"Amen, amen, I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it you."
--John xvi.23.

Prayer: Its Conditions and Circumstances

INTRODUCTION: When our Lord at the Last Supper told the Apostles that He was about to leave them, their hearts were filled with sadness and loneliness. But to comfort them He promised to send them another Paraclete, His Holy Spirit, who would console them and take His place among them. Moreover, He gave them a further unfailing means of obtaining comfort and help in their sorrows and needs, and this was prayer to the Father in His name. At all times they could speak to, and commune with their heavenly Father; and to assure them that their prayers would be answered. He introduced His promise with those solemn, words, which are equivalent to an oath, "Amen, amen, I say to you." This guarantee of our Lord, however, that the Father will hear us, extends only to those prayers which are made in the name of Christ; that is, which have the proper qualities, and are accompanied by the proper conditions. He prays in the name of Christ who prays for that which pertains to salvation (St. Gregory, St. Aug.).

1. The conditions of prayer. In order that our prayers may be infallibly heard, according to the promise of Christ, they must be accompanied by certain conditions: 1. We must pray for what is right and fitting, that is, for something pertaining to our salvation. 2. Our prayer must be for ourselves, for our own welfare. This does not mean that we should not also pray for others (to pray for others is a strict duty), but only that prayers offered by others are not infallibly heard, because the malice of those others may defeat our prayers for them. 3. Our prayer should be devout, which means: (a) we should pray with attention and from the heart, since voluntary distractions render prayer not only useless, but sinful; (b) we must really desire what we seek; (c) we must pray with humility, that is with resignation to God's will and with a profound feeling of our lowliness and unworthiness; (d) we should pray with confidence that we shall receive what we ask. The motives for confidence in prayer are the goodness of God, the many favors that have been obtained through prayer, the powerful intercession of Christ, who is our Advocate, and the grace of the Holy Ghost who assists us to pray. 4. We must pray perseveringly, that is, we should not grow tired of prayer if God does not hear us at once, but should continue to pray with increased fervor.

II. The circumstances of prayer. 1. The time. We can pray at all times, but we should pray especially in the morning and at night, that God may bless the labors of the day and protect us while we sleep. The practice of frequent ejaculations during the day consumes but little time, and enables us to pray always. It is not necessary that our prayers be protracted, so long as we give a reasonable amount of time to them. A short prayer well made is far better than a long one poorly done. 2. The place. Of all places the Church is the most suitable for prayer, because it is the house of prayer, and the abode of Christ in the Eucharist; but prayer can very well be made in any place. 3. The posture of prayer. Prayers should be made in a becoming and respectful posture, e.g., on the knees, with folded or outstretched hands, or the like; but they may also be said while walking, resting, sitting, or reclining. 4. The method of prayer. Prayer is not restricted to any particular method, such as the prayer book, the beads, or any set form of words, although those prayers which have the approbation of the Church and the Liturgy are the most useful and salutary. Mental prayer, which consists in thought alone, is superior to vocal prayer; but the latter should not be neglected, because it stimulates fervor and enables both the body and the soul to join in prayer.

LESSONS. 1. We must try to give to our prayers those necessary conditions which make them of infallible efficacy. 2. In order that our prayers may not be wanting, we should prepare ourselves before hand, remotely, by good habits of life, by the practice of charity and humility, and by reverence for God and holy things; proximately, we should recollect ourselves before prayer, so as to banish distractions and raise our minds and hearts to God. 3. The practice of having evening family prayers in common, and of saying grace before and after meals should be cultivated in every Catholic household.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part IV

I. PREPARATION FOR PRAYER: In Scripture we read: "Before prayer, prepare thy soul, and be not as a man that tempteth God."(1) He tempts God who prays well but acts badly, and while he converses with God allows his mind to wander.

Since, then, the dispositions with which we pray are of such vital importance, the pastor should teach his pious hearers how to pray.


