Choose a topic from Part 2B:

83. Prayer

1. Prayer is not an act of the appetitive power (thedesiring power, the will) but of the reason, that is, of thethinking mind which enlightens and guides the will. Prayer isbasically a petition, a beseeching; it is an act of reason which,as Aristotle says, "exhorts us to do what is best."

2. There are three musty errors about praying. One is thatGod does not rule things, and that the prayer of petition isuseless. A second is that all things happen by fixed fate, and thatconsequently praying is a vain action. A third is that prayerattempts to make God change His providence, and is thereforefoolish. We reject at once the first two of these errors as inmanifest conflict with both reason and faith. As for the third, wesay that we pray not to change providence, but to align ourselveswith it. St. Gregory says, "By asking, men may deserve toreceive what almighty God from eternity is disposed to give."Hence, it is right and reasonable to pray.

3. It is a mistake to say that prayer, as petition, seekssomething from God and is therefore not an act of honoring God, andconsequently is not an act of religion. For we do honor God when weconfess that we need him, and proclaim his almighty power to bestowblessings. We honor God so when we pray, and therefore prayer is atrue act of religion.

4. We seek God's help and blessing by prayerdirectly when we pray to God, and indirectly whenwe pray to the saints and angels to engage their cooperatingprayer. In the first case, we honor God in himself; in the second,we honor God through his blessed creatures. Both types of prayerare acts of religion.

5. We rightly pray for particular favors, and not merelyfor blessing in general. The clear-cut petition for particularblessings suits man's nature, and stirs his devotion. Besides,when we pray, we alwayshave the will to leave things inGod's hands; no matter how ardent are our special petitions,they are offered as subject to God's love and wisdom. Thus, inmaking petition with all earnestness and desire, we still do notwant God to give us what would work our hurt or cause our ruin.

6. We can lawfully pray for temporal goods, so long as wedo not attach to them inordinate importance, and make them theend-all and be-all of existence. For we may lawfully desireexternal goods, and what we may lawfully desire, we may lawfullypray for. Hence, it is not wrong, but very right, to ask God fortemporal favors.

7. When we pray we should ask for what we lawfully desire,and also for what we ought to desire. Now, we ought to desiregrace, and salvation, and all good things for others as well as forourselves. Hence, we should pray for others.

8. As we are obliged to love our enemies, so we shouldpray for them. This prayer, like love itself, must be forenemies in general. It is a matter of perfection to love and prayfor enemies individually.

9. The "Our Father," or Lord's Prayer is themost perfect of all prayers, not merely because Christ taught it,but because it includes in itself all that can be in a prayer. Inthis prayer, we ask for all that is to be desired, and in the orderin which the items of desire should be listed.

10. Prayer is proper to rational creatures, thatis, it belongs to such creatures exclusively. It is an act ofreason "which exhorts us to do what is best." Irrationalcreatures cannot pray. And God, who is non-creatural Reason, has nooccasion to pray. Therefore only rational creatures have the rightand the duty to pray.

11. The saints in heaven pray for us. For prayer forothers is born of charity, and the saints have greater charity thanwe have. And the saints are closer to God than we are; hence, theirprayers are more effective than ours.

12. Prayer should find expression in audible words as wellas in the silent language of the heart. Oral prayer is plainlynecessary for the common prayer offered by one in the name of many.If the priest praying with his congregation did not speak out, thepeople would have no knowledge of the prayer. And individual man isso made that he naturally tends to put his thoughts and affectionsinto oral speech. Even when a man prays privately, he finds ituseful to put his prayer into actual speech; for this helps him (a)to fix attention and arouse devotion; (b) to give his bodily powersopportunity of joining his spiritual powers in honoring theirCreator; (c) to give natural, and useful, outlet to the overflowingaffection of heart and mind.

13. To be altogether perfect, oral prayer requiresattention throughout. But even holy persons suffer from wanderingof mind. If a person has the true intention of praying, his prayeris good and meritorious despite involuntary wanderings of mind.There are three types of attention in oral praying: attention tothe words as well pronounced; attention to the meaning of the wordsuttered; attention to God and the things prayed for. The third sortof attention is the most necessary.

14. The cause of prayer is charity (the grace, love, andfriendship of God), which ought to be in us always. We shouldceaselessly have the virtual or implied intentionof doing all for the glory of God. In this sense, prayer should becontinuous. "And he [Christ] also told them . . . that theymust always pray, and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1). Prayer,however, as actual petition to God cannot be continuous; we havemany other things to consume our time; we must eat, and sleep, andattend to daily tasks, and chat with friends, and travel, and do ahundred other things. Prayer as actual and explicit petition ispossible at many hours of the day; it is well that there be a fewstated times for it. This actual and formal prayer ought to be longenough in time to stir fervor and desire for God and his blessings,but it ought not to be so long as to cause weariness.

15. Prayer, like any supernaturally virtuous act, proceedsfrom charity, and hence is meritorious. Good prayer is from charitythrough religion with the concurrence of humility, faith, anddevotion. It is an act effective in meriting, as it is an acteffective in obtaining favors from God.

16. Those who are in the state of sin can effectively begGod's blessing, for God loves the sinner even as he hates thesin. In his divine mercy, God hears the prayers of a sinner whoearnestly and persever-ingly asks for himself what he needs to turnfrom sin and save his soul. St. Augustine says (Tract.xliv super Joan.): "If God were not to hear sinners,the publican would have vainly cried, 'O Lord, be merciful tome, a sinner.'"

17. Prayer raises the mind adoringly to God, and begs hisblessings, and, with appreciative or thankful spirit, it imploresdivine mercy on sinful man. Hence, prayer has parts:adoration, petition, thanksgiving, penitential supplication.

"Before a man chooses his confessor, he ought to think well about it, and pray about it also; but when he has once chosen, he ought not to change, except for most urgent reasons, but put the utmost confidence in his director."
St Philip Neri

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"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "
Thomas á Kempis

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