"He who prayeth shall certainly save his soul; he who prayeth not shall certainly lose it."
THE justly celebrated sentence of St. Alphonsus Liguori, who may well be called the "Doctor of Prayer," finds a fitting place at the beginning of this book of devotions for Religious, It was neither lightly nor by chance that St. Alphonsus wrote these solemn words. Their truth had been impressed upon his mind during his long experience as a missionary priest, and in confirmation of it many proofs from Holy Writ and from tradition are adduced by the holy Doctor in his treatise on prayer.
St. Alphonsus writes: "Prayer is a sure and indispensable means of obtaining salvation and all the graces leading thereto. Convinced as I am of the necessity of prayer, I say that all books treating of spiritual subjects, all preachers in their sermons, all confessors in every confession which they hear, should attach the greatest importance to inculcating the necessity of constant prayer on the minds of their readers and hearers, and they should never tire of impressing it on them and of repeating over and over again: Pray, pray always; if you pray, you will certainly save your souls; if you do not pray, you will certainly lose them. It is true that many excellent ways of persevering in the grace of God may be recommended to souls; for instance, avoiding occasions of sin, frequenting the sacraments, resisting temptation, listening to sermons, meditating on the eternal truths, etc., all of which are most salutary practices, as every one must admit; but, I ask, of what good are sermons, meditations, and the other means suggested by the masters of the spiritual life, without prayer? since Our Lord has declared that He will only grant His grace to those who pray for it: Ask and ye shall receive. According to the ordinary course of Providence, all our meditations, resolutions, promises are useless without prayer; if we do not pray, we shall always be faithless to the lights we have received from God and to the resolutions we have taken. Because, in order to do right, to overcome temptation, to practice virtue, to observe God s law, it is not sufficient to have received divine lights, to have meditated, and to have taken firm resolutions. God s actual help is also necessary. Now, this actual help is only granted by Our Lord to those who pray perseveringly for it. The lights we receive, and the earnest consideration and firm resolutions which we make, have the effect of inciting us to have recourse to prayer in the time of temptation and when in danger of offending God: by prayer we obtain the divine help necessary for keeping us from sin, and if, under these circumstances, we were to neglect praying, we should undoubtedly be lost.
"The texts of Scripture which prove the necessity we are under of praying, if we wish to be saved, are extremely clear: We ought always to pray (Luke xviii. i). Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation (Matt. xxvi. 41). Ask, and it shall be given you (Matt. vii. 7).
“Theologians are of opinion that this way of speaking imposes the precept and denotes the necessity of prayer. Hence the learned Lessius asserts that it can not be denied, without sinning against faith, that for adults prayer is necessary to salvation.
"The reason of this is that, without the help of grace, we can do nothing good. Without Me, says Jesus Christ, you can do nothing (John xv. 5) . St. Augustine remarks on this subject that Our Saviour did not say, You can complete nothing without Me; but, You can do nothing. This truth was proclaimed at the second Council of Orange, when it was denned that man does no good thing except what God enables him to do by the operations of His grace. Man is therefore quite unable to work out his own salvation unassisted, since it is God s will that all he has or can have should come to him by the help of grace. Now, this grace God only grants, in the ordinary course of His providence, to those who pray for it. According to the maxim laid down by Gennadius, No man can attain salvation without the help of God; no man can obtain this help except by prayer. This does not mean, says St. Thomas, that it is necessary for us to pray in order that God may know of what we stand in need; but that we must pray in order that we ourselves may understand our need of having recourse to God to obtain the aid necessary for our salvation, and may thus acknowledge Him as the only author of all our good."
NECESSITY OF PRAYER
WE ought always to pray, and not to faint.
Luke xviii. i.
Watch ye, and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.
Matt. xxvi. 41.
Ask and it shall be given you.
Ibid. vii. 7.
Without Me you can do nothing. John xv. 5.
Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.
2 Cor. iii. 5.
God bestows some favors without prayer, such as the beginning of faith; others, such as perseverance, are granted only to those who pray.
To enter heaven, continual prayer is necessary after baptism; for although all sins are remitted by that sacrament, there still remain concupiscence to assail us from within, and the world and the devil to attack us from without.
All the graces, which God hath prepared for us from all eternity ; will be granted only to prayer.
God wishes to give, but He gives only to those who ask.
To prayer may be traced the beginning, the progress, and the perfection of all virtues.