The first disposition, then, which should accompany our prayers, is an unfeigned humility of soul, an acknowledgment of our unworthiness, and a conviction that, when we approach. God in prayer, our sins render us undeserving, not only of receiving a propitious hearing from Him, but even of appearing in His presence.

This preparation is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. "He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble," says David, "and he hath not despised their petition." (2) "The prayer of him that humbleth himself," says Ecclesiasticus, "shall pierce the clouds." (3) Many other passages of the same kind will suggest themselves to the learned pastor. Hence we abstain from citing them here.

Two examples, however, at which we have already glanced, and which are apposite to our purpose, we shall not pass over in silence. The publican, "who, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes toward heaven," (4) and the woman, a sinner, who, moved with sorrow, washed the feet of Christ our Lord, with her tears,(5) illustrate the great efficacy which Christian humility imparts to prayer.


The next disposition is a feeling of sorrow, arising from the recollection of our past sins, or, at least, some sense of regret, that we do not experience that sorrow. If the sinner bring not with him to prayer both, or, at least one of these dispositions, he cannot hope to obtain the pardon of his sins.


There are some crimes, such as violence and murder, which are in a special way obstacles to the efficacy of our prayers, and we must, therefore, preserve our hands unstained by outrage and, cruelty. Of such crimes the Lord says by the mouth of Isaias; "When you stretch forth your hands, I will turn away my eyes from you; and when you multiply prayer, I will not hear, for your hands are full of blood."(6)

Anger and strife we should also studiously avoid, for they have great influence in preventing our prayers from being heard. "I will that men pray in every place," says St. Paul, "lifting up pure hands, without anger and contention."(7) Implacable hatred of any person on account of injuries received is another obstacle to the efficacy of prayer, which we must; guard against; for while we are under the influence of such feelings, it is impossible that we should obtain from God the pardon; of our sins. "When you shall stand to pray," says our Lord, "forgive, if you have aught against any man;"(8) and, "if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences."(9)

Hardness and inhumanity to the poor we should also scrupulously avoid. For concerning men of this kind it was said: "He that stoppeth his ear against the cry of the poor, shall also cry himself, and shall not be heard."(10)


What shall we say of pride? How much it offends God, we learn from these words: "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." (11) What of the contempt of the divine oracles ? "He that turneth away his ears," says Solomon, "from hearing the law, his prayer shall be an abomination." (12)

Here, however, we are not to understand that we are forbidden to pray for the forgiveness of the injuries we have done to our neighbor, of murder, anger, insensibility to the wants of the poor, of pride, contempt of God's word, in fine, of any other sin.


Faith is another necessary quality for this preparation of soul. Without faith, we can have no knowledge of the omnipotence or mercy of God, which are the sources of our confidence in prayer, as Christ, our Lord Himself has taught: "All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive." (13) St. Augustine, speaking of this faith, thus comments on our Lord's words: "Without faith prayer is useless.(14)

The chief requisite, therefore, of a good prayer is, as we have already said, a firm and unwavering faith. This the Apostle shows by a strong antithesis: "How shall they call on him whom they have not believed?"(15) Believe, then, we must, both in order to pray, and that we be not wanting in that faith which renders prayer fruitful. For it is faith that leads to prayer, and it is prayer that gives strength and firmness to faith. This is the meaning of the exhortation of the martyr Ignatius, to those who would approach the throne of God in prayer: "Be not of doubtful mind in prayer; blessed is he who hath not doubted." Wherefore, to obtain from God what we ask, faith, and an assured confidence, are of first importance, according to the admonition of St. James: "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." (16)


There is much to inspire us with confidence in prayer. Among these are to be numbered the beneficence and bounty of God, displayed towards us, when He commands us to call Him "Father," thus giving us to understand that we are His children. Again there are the numberless instances of those whose prayer have been heard.

