The Dispositions Necessary for Good Prayer.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
The Dispositions Necessary for Good Prayer.
For good efficacious prayer, that is, for prayer which will produce its effects, which will obtain for us the graces we stand in need of, there are certain dispositions required.
(1) We must be in the state of grace.
(2) We must pray for the right things.
(3) We must pray with fervour, attention, and devotion.
(I) In order that our prayers be effective, we must give up sin, and be in God s grace, because if a person is in mortal sin, he is the enemy of Almighty God and is, therefore, indisposed and unworthy of receiving favours from God. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and His ears unto their prayers. But the countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil things” (Psalm xxxiii, 16, 17).
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you (St. John xv, 7). “Delight in the Lord, and He will give thee the requests of thy heart” (Psalm xxxvi, 4). “If our heart do not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God. And whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of Him” (I John iii, 21, 22).
Moreover if we are in mortal sin, we can have no confidence in God, and “if confidence fail, prayer disappears; it is without soul, vigour, force, efficacy: it languishes, it dies” (St. Augustine, Serm. 36).
Prayer, to be pleasing to God, ought to come from a soul free from mortal sin. We ought to speak to God as children to a Father, and not as enemies. In every day life a man is not so much inclined to grant favours to his enemies as to his children or his friends.
If we are in the grace of God, we are God’s friends and we may reasonably expect that He shall be more inclined to hear us than if we are His enemies by mortal sin, and this is what the psalmist means when he says, “If I have in my heart any iniquity I may pray but He will not hear me” (Psalm lxv, 18). St. Basil illustrates this by an excellent example where he says: “If any one comes to demand some favour of a father whose son he has just murdered, and shows him his hands still reeking with the blood of the slaughtered child, certainly he could not hope to obtain what he asked; he should rather fear the terrible effects of this irritated father’s vengeance. How can you think that God will hear your prayer, if your hands are still tinged with the blood of His Son whom you have crucified?”
No doubt if a sinner has been ever so bad, yet if he should return to God with a sincere repentance, and cry for mercy, his prayer will be heard, and God will grant him the grace of repentance. “Seek ye the Lord, while He may be found; call upon Him, while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He is bountiful to forgive” (Isaias lv, 6).
“As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him, for He knoweth our frame” (Psalm cii, 13, 14). “His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm cxliv, 9).
“My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (I John ii, I, 2). “Blotting out the hand-writing of the decree which was against us . . . . fastening it to the Cross” (Coloss. ii, 14).
(2). We must pray for the right things, that is for the things which are conducive to our salvation. The salvation of our souls is the important affair of our lives; all else is, as it were, of little value; in fact all other things are of no consequence. This is the end of our creation, Redemption, and sanctification. It is the very end of our being, and since it is so important it follows that we ought to make it the continual object of our prayer. “Be not solicitous, therefore, saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His Justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt, vi, 31-33).
To pray for grace to avoid sin, to overcome temptations, to advance in virtue, to bear the sufferings of this life with patience, to die a happy death, etc., all these help towards our salvation, and we should make them the object of our prayers. We are certain that these things are in accordance with the Will of God and that He will grant them to us when we pray for them.
Temporal favours may, or may not be conducive to our salvation. We are not good judges as to whether they may be good for us or not, and consequently if we pray for them we ought to pray for them conditionally. “Whatsoever we shall ask according to His Will, He heareth us. And we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petition which we request of Him “ (I John v, 14, 15).
(3). We must pray with fervour, attention and devotion.
Fervour consists in doing our duty to God by rule, doing it punctually at the right time, and doing it as perfectly as we can. Fervour does not mean feeling or emotion, but rather business-like earnestness.
Attention is an application of the mind to what a person is doing.
Devotion is a readiness of the will to do in all things what we know, or believe, to be in accordance to the Will of God, with a view to please Him.
That fervour, attention, and devotion are required for prayer is manifest, because if a person prays without these qualities it is clear that he has no great esteem for the gifts of God. It shows that he has no real desire to receive them. If he is heartless and indifferent as to whether he receives them or not his prayers offend rather than please God.
