iv. 6). God rejects the petitions of the proud, but does not allow the humble to depart without hearing all their prayers. The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds . . . and he will not depart till the Most High behold-(Ecclus. xxxv. 21). This holds, even though they havebeen hitherto sinners. A contrite and humble heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise-(Ps. 1. 19). Secondly, it is necessary to pray with confidence. Noone hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded-(Ecclus. ii. 11). Jesus Christ has taught us to call God, in our petitions for His graces, by no other name than that of Father, in order to make us pray with the same confidence with which a child has recourse to a parent. He, then, who prays with confidence, obtains every grace. All things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you-(Mark Xi. -24). And who, says St. Augustine, can fear that the promises of God, Who is Truth itself, will be violated. God, says the Scripture, is not like men, who promise -but do not perform, either because they intend to deceive, or because they change their minds. God is not as man that he should lie, nor as the son of man that he should be changed. Hath he told then, and will he not do? (Num. xxiii. 19). And why, adds the same St. Augustine, should the Lord so earnestly exhort us to ask His graces, if He did not wish to bestow them upon us? By His promises He has bound Himself to grant us the graces we ask of Him. “By promising,” says St. Augustine, “He has made Himself a debtor.”
But some will say: I am a sinner, and therefore I do not deserve to be heard. In answer St. Thomas says that the efficacy of prayer to obtain grace depends, not on our merits, but on the Divine mercy. Everyone, says Jesus Christ, that asketh receiveth-(Matt. vii. 8); that is, everyone whether he be a just man or a sinner. But the Redeemer Himself takes away all fear when He says: Amen, amen, I say to you: If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you-(John xvi. 23). As if He said: Sinners, if you are without merits, I have merits before My Father. Ask, then, in My Name, and I promise that you will receive whatsoever you ask. But it is necessary to know that this promise does not extend to temporal favours, such as health, goods of fortune, and the like; for God often justly refuses these graces, because He sees that they would be injurious to our salvation. “The physician,” says St. Augustine, ” knows better than the patient what is useful.” The holy Doctor adds that God refuses to some through mercy what He gives to others because He is angry. Hence we should ask temporal blessings only on condition that they will be profitable to the soul. But spiritual graces, such as pardon of sins, perseverance, Divine love, and the like, should be asked absolutely, and with a firm confidence of obtaining them. If, says Jesus Christ, you being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him!-(Luke xi. 13).
Without Thy help, O my beloved Redeemer, I can do nothing. But Thou hast promised to grant all that we ask of Thee. Confiding, therefore, in Thy promises, my dear Jesus, I ask for the pardon of all my sins: I ask for holy perseverance; but above all, I ask for the gift of Thy holy love.
Above all, perseverance in prayer is necessary. In his commentary on Chapter XI. of St. Luke’s Gospel, Cornelius it Lapide says that the Lord “wishes us to persevere in prayer even to importunity.” This may be inferred from the following passages of Scripture: We ought always to pray-(Luke xviii. 1). Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times-(Luke xxi. 36). Pray without ceasing-(l Thess. v. 17). It may be also inferred from our Lord’s repeated exhortations to prayer. Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you-(Luke xi. 9). It might be sufficient to have said: Ask; but no; the Lord wishes us to understand that we ought to imitate beggars, who do not cease to ask, to entreat, and to knock at the door, until they receive an alms. But final perseverance, in particular, is a grace which is not obtained without continual prayer. We cannot merit this grace of perseverance; but, according to St. Augustine, it may be merited in a certain manner. “This gift,” says the holy Doctor, “can be suppliantly merited; that is, it may be obtained by supplication.” Let us, then, if we wish to be saved, pray always, and never cease to pray. And let all confessors and teachers, if they desire the salvation of souls, never cease to exhort their penitents or hearers to prayer. And, in conformity with the advice of St. Bernard, let us always have recourse to the intercession of Mary. “Let us ask for grace, and let us ask it through Mary: for what she asks she obtains, and her prayer cannot be fruitless.”
O my God, I hope Thou hast already pardoned me; but my enemies will not cease to fight against me till death. Unless Thou dost assist me, I shall lose Thee again. Ah! through the merits of Jesus Christ, I ask holy perseverance. Do not permit me to be separated from Thee. And I ask the same grace for all who are at present in the state of grace. I put all confidence in Thy promise, that Thou wilt give me perseverance if I continue to ask it from Thee. But I fear that in my temptations I shall neglect to have recourse to Thee, and thus relapse into sin. I therefore ask of Thee the grace never more to neglect prayer. Grant that in the occasions in which I shall be in danger of relapsing, I may recommend myself to Thee, and may invoke the aid of the most Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. O my God, this I purpose, and this I hope to do with the assistance of Thy grace. Hear me for the sake of Jesus Christ. O Mary, my Mother, obtain for me the grace that in all dangers of losing God, I may have recourse to thee and to thy Son.