Further we have the mediation of our chief advocate, Christ the Lord, who is ever ready to assist us, as we read in St. John: "If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just; and he is the propitiation for our sins."(17) In like manner Paul the Apostle says: "Christ Jesus, that died, yea, that is risen also again, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (18) In his epistle to Timothy the same Apostle writes: "For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus";(19) and to the Hebrews he writes: "Wherefore, it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high-priest before God."(20) Unworthy, then, as we are, of obtaining our requests, yet considering and resting our claims upon the dignity of our great Mediator and Intercessor, Jesus Christ, we should hope and trust most confidently, that, through His merits, God will grant us all that we ask in the proper spirit of prayer. Finally, the Holy Ghost is the author of our prayers; and under His guiding influence, we cannot fail to be heard. "We have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry, Abba, (Father)." This Spirit succors our infirmity and enlightens our ignorance, in the discharge of the duty of prayer; nay, even, as the Apostle says. He "asketh for us with unspeakable groanings." (21)

Should we, then, at any time waver, not being sufficiently strong in faith, let us say, with the Apostle, "Lord, increase our faith"; (22) and, with the man mentioned in the Gospel, "Help my unbelief."(23)


But what most ensures the accomplishment of our desires, is the union of faith and hope with that correspondence on our part to the will of God, which makes us conform all our thoughts, actions, and prayers to God's law and pleasure. "If," He says, "you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you." (24)

In order, however, that all our prayers may be thus graciously heard, we must, as was previously observed, forget all injuries, cherish sentiments of good will, and practice kindness towards our neighbor.

II. HOW TO PRAY WELL: The manner of praying is also a matter of the highest moment. Though prayer in itself is good and salutary, yet if not performed in a proper manner it is unavailing. Often we do not obtain what we ask, because, in the words of St. James, we ask amiss.(25) The pastor, therefore, will instruct the faithful in the best manner of private and public prayer, and in the rules which have been delivered on this subject, according to the teaching of Christ our Lord.


We must, then, pray "in spirit and in truth";(26) for the Heavenly Father seeks those who adore Him in spirit and in truth. He prays in this manner whose prayer proceeds from an interior and intense ardor of soul.(27)

This spiritual manner of praying does not exclude the use of vocal prayer. Nevertheless, that prayer, which is the vehement outpouring of the soul, deservedly holds the first place; and, although not uttered with the lips, it is heard by Him to whom the secrets of hearts are naked and open. He heard the silent prayer of Anna, the mother of Samuel, of whom we read, that she prayed, shedding many tears and only moving her lips.(28) Such was also the prayer of David, for he says: "My heart hath said to thee, my face hath sought thee." (29) In reading the Bible one will meet many similar examples.


But vocal prayer has also its advantages and necessity. It quickens the attention of the mind, and kindles the fervent devotion of the heart. "We sometimes," says St. Augustine, in his letter to Proba, "animate ourselves to more lively sentiments of devotion by having recourse to words and other signs; filled with pious emotion, we find it impossible at times to restrain the current of our feelings, and accordingly we express them in words; for while the soul exults with joy, the tongue should also give utterance to that exultation."(30) Vocal prayer, as we know from numerous passages of the Acts of the Apostles, and of the Epistles of St. Paul, was used by the Apostles; and, following their example, it becomes us also to offer to God the entire sacrifice of soul and body.


There are two sorts of vocal prayer, private and public. Private prayer is employed in order to assist interior attention and devotion; whereas, in public prayer, which has been instituted to excite the piety of the faithful, and has been prescribed for certain fixed times, the use of words is indispensably required.