Such prayers are more apt to move God to indignation than to pity, because when we act in this manner we show a contempt for God and for His gifts.
God sees the heart, and if it is cold and indifferent and without fervour it is not likely that He will bestow His favours under such circumstances. “You that pray greatly insult God, if you ask Him to hear your prayer to which, while you perform it, you pay no attention” (St. Bernard).
“In the time of prayer, let the heart be opened to God but closed against the devil, so as not to leave him the least opening by which he may enter” (St. Cyprian).
In this matter we should imitate St. Bernard of Citeau, who, when he went to pray, shut the door after him saying, “You cares and temporal thoughts stay outside in the meantime till I return to you. For I have now a serious and very important business. I must speak with my God and for that I do not need you.”
We should therefore pray with fervour, attention, and devotion, and to do so we must prepare ourselves before hand. “Before prayer prepare thy soul, and be not as a man that tempteth God” (Eccles. xviii, 23).
This preparation consists in putting ourselves in the presence of God, in humbling ourselves before Him, begging His Divine assistance so as to enable us to make our prayer in a manner which will be pleasing to Him, thinking of what we are going to ask for, and doing all for the honour and glory of God.
We should lay aside all anxiety about the things of the world. We should read and meditate on holy subjects, so as to imprint on our minds and hearts a high esteem for them. In this way we prepare ourselves for prayer.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
That Temporal Miseries Are to Be Borne with Patience after the Example of Jesus Christ.
III. 0! How great thanks am I obliged to return to Thee, for having vouchsafed to show me and all the faithful, a right and good way to an everlasting kingdom.
For Thy life is our way: and by holy patience we walk on to Thee, who art our crown.
If Thou hadst not gone before and instructed us, who would have cared to have followed?
Alas! how many would have staid afar off, and a great way behind, if they had not before their eyes Thy excellent example?
Behold we are still tepid, notwithstanding all the miracles and instructions we have heard: what then would it have been, if we had not this great light to follow Thee ?. – Thomas à Kempis – Imitation of Christ Bk III, Ch XVIII pt III.
April Devotion: The Holy Ghost
Virtue to practice: Patience
Vexilla Regis prodeunt
The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where Life for sinners death endured,
And life by death for man procured.
Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled, Water flowed, and Blood.
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
‘Amidst the nations, God,’ saith he,
‘Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.’
O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy Limbs should find their rest.
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung:
The price of humankind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
O Cross, our one reliance, hail,
Thou glory of the saved, avail*
To give fresh merit to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.
To Thee, Eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.
Vexilla Regis pródeunt,
Fulget Crucis mystérium,
Qua vita mortem pértulit,
Et morte vitam prótulit.
Quæ vulneráta lánceæ
Mucróne diro, críminum
Ut nos laváret sórdibus,
Manávit unda et sánguine.
Impléta sunt quæ cóncinit
David fidéli cármine,
Regnávit a ligno Deus.
Arbor decóra et fúlgida,
Ornáta regis púrpura,
Elécta digno stípite
Tam sancta membra tángere.
Beáta, cuius bráchiis
Prétium pepéndit sæculi,
Statéra facta córporis,
Tulítque prædam tártari.
O Crux, ave, spes única,
Gentis redémptæ glória!*
Piis adáuge grátiam,
Reísque dele crímina.
Te, fons salútis, Trínitas,
Colláudet omnis spíritus:
Quibus Cricis victóriam
Largíris, adde præmium. Amen.
(ex. Breviario Romano)
*Instead of: ‘Thou Glory of the saved,’ during Passiontide, say: ‘This Holy Passiontide‘, during the Paschal Season: ‘Thou joy of Eastertide‘, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: ‘On this triumphant day.‘
An indulgence of 5 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this hymn throughout an entire month (S.C. Ind., Jan. 16, 1886; S.P.Ap., April 29, 1934).
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