St. Charles Borromeo
Who are we, or what is our strength, that we should be able to resist so many temptations? God certainly wished, that we, seeing that we are deficient, and that out of Him there is no assistance for us should, with all humility, have recourse to His mercy.
EFFICACY OF PRAYER
ASK, and it shall be given unto you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.
Matt. vii. 7.
How much more will your Father, Who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask Him?
Ibid. vii. ii.
For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth.
Ibid. vii. 8.
If you shall ask Me anything in My name, that will I do.
John xiv. 14.
You shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you.
John xv. 7.
Amen, Amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it you.
Ibid. xvi. 23.
I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me.
Phil. iv. 13.
The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him; to all that call upon Him in truth. He will do the will of them that fear Him, and He will hear their prayer and save them.
Ps. cxliv. 18, 19. By
Prayer is obtained the possession of every good, and deliverance from every evil.
CONDITIONS OF PRAYER
THE most necessary conditions of prayer, are humility, confidence, and perseverance.
He hath regard to the praver of the humble.
Ps. ci. 18.
God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
St. James iv. 6.
The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds; and he will not depart till the Most High behold.
Ecclus. xxxv. 21.
A contrite and humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
Ps. 1. 19.
Thou Who savest them that trust in Thee.
Ibid. xvi. 7.
Because he hath hoped in Me, I will deliver him and I will glorify him.
Ibid. xc. 14, 15.
But they that hope in the Lord, shall renew their strength.
Isaias xl. 31.
No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.
Ecclus. ii. n.
They that trust in the Lord, shall be as Mount Sion.
Ps. cxxiv. i.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have hoped in Thee.
Ps. xxxii. 22.
He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, which is moved and carried about by the wind. Therefore, let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.
St. James i. 6, 7.
Go; and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee.
Matt. viii. 13.
All things whatsoever you ask, when ye pray, believe that you shall receive; and they shall come unto you.
Mark xi. 24.
God protects and saves all who confide in Him.
They that hope in the Lord shall lay aside their weakness, and put on the strength of God; they shall not faint, nor even be fatigued, in treading the rugged ways of salvation. Ibid. Thou, O Lord, dost not pour the oil of mercy, unless into vessels of confidence.
The prayer of the just man is the key of heaven; his petition ascends, and God’s mercy descends.
Trusting in the divine promises, let us ever pray with confidence, not wavering, but strong and firm.
To obtain final perseverance, we must continue to pray to the end of our lives. If, by our negligence, we break the chain of our prayers, the chain of graces, on which our salvation depends, will also be broken. Ibid.
Oh, how the constant application to God by prayer, and the confident expectation of receiving from Him the graces we stand in need of, enkindle in us the fire of divine love, and unite us to the divinity!
We must continue to pray until we receive the sentence of eternal salvation.
All our petitions should be made through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ask in the name of Jesus Christ, through
His merits, and in virtue of His divine promises.
FOR WHAT AND FOR WHOM SHOULD WE PRAY?
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI insists repeatedly that in all our devotions, at Mass, at Holy Communion, in all our visits to the Blessed Sacrament, we should pray for these four graces for ourselves, viz.: the forgiveness of our sins, the love of God, the love of prayer. and final perseverance. When these graces are secured, our salvation is assured.
Furthermore, Religious should, in all their prayers and good works, unite themselves intimately with our holy Mother the Church, in her three intentions:
1. To glorify God; to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints; the Church triumphant.
2. To provide for the spiritual and temporal necessities of the children of the Church militant.
3. To procure the deliverance of the holy souls in purgatory, that is, to aid the Church suffering.
The Morning Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer is very efficacious.
"O my God, I offer Thee my prayers, works, and sufferings this day in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for the intentions for which He pleads and offers Himself in holy Mass, in thanksgiving for Thy favors, in reparation for our offences, and for the petitions of all our Associates."
Religious should say the beads, hear Mass, and offer holy communion frequently for our holy Mother the Church, for our holy Father the Pope, for bishops, priests, and superiors, for the needs of our country, for universal peace, for the conversion of sinners, and all those who do not belong to the one fold of Christ; and last, but not least, for the holy, suffering souls in purgatory.