This practice of praying in spirit is peculiar to Christians and is not at all used by infidels. Of these Christ our Lord has said: "When you pray, speak not much, as the heathens; for they think that in their much speaking they may be heard. Be not ye, therefore, like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you before you ask him."(31)

But though our Lord prohibits loquacity. He is so far from forbidding continuance in prayer which proceeds from the eager and prolonged devotion of the soul that by His own example He exhorts us to such prayer. Not only did He spend whole nights in prayer,(32) but also, "prayed the third time, saying the selfsame words."(33) The inference, therefore, to be drawn from the prohibition is, that prayers consisting of mere empty sounds are not to be addressed to God.(34)


Neither do the prayers of the hypocrite proceed from the heart; and against the imitation of their example, Christ our Lord warns us in these words: "When ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites that love to stand and pray in the synagogues, and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Amen I say, to you they have received their reward. But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee."(35) Here the word "chamber" may be understood to mean the human heart, which we should not only enter, but should also close against every distraction from without that could deprive our prayer of its perfection. For then will our heavenly Father, who sees perfectly our hearts and secret thoughts, grant our petitions.


Another necessary condition of prayer is constancy. The great efficacy of perseverance, the Redeemer exemplifies by the conduct of the judge, who, while "he feared not God, nor regarded man," yet overcome by the persistence and importunity of the widow, yielded to her entreaties.(36) In our prayers to God we should, therefore, be persevering.

We must not imitate the example of those who become tired of praying, if, after having prayed once or twice, they succeed not in obtaining the object of their prayers. We should never be weary of the duty of prayer, as we are taught by the authority of Christ our Lord and of the Apostles. And should the will at any time fail us, we should beg of God by prayer the strength to persevere.


The Son of God would also have us present our prayers to the Father in His name; for, by His merits and the influence of His mediation, our prayers acquire such weight that they are heard by our heavenly Father. For He Himself says in St. John:

"Amen, Amen, I say unto you, if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name: ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full";(37) and again: "Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do."(38)


Let us imitate the fervor of the saints in prayer; and to petition let us unite thanksgiving, imitating the example of the Apostles, who, as may be seen in the Epistles of St. Paul, always observed this salutary practice.


To prayer let us unite fasting and alms-deeds. Fasting is most intimately connected with prayer. For the mind of one who is filled with food and drink is so borne down as not to be able, to raise itself to the contemplation of God, or even to understand what prayer means.(38)

Alms-deeds have also an intimate connection with prayer. For what claim has he to the virtue of charity, who possessing the means of affording relief to those who depend on the assistance of others, refuses help to his neighbor and brother? How can he, whose heart is devoid of charity, demand assistance from God unless while imploring the pardon of his sins, he at the same time humbly beg of God to grant him the virtue of charity?

This triple remedy was, therefore, appointed by God to aid man in the attainment of salvation. For by sin we offend God, wrong our neighbor, or injure ourselves. The wrath of God we appease by prayer; our offenses against man we redeem by alms-deeds; the stains of our own lives we wash away by fasting. Each of these remedies, it is true, is applicable to every sort of sin; they are, however, peculiarly adapted to those three which we have specially mentioned.



Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall
receive; that your joy may be full.--JOHN xvi. 24.


During the present week we shall celebrate the glorious Ascension of our Lord, a festival which is preceded by three days of solemn prayer, days on which the Litanies of the Saints are chanted and the intercession of all the heavenly Court is invoked that their prayers united with ours may obtain God's benediction upon the fruits of the earth. As if in anticipation of this public petition for graces and favors, the Church in her liturgy for this Sunday, inserts that memorable passage of the holy Gospel, in which our Lord urges upon us the duty of prayer, but of prayer made in His name. Therefore, in order to be in harmony with her spirit, I will, as briefly as possible, set before you concerning this method of prayer, what I have been able to gather for your instruction from the Scriptures, from the writings of those who have interpreted them, and from the devout meditations of saintly men. Let us, then, consider: (1) Why our Lord wishes us to pray in His name. (2) How we shall be able to comply with His wish.


