Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, Chapter IX – When We Should Pray

cover of the ebook 'Prayer, Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions, by Father Ferreol Girardey'We should pray to God every day, for we stand every day in need of God’s assistance, of God’s benefits both spiritual and corporal, otherwise our