The Necessity of 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 Necessity of Prayer.
Prayer is a necessity for everyone. It is a necessity for the good, because if they give up prayer for a considerable time they will lose the grace of God. This is the teaching of Sacred Scripture, and the experience of all those who have neglected prayer.
It is necessary for the bad, because without it, they will not, in the ordinary course of God’s providence be able to get back into the state of grace.
The necessity of prayer arises from two very important truths. The first truth is, that of ourselves and by our own natural strength, without a special grace from God, we cannot do any good work. By a good work we mean something which tends to our eternal salvation. We are bound to do good and to avoid evil, but without a special grace from God we cannot do the good nor avoid the evil.
We cannot do even a good work without a grace from God for our Divine Lord says: “No man can come to Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him” (John vi, 44). “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you the branches, he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you” (John xv, 4, 7).
Neither can we avoid evil without a special grace from God. We cannot avoid evil because since the fall of our first parents there is a certain proneness in our nature to what is evil; we have passions, we live in a wicked world where we are constantly exposed to temptations and to the attacks of the devil, who “as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour” (i Peter v, 8).
Considering all this, it follows that without a particular grace from God we cannot live for a considerable space of time without falling into mortal sin. And if all this is true of a person in God’s grace how much more true is it that a person who has fallen away from God by mortal sin cannot come back to Him, cannot rise out of that sad state, without a special grace, and consequently without prayer.
A person in the state of mortal sin would remain for ever in that sad condition if he did not get grace from God. He is, as it were, bound hand and foot, and of himself, and left to himself, he is utterly incapable of doing anything which would restore him to the state of grace. The grace of a supernatural sorrow for his sins must come from God.
Therefore, the first truth from which arises the necessity of prayer is that without a special grace from God we can do no good work, we can do nothing towards our salvation. We can neither do a meritorious work, nor overcome temptations, nor our bad passions, nor the snares of the devil. “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. iii, 5). “With fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God Who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will” (Philip ii, 12, 13).
The second truth from which arises the necessity of prayer is that prayer is the ordinary means which God has established for obtaining the special graces which we require to do good works.
We are not only incapable of doing anything towards our salvation without a grace from God, but of ourselves we are unworthy of receiving His graces.
After the fall of man God could in strict justice have left him in the sad state to which man, by his own free act, had reduced himself.
But God, out of pure goodness and mercy, willed to save us, and to provide us with all the means necessary for our salvation. Now since our salvation and all the means to obtain it are the free gifts of God, God can demand from us whatever conditions He pleases. God requires in the first place that we humble ourselves before Him, acknowledge our weakness, misery, and our unworthiness of His help, and furthermore, He requires that we should ask Him out of mercy to grant us His gifts and graces which we stand so much in need of.
But we cannot even ask the Divine assistance without grace from God. As the Sacred Scriptures puts it, “not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. iii, 5).
God then knowing our inability to ask without His assistance, out of His infinite mercy gives to all men the grace of prayer as the first step towards their salvation, moving men to have recourse to prayer and enabling them to perform it. “I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of prayer” (Zach. xii, 10).
But God, having given us the grace of prayer, wills that we should co-operate with this grace, and ask of Him all the other graces we stand in need of. “God does not command impossibilities, but when commanding to do anything, He admonishes us to do what we can, to pray for what help we need, and then He helps us to make us able” (Council of Trent, Sess. VI, Chap. II).
Prayer then is a free gift from God, and it is the ordinary means ordained by Him for obtaining all graces which we stand in need of. This is the second truth from which arises the necessity of prayer. The necessity of prayer and its efficacy is also shown from the fact that our Divine Lord has repeatedly commanded us to pray. “And He spoke also a parable to them, that 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).
“Be instant in prayer: watching in it in thanksgiving” (Col. iv, 2).
“Be nothing solicitous, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God” (Phil, iv, 6).
“Be prudent, therefore, and watch in prayer” (i Peter iv,7)
Now, who can doubt that a thing inculcated in the Divine Scriptures so many times, in so many ways, and in so urgent a manner, is imposed upon us by the rigorous command of God? Who can question that prayer is an instrument of the highest necessity and indispensable to eternal salvation, when God wills that we should employ it with such frequency, so perseveringly, and without any notable intermission of time? “It is a most clear proof of folly not to be sensible of the greatness of the honour of converse with Almighty God, not to love the practice of prayer, not to be persuaded that to neglect prostrating ourselves frequently before God and asking His aid, is to bring upon ourselves death to grace in this life, and eternal death in the life to come” (St. Chrysostom, Lib. i, De Orando Deum).
From these passages of Sacred Scripture it is clear that we are bound to practise prayer, and that it is the means of obtaining the most important graces which we stand in need of for the working out of our eternal salvation, such as, the grace of a happy death, grace to overcome temptations, pardon for our sins, etc.
All the Fathers and Doctors of the Church teach the necessity of prayer. The Apostles prayed, and all the great saints and servants of God were remarkable for their spirit of prayer. We have never heard of a saint who neglected this exercise. All of which show how necessary prayer is as long as we are in this world.
We might give a still further proof of the necessity of prayer by saying that it is the experience of everyone, who gives up prayer for a considerable time, that they fall into mortal sin.
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 supporting injuries, and who is proved to be truly patient.
III. He is not a truly patient man, who will suffer no more than he thinks good, and from whom he pleaseth.
The truly patient man minds not by whom it is he is exercised, whether by his superior, or by one of his equals, or by an inferior; whether by a good and holy man, or by one that is perverse and unworthy.
But how much soever and how often soever any adversity happens to him from anything created, he takes it all with equality of mind, as from the hand of God, with thanksgiving, and esteems it a great gain.
For nothing, how little soever, that is suffered for God’s sake, can pass without merit in the sight of God. – Thomas à Kempis –Imitation of Christ Bk III, Ch XIX pt. III.
April Devotion: The Holy Ghost (The Passion for Lent)
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 human kind 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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