Our Lord wills us to pray in His name, because of our unworthiness directly to hold converse with His eternal Father. That unworthiness is the result of the original sin in which we were born and of our own innumerable personal offenses. For if we intelligently read the first chapters of Genesis, we cannot fail to remark how familiar was man's intercourse with his Maker, as long as he continued faithful to God. God spoke to him and laid before him the condition on which man was to remain in Paradise; He brought before him all the living things of the creation, that from him they might receive their names. But when man had sinned, he hid himself from the face of God, and ventured forth to speak to God only when summoned as a trembling culprit to receive sentence of condemnation. After that sin he was unworthy personally to hold converse with God. He then stood in need of a mediator, of one who should intervene between him and God to present to God every petition for favor and grace. This was man's condition until the coming of Jesus Christ; for all the prayers and the sacrifices offered to God before that event were acceptable only in view of the great Mediator that was to come, and when He did at last appear in the world, clothed in our human nature, mankind had still the necessity to present to God through Him, the great Mediator, their prayers for every blessing of which they stood in need.

Of this unworthiness directly to approach God, and of the necessity for approaching Him only through the mediation of Christ, the Church makes us sensible by means of her Liturgy. For, in that Liturgy, if there is anything that strikes the intelligent reader or the student, it is her sense of man's sinfulness, and consequently of his unworthiness to hold converse with God. Thus, before approaching the altar, both the priest and the people acknowledge their guiltiness and confess their sins. While ascending to the altar, the priest implores God to take both from himself and from all present every sin, that with pure minds they may stand in the holy place. As he bends over the altar before proceeding to read the Introit, he beseeches God, by the merits of the saints whose relics are there present, mercifully to be indulgent to all his sins. On returning to the middle of the altar, he nine times implores God to have mercy on all present by reason of their manifold sins. At the Offertory, he humbly asks God to accept the spotless victim which he, the priest and God's unworthy servant, presents for our own and the people's innumerable offences, negligence, and sins. Before receiving the sacred elements, he appeals for mercy to the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world. Finally, all or nearly all the petitions offered to God by the Church are offered to Him through Jesus Christ: "Per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum."

Therefore, in whatever way we may wish to hold converse with God, whether it is to adore Him or to thank Him, whether it is to ask pardon for sin or to implore graces necessary for salvation, it must be through the mediation of Jesus Christ.

If we wish to adore God, how otherwise can we do it than through Jesus Christ ? For, what is it "to adore God"? It is to praise His divine perfections; it is to recognize His infinite greatness and our own nothingness; it is to humble ourselves beneath His almighty hand; it is to honor His supreme majesty and to reverence Him as our sovereign Lord, the Master of all things from Whom we have received all that we have, all that we are. Now, how can we pay to God this supreme act of worship? We are but wretched creatures, miserable sinners, and from the mouths of sinners worship is not seemly. Therefore, it must be paid to God through Jesus Christ, for God is so great that He cannot be fully honored but by His Son. If we may so speak, God's eyes are turned only upon those who are sprinkled with the blood of Christ; His ears are open only to the voice of Christ. It is in consequence of this truth, as I have said, that all the prayers of the Church are directed to God through Jesus Christ: "Per Christum Jesum Dominum nostrum," and that even the heavenly hosts are said by her to act in like manner. For whether militant or triumphant, she presents herself before God only when clothed in the merits and sprinkled with the Blood of Christ. She recognizes that her adoration and her prayer have weight with God only when presented to Him by the Word Incarnate, and she makes us feel that we can escape the sword of the exterminating angel only when cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb Whom she offers for us. Therefore, when we wish to adore God we must, in Imitation of Holy Church, offer to Him our adoration through Jesus Christ, our High Priest and Mediator.

