“Ask, and it shall be given you; for every one that asketh receiveth.”
Not only in this, but in a thousand places in the Old and New Testaments, God promises to hear all who pray to him. “Cry to me, and I will hear thee” (Jeremiah 33:3). Turn to me, and I will hear you. “Call upon me, and I will deliver you from all dangers” (Psalm 50:15). “If you shall ask any thing in my name, that I will do” (John 14:14). Whatsoever you shall ask through my merits, I will grant. “You shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). Ask as much as you wish; all that you ask shall be given you. There are many other similar passages. Hence Theodoret has said that prayer is one, but can obtain all things. “Oratio cum una sit omnia potest.” St. Bernard says that, when we pray, the Lord will either give the grace we ask, or one which is more useful to us. “Aut dabit quod petimus aut quod nobis noverit esse utilius” (Ser. in v. Fer. 4, Ciner). The prophet animates us to pray by assuring us that God is all mercy to those who invoke his aid. “Thou, O Lord, art sweet and mild, and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon thee” (cf Psalm 86:5). The words of St. James are still more encouraging. “If any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth abundantly to all men, and upbraideth not” (Jame 1:5). This apostle tells us that, when we pray to the Lord, he opens his hands, and gives us more than we ask. “He giveth to all men abundantly and upbraideth not.” He does not reproach us with the offenses we have offered to him; but, when we pray to him, he appears to forget all the injuries we have done him. St. John Climacus used to say that prayer in a certain manner forces God to grant us whatsoever we ask of him. “Prayer piously offers violence to God.” But it is a violence that is dear to him and which he desires from us. “Haec vis grata Deo,” says Tertullian. Yes, for, as St. Augustine says, God has a greater desire to give us his graces, than we have to receive them. “Plus vult ille tibi benficia elargiri, quan tu accipere concupiscas.” The reason is, because God is of his own nature infinite goodness. “Deus cujus natura bonitas,” says St. Leo. Hence he feels an infinite desire to impart his goods to us. Hence St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to say, that God feels as it were under an obligation to the soul that prays to him; because by prayers she opens to him the way by which he can satisfy his desire of dispensing his graces to us. David says that the goodness of God in instantly hearing all who pray to him showed him that he was his true God. “In what day soever I shall call upon thee, behold, I know thou art my God” (cf Psalm 56:10). Some, observes St. Bernard, complain that God is wanting to them; but the Lord far more justly complains that many are wanting to him by neglecting to ask his graces. “Multi queruntur deesse sibi gratiam, sed multo justius gratia quereretur deesse sibi multos.” Of this precisely the Redeemer appears to have complained one day to his disciples. “Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name; ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). As if he said, Do not complain of me if you do not enjoy complete happiness; complain of yourselves for not having asked my graces; ask me for them henceforth, and you shall be content.
Hence, in their conferences, the ancient monks came to the conclusion, that there is no exercise more conducive to salvation than to pray always, and say, Lord assist me, incline unto my aid, O God. The Venerable Paul Segneri used to say of himself, that in his meditations he was at first accustomed to spend his time in pious affections; but, having afterwards leaned the great efficacy of prayer, he endeavored generally to employ himself in petitions to God. Let us always do the same. We have a God who loves us to excess, and who is solicitous for our salvation, and therefore he is always ready to hear all who ask his graces. The princes of the earth, says St. Chrysostom, give audience only to a few; but God gives audience to all who wish for it. “Aures principis paucis patent, Deo vero omnibus volentibus” (Lib. ii. de Orat. ad Deum).
Affections and Prayers
Eternal God, I adore thee, and I thank thee for all the benefits thou hast bestowed upon me–for having created me, for having redeemed me through Jesus Christ, for having made me a Christian, for having waited for me when I was in sin, and for having so often pardoned me. Ah, my God, I should never have offended thee, if in my temptations I had recourse to thee. I thank thee for the light by which thou now makest me understand that my salvation consists in praying to thee, and in asking graces of thee. Behold, I entreat thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to give me a great sorrow for my sins, holy perseverance in thy grace, a good death, heaven, but, above all, the great gift of thy love, and perfect resignation to thy most holy will. I well know that I do not deserve these graces; but thou hast promised them to all who ask them of thee through the merits of Jesus Christ; through these merits I hope and ask for them. O Mary, thy prayers are always heard; pray for me.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art for this post on prayer: L’Extase (The Ecstasy), Jean Benner (1836-1906), before 1896, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.