THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
XIV.-THE MEANS OF AVOIDING LUKEWARMNESS AND ATTAINING PERFECTION
The fifth and most necessary means for the spiritual life, and for obtaining the love of Jesus Christ is prayer of petition. In the first place, I say that by this means God convinces us of the great love He bears us. What greater proof of affection can a person give to a friend than to say to him, “My friend, ask anything you like of me, and I will give it to you”? Now that is precisely what our Lord says to us: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find-(Luke xi. 9). Wherefore prayer is called all-powerful with God to obtain every blessing: “Prayer, though it is only one, can effect all things,” as Theodoret says; whoever prays obtains from God whatever he chooses. The words of David are beautiful: Blessed be God who hath not turned away my prayer nor his mercy from me-(Ps. lxv. 20). Commenting on this passage, St. Augustine says, “As long as thou seest thyself not failing in prayer, be assured that the Divine mercy will not fail thee either.” And St. John Chrysostom: “We always obtain, even while we are still praying.” When we pray to God, He grants us the grace we ask for, even before we have ended our petition. If, then, we are poor, let us blame only ourselves, since we are poor merely because we wish to be poor, and so we are undeserving of pity. What sympathy can there be for a beggar, who, having a very rich master, and one most desirous to provide him with everything, if he will only ask for it, nevertheless chooses still to continue in, his poverty rather than ask for what he wants? Behold, says the Apostle, our God, rich unto all that call upon him-(Rom. x. 12).
Humble prayer, then, obtains all from God; but we must be persuaded at the same time, that if it be useful it is no less necessary for our salvation. It is certain that we absolutely require the Divine assistance, in order to overcome temptations; and sometimes, in certain more violent assaults, the sufficient grace which God gives to all, might possibly enable us to resist them; but on account of our inclination to evil, it will not ordinarily be sufficient in these violent temptations, and we shall then stand in need of a special grace. Whoever prays obtains this grace; but whoever prays not obtains it not, and is lost. And this is more especially the case with regard to the grace of final perseverance, of dying in the grace of God, which is the grace absolutely necessary for our salvation, and without which we should be lost for ever. St. Augustine says of this grace, that God only bestows it on those who pray. And this is the reason why so few are saved, because few indeed are mindful to beg of God this grace of perseverance.