Adoration, however, is not the only duty that, as creatures, we owe to God. For, when we contemplate the innumerable benefits which He has bestowed upon us, and those which every day, nay well nigh at every moment of the day. He continues to shower upon us, the duty of thanksgiving is urged upon us and it becomes for us a delightful necessity. Now although our very nature itself as well as our reason prompts us to make this offering to God, yet St. Paul does not deem it fitting to leave us to our instincts in this matter and to the almost spontaneous outpouring of thanks that well from a good heart. For the Ephesians to whom he is writing, and for us all he makes it a sort of precept when he says: "Give thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God and the Father" (Eph. v. 20). Hence, according to the Apostle, this species of prayer is to be offered always; it is to be made for all things, whether these seem to us to be adverse or advantageous, to be blessings or misfortunes. Nevertheless, though evidently eager and anxious that His disciples should thus continually and for every occurrence of life send up to God the incense of their gratitude, he does not allow them to infer that they may, in their own name, in their own personality offer this sacrifice to God. He distinctly tells that it must be made "in the name of Jesus Christ." Why does he do so? Because only the Son of God can speak to the Father for us; or, as St. Ambrose expresses the thought: "Christ is our mouth through which we speak to the Father" (De Isaac. Cap. 8). Consequently, only the thanks uttered for us by Him are worthy of the eternal Father's acceptance. It is only natural that as God's children, we should offer to Him the meed of our adoration and our thanks. But are we always loving and obedient children? Do we not sometimes set aside His will and revolt from Him, thus staining our souls with the guilt of deadly sin? Each of us looking into his heart will be able to see, at least in a dim sort of way, the number, the enormity, and the malice of his transgressions.

What then is more natural than that, appalled by our sinfulness, we should fall on our knees and humbly ask for pardon? We are not worthy to win it for ourselves, therefore, we must seek out a mediator to stand between us and God, to screen us from His wrath. Who shall this be, that shall obtain for us pardon, mercy, reconciliation? Is there any other that can do this for us than Jesus Christ? No, there is no other; for, though we may and we ought to implore the intercession of God's saints, yet these being like ourselves only creatures, may intervene between us and God only as secondary mediators, that is to say, by humble prayer. Jesus Christ is the one Mediator for salvation, being made the victim of propitiation for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. Without His intervention, there can be no pardon. Without Him, anything that we may do is worthless in the sight of God. Vain is it for us to fast, to give alms, to macerate our sinful flesh, in order to obtain pardon. These works, though good in themselves, are without merit for eternal life, are barren, fruitless, worthless, unless they are fertilized by union with the all suffering merits of Christ; for, "without that union, we can do nothing" worthy of God's notice or of God's reward. Therefore, in consequence of our inability to satisfy the demands of divine justice, and by so doing to obtain pardon of our sins, our only hope of forgiveness it to approach the Eternal Father through Jesus Christ, to beseech that loving Father not to look on our wrong-doing, but to look on the face of Christ, to regard us as covered by the personality of Him who for our sakes hung upon the Cross.

If, in addition to our service of adoration, thanksgiving, and petition for pardon, we should desire to offer to God supplications for the many graces of which we stand in need in order to win our way into heaven, these supplications must be presented to God, through Jesus Christ. Why is this? It is because Christ has merited them for us. Consequently, in order to obtain these graces from the Father, we must unite ourselves with Christ, and thus united and by that union constituting, as it were, one person with Him, our petitions become worthy of the Father's notice; to them He will lend a willing ear; and will mercifully accord to us the favors for which we plead. Of this our Lord gives us an assurance when He says: "If you remain in me, and my words remain in you; you shall ask whatsoever you will, and it shall be done to you" (John xv. 7). If in addition to the reason already given for the necessity for union with Christ, we ask for another reason that will, perhaps, still further confirm what has been said, we shall find it in the fact that, with respect to God, we are as mendicants are with respect to the wealthy from whom they ask for alms.

