The Conditions for good Prayer-continued.
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.
We have attributed to prayer an infallible efficacy. It will obtain everything from God with a certainty which is none other than the certainty of faith: we have always added, that prayer should be duly and properly made, and in compliance with the conditions which God requires in our supplications.
The reason why it sometimes happens that we are not heard when we pray, is that we have not learnt how to pray. “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss” (James iv, 3). These conditions must now be mentioned.
The Angelic Doctor tells us, that the power of prayer to obtain what we ask, has its root in the faith of him who prays, while its merit depends mainly on charity; for Christ has promised to grant us the graces we beg of Him, on condition, however, that we ask with faith. “All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive “ (Matt, xxi, 22). “All things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you” (Mark xi, 24). (St. Thomas Q. 83, Art. 15, Ad. 3).
But in order not to go astray in a matter of such moment, it is necessary to determine what is this faith—or, to speak more accurately, this confidence—failing which God declares that He will withhold His gifts from us. It is a virtue which resides partly in the understanding, and partly in the will. In the understanding, inasmuch as the suppliant believes most firmly that God, impelled thereto by His sovereign goodness, and bound as He is by His oft-repeated promises, will assuredly grant the graces for which we ask. In the will, because, adhering to a belief so solidly grounded, this power undoubtingly and unhesitatingly trusts, that these favours will be obtained: and encouraged and animated by such hope, prays with fervour of spirit, with great earnestness, and with a sort of holy importunity. The firmer this hope, grounded on the faith described above, the greater certainty the suppliant has that his petition will be favourably accepted at the throne of mercy and grace.
“Every place that your foot shall tread upon, shall be yours” (Deuter. xi, 24). “The feet of our soul are our hopes, and we shall be so much the surer to attain what we seek for, as we shall allow our desires to expand: yet so that our hopes, by means of faith, be firmly rooted in nothing but the goodness and unfailing truthfulness of God” (St. Bernard). This condition is most important, as St. Augustine says, “If confidence fail, prayer disappears: it is without soul, vigour, force, efficacy: it languishes, it dies” (Serm. 36).
The next condition required, in order that our prayers may avail with God, is humility. He that prays must have one eye fixed on himself and on his own miseries, that the sight may humble him and fill him with confusion, by bringing home to him his unworthiness to receive any favour: the other eye must rest upon God’s mercy, His liberality and His promises, so as to make the heart expand with a lively hope of receiving every good and perfect gift. Humility and Confidence are the two wings on which prayer soars aloft to God, the two arms which force His hands to shed every blessing. “Incline, O my God, Thy ear, and hear: open Thy eyes, and see our desolation, and the city upon which Thy name is called, for it is not for our justifications that we present our prayers before Thy face, but for the multitude of Thy tender mercies” (Dan. ix, 18). Here we have self-diffidence, along with trust in God, whereby the Lord was moved speedily to hear the prophet and to send the Archangel Gabriel to show him what was to come to pass.
True it is, as St. Thomas says, that prayer is grounded principally upon confidence; but such confidence, in order to be pleasing in God’s sight, must be accompanied by sincere humility, without which it cannot avail to touch the heart of God, Who says by Isaias, “To whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little, and of a contrite spirit” (Isaias lxvi, 2).
That the ocean may cover the shore with its waves, the shore needs but to be lowered: and just so, the soul needs but to humble itself before God in lowly self-knowledge, for the Almighty to hasten and fill it to overflowing with the fulness of His gifts. Call to mind the prayer of the Pharisee and the Publican. The former prayed with a heart puffed up with pride, relying on the merits of his fasts and offerings: the latter, in all lowliness of spirit, acknowledging himself a sinner, striking his breast, and not daring so much as to lift up his eyes to heaven. We need not be told what was the result of these two prayers, made with such opposite dispositions. The prayer of the one was rejected, that of the other accepted. The proud Pharisee met with his condemnation: the lowly Publican obtained, by his humility, forgiveness and justification. Hence we will conclude with St. Bernard: “Let our prayers for life everlasting be made in all humility and perfect distrust of our own merits, and with that complete confidence, which becomes us, in the mercy alone of God” (Serm. 5 in Quadrag.).
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.
Of Resisting Temptation.
V. Inconstancy of mind, and small confidence in God, is the beginning of all temptations.
For as a ship without a rudder is tossed to and fro by the waves, so the man who is remiss, and who quits his resolution, is many ways tempted.
Fire tries iron, and temptation tries a just man.
We often know not what we can do: but temptation discovers what we are.–Thomas à Kempis–Imitation of Christ Bk I, Ch XIII pt V.
July Devotion: The Precious Blood of Jesus
Virtues to practice: Simplicity, faith, liberty of spirit, cheerfulness
Prayers in honor of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.
Most merciful Jesus, lover of souls! I pray Thee, by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother, wash in Thy Blood the sinners of the whole world who are now in their agony, and who are to die this day. Amen.
Heart of Jesus, once in agony, pity the dying.
100 days indul.—Pius IX., Feb. 1850.
“May Thy Blood, shed for us, O Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for me the remission of all my sins, my negligences, my ignorance; may It strengthen, increase and preserve within me, Faith, Hope, Charity, Grace, and every virtue, may It bring me to everlasting life; may It deliver the souls of my parents and of all those for whom I am bound to pray.”
—St. Catharine of Sienna.
O blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my soul to purify it. O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my heart to inflame it. O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my mind to enlighten it. O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my thoughts to elevate them! O Blood of my crucified Jesus, dwell in my every action to sanctify them; in every power and faculty of my being, that all within me may exalt Thy might, proclaim Thy benefits and publish Thy mercies!
Praises to the Precious Blood.
Glory be to Jesus!
Who in bitter pains,
Poured for me the life Blood,
From His sacred veins.
Grace and life eternal
In that Blood I find;
Blessed be His compassion,
Blessed through endless ages
Be the precious stream,
Which from endless torment
Doth the world redeem.
There the fainting spirit
Drinks of life her fill;
There, as in a fountain
Laves herself at will.
O the Blood of Christ!
It soothes the Father’s ire,
Opes the gates of heaven,
Quells eternal fire.
Abel’s blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies;
But the Blood of Jesus
For our pardon cries.
Oft as it is sprinkled
On our guilty hearts,
Satan in confusion,
Oft as earth exulting
Wafts its praise on high,
Hell with terror trembles.
Heaven is filled with joy.
Lift ye then your voices,
Swell the mighty flood
Louder still and louder,
Praise the Precious Blood!
(100 days indulgence once a day.— Pius VII. , Oct. 1815.)
Copyright © 2013 – 2014. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.