Father Girardey, dwelling on the subject of prayer, writes:
"In praying for temporal favors for ourselves, we can claim unconditionally only the necessaries of life, for in the Our Father our daily bread is equivalent to the necessaries of life, but does not include its superfluities or luxuries; and the words deliver us from evil do not necessarily include, as we have seen, deliverance from physical evils, for the evil here meant is sin and all that leads to sin. We have no reason to hope that God will hear our prayers for those temporal favors that may prove hurtful to our salvation, or that He will exempt us from certain corporal pains and trials, if such an exemption would lead us to sin or endanger our salvation. The granting of such prayers would be, not a favor, but a terrible punishment. We should, then, ask for temporal favors conditionally that is, under the condition that they may promote our salvation, or at least not hinder it. We ought never to lose sight of this saying of our loving Redeemer: What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Mat.. xvi. 26.)
"Let us not be so solicitous for temporal favors, which, after all, may, as we have seen, prove hurtful to our soul, but let us rather pray for what is conducive to our eternal welfare. When we pray for temporals, and God, in Hit, mercy, refuses them to us, it is because they would prove hurtful to us. But, says St. Gregory of Nazianzen, he who asks God for a real favor (that is, for a favor that is necessary or useful for his salvation), obtains it, for God is bountiful and generous, and readily bestows His gifts. When you pray/ says St. Ambrose, ask for great things; ask not for what is transitory, but for what is eternal. We should pray, says St. Augustine, in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ. When, however, we pray for what is injurious to our soul, we do not pray in the name of Our Redeemer. In praying for temporals we should be moderate and timid, asking God to give them to us provided they are really beneficial, and to withhold them if they should prove hurtful. Many, when they pray, invoke God, but not as God, for the object of their prayer is opposed to His glory and favor able to their passions. They seem to consider God as a mere servant of themselves and of their passions, such as pride, covetousness, and lust. Let us pray, not for temporals, but for heavenly glory and the means of attaining it. The most precious and excellent of temporal things are but insignificant trifles in comparison to what is eternal.
"Rohrbacher relates in his Church History that, among the pilgrims who flocked to the tomb of St. Thomas of Canterbury to seek favors through the saint s intercession, there was a blind man who prayed so fervently for the recovery of his lost sight that he was perfectly cured. After returning home, however, he began to reflect that the restoration of his sight might, perhaps, prove an obstacle to his salvation. He accordingly re turned to the tomb of the saint, and, after fervently praying that were his sight ever to be injurious to his soul he should again lose it, he became totally blind once more. He acted most wisely, for it was much better for him to be blind than run the risk of losing his soul. Unguarded looks are often the cause of grievous sin, as is shown by the example of David and of many others.
"When our prayers for temporal favors, either for ourselves or in behalf of others, are not granted, we should consider God s refusal a real benefit rather than a misfortune. In beseeching God for temporals we should be indifferent as to the result of our prayers, being equally ready to accept a refusal or a favorable hearing from Him. If such should be our dispositions, God, when refusing our request, will not fail to compensate us by bestowing on us more excellent favors which we do not think of asking. In vain does a child cry for a sword or a live coal, remarks St John Chrysostom; his parents justly refuse him what may prove very hurtful to him. In like manner, God justly and kindly refuses us what is injurious to us; but, in His goodness, He will give us something better instead. Let us in all our prayers aim principally at the salvation of our soul, and we shall obtain also temporal favors from God, according to this saying of our loving Redeemer: Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice: and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. vi. 33).
"For whom should we pray? We should, first of all, pray for ourselves, because our salvation is our first and most important duty. Although, by the law of charity, we are bound to pray for all men, there are, nevertheless, some for whom we have a special obligation or special reasons to pray. Children should daily pray for their parents, parents for their children, members of the same family and household or community for one another, inferiors for their superiors, both ecclesiastical and civil, and superiors for their inferiors. It is also incumbent on us to pray for our benefactors, both spiritual and temporal, for our relatives, for those who ask our prayers and who pray for us, for our friends, and for our enemies also, whosoever they may be or whatever evil they may have done or may wish us. We ought, likewise, to pray for the perseverance of the just and for the conversion of sinners, of heretics, schismatics, Jews, and unbelievers. It is a most praiseworthy custom to pray for the sick, for those who are in their agony, for all who are in danger of death, or in danger of losing their innocence, and for all who are in distress, pain, trouble, or sorrow.
"It behooves us daily to remember in our prayers the souls in purgatory, particularly the souls toward whom we have some special obligation, e.g., the souls of our parents, of our benefactors, of those who are suffering on our account. We should endeavor to gain many indulgences for their benefit. If, during our life, we pray for them, God will, after our death, inspire com passionate souls to pray for us when we are in purgatory, for, says our divine Savior, with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matt. vii)