When they cry to the rich for aid, they feel convinced that from them they will receive what they desire if their petition is presented in the name of a beloved son or of a beloved daughter: "So we also, when we ask God for graces, are as beggars before Him, and our cry to Him for help is sent up to Him in the name of His beloved Son. What is it that we ask for? It is for God Himself; it is for God's grace; it is for heaven; it is for the possession of eternal glory" (St. Aug.: Sermon 15 De Dom.: c. 2). How else than in the name and for the love of Christ Himself, ought we to ask for favors so great? Of ourselves we deserve nothing, and by reason of our sins we are in God's sight objects of horror; but when we make our petitions in Christ's name, we become in some sort one with Him; we are, as it were, hidden behind Him; we cease to be abominable in God's eyes and we shall, of a certainty, obtain that of which we stand in need: "Amen, Amen I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, He will give it to you." These, then, are the reasons why we should present our petitions to God, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Enlightened by these reasons, and through that enlightenment being made eager to pray to the Father as Jesus would have us pray, we may how consider the qualities that must enter into our prayer in order that it may be said to be made "in the name of Jesus Christ"; or, in other words, how we must pray, in order to comply with our Lord's will.


It will at once occur to every one that a fundamental condition of prayer made in Christ's name must be a firm faith or belief in the Incarnate Word, the God-man, Christ Jesus, as our Mediator, a belief that our prayer is made with His intercession and in virtue of His merits. Without that faith, in vain shall we pray and cry to God; for it is only through Christ that we men have access to God (Ephes. ii. 18). Therefore it is that, speaking of Himself, our Lord says: "I am the gate; I am the way. No man cometh to the Father but by me." This faith must be animated by love of God or charity, by which words I do not mean to say that we cannot pray unless we are in the state of grace, but only that our love of God must be of such a nature as to have in it at least an incipient desire of salvation and of a thorough conversion of heart, concerning which desire St. Paul says: "Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord, depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. ii. 19). Of this departure or separation from what is iniquitous, our common sense will enable us to see the necessity; for it tells us that, if we are at variance with even our fellowmen, and if we wish to obtain from them any favor, our first step must be to reconcile ourselves to them by expressing regret or sorrow for the difference that has arisen. If we will not do this, vain is it for us to hope that between us and them the wall of separation will be broken down. Of necessity, therefore, must we act in the same way if we desire to be reconciled to God. If, by reason of our sins, we are at enmity with Him, sorrow for that which has caused this enmity must first swell up in our hearts. If there, be no sorrow, our prayer will not be granted.


However, prayer, even when animated by faith and charity, requires the further condition of being offered with full confidence in the bounty and mercy of God; for then only can it be said to be made in the name of Christ. To this confidence St. Paul exhorts us. When writing to the Hebrews, he says: "Let us go with confidence to the throne of grace; that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid" (Heb. iv. 16). In these words, he teaches us that confidence is one of the conditions for obtaining mercy and the aid necessary for winning eternal salvation. His doctrine is, if we may say so, still further corroborated by St. James; for that Apostle warns those who with weak or wavering confidence send up their petitions to God, that they need not look for mercy or for aid. Furthermore, to pray in the name of Christ is to ask for those things that will meet with His approval. Whatever pertains to our eternal salvation will of a certainty secure that approval; for He has told us to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. Consequently, when we ask for graces that will enable us to win the crown of eternal life, we may be perfectly certain that we shall obtain them; for our prayer for these graces is made in the name of Christ Who desires our salvation even more earnestly than we ourselves desire it. Nevertheless, we must not be surprised if when we petition for some particular grace pertaining to salvation, as, for instance, freedom from harassing temptations, we do not obtain it; for God knows better than we do, what is advantageous for us. Therefore He does not, in certain cases, give us that for which we crave, but He gives us that of which we stand in greater need. Thus, when St. Paul over and over again asked to be freed from the devil's temptations, God did not grant his prayer. He gave him instead of that for which he craved, strength to repel the onslaughts of Satan and thus to acquire for himself a richer store of merits.


Now, it may be asked, are we allowed to pray for temporal good things? There can be no doubt that we are; for we may lawfully ask for that which we may lawfully enjoy. Hence St. Paul bids us pray for our rulers, that through their wise government we may have peace and tranquillity. Our Lord commands us to pray for our daily bread. The Church encourages us to ask for the fruitfulness of our lands, for good seasons, for health, for prosperity and for numberless other temporal blessings. But in praying for these things which are not essential but only useful and helpful for salvation we shall not pray in the name of Christ unless we ask for them with full submission to God's will, that is to say, if they will contribute to our eternal well being. Thus, when St. Peter prayed to remain on Thabor that he might enjoy the sensible sweetness of the entrancing vision, he was not heard. When the sons of Zebedee asked Jesus that they might sit the one on His right hand and the other on His left, in His heavenly kingdom, their petition also was set aside because they desired to satisfy their ambition. These prayers being for matters of the purely natural order, were not granted. They were not made in Christ's name. Therefore, when we ask for benefits of this kind, our petition should always have in it this condition: "If it is for our advantage, and if God should see that it will profit us unto eternal life."


Lastly, to pray in Christ's name, is to imitate Him in the manner of His prayer. How did He pray? St. Paul tells us that our Lord prayed "with a strong cry and tears," thereby manifesting to us His deep humility when, as man, He held converse with the Father. He joined fasting with prayer, to teach us that mortification should go hand in hand with our petitions to God for that of which we feel the need. He prayed with the profoundest recollection, either kneeling or prostrate on the earth. It is by imitating Him in this His manner of prayer that we shall pray in His name.

From what I have said, you now know both why our Lord bids us pray in His name, and how you are to act in order to carry out His will in this respect. When you examine into the nature of the petitions which you have sent up to heaven, can you say that they have been made with a deep sense of your unworthiness to approach to God, of your nothingness, and consequently, of the necessity for presenting them to God through the mediation of Christ? Have you animated your prayers with the qualities or conditions necessary to make them acceptable to God? You know what those qualities or conditions are. Your prayers should be full of confidence; they should be full of love for your heavenly Father; they should petition for only those things that will contribute to your salvation. Therefore, make now a firm resolve henceforth to pray in this manner and beseech our Lord for the grace that will enable you thus to pray. If you obtain that grace, as you most certainly will obtain it, you will always pray in Christ's name, "and all whatsoever you ask will be granted to you."

1. Eccl. xviii. 23. 2. Ps. ci. 18. 3. Eccl. xxxi. 21.
4. Luke xviii. 13. 5. Luke vii. 37.
6. Isa. i. 15. 7. l Tim.ii.8. 8. Mark xi.25.
9. Matt. vi. 15. 10. Prov. xxi. l3.
11. James iv. 6. I Pet. v. 5. 12. Prov. xxviii. 9. 13. Matt. xxi. 22.
14. Epist. 10. ad Hier. 15. Rom. x. 14. 16. James, i. 6.
17. I John it. 1. 2
19. Rom. viii. 34. 19. I Tim. ii. 5. 20. Heb. ii. 17.
21. Rom. viii. 15, 26. 22. Luke xvii. 5. . 23. Mark ix. 23.
24. John xv. 7. 25. James iv. 3.
26. John iv. 23.
27. On this manner of praying in spirit and in truth see the 17 books of Cyril of Alex. and St. Thomas I, 2. quaest 83. art. 12. 28. I Kings i. 10, 13.
29. Ps. xxvi. 8.
30. St. Aug. ad. Probam. cap. 8, 9, 10.
31. Matt. vi. 7, 8. 32. Luke vi. 12. 33. Matt. xxvi. 44.
34. See Aug. ep. 121. ad Probam, c. 9.
35. Matt. vi. 5, 6.
36. Luke xviii. 2, 3.
37. John xvi. 23, 24. 38. John xiv. 14.
39. See Aug. on Psalm xlii, at the end; lib. de perfect, justitia resp. 17.; St. Leo. senn. i. de jejunio septimi mensis; Petr. Chrys., serm. 43; Bern., in sent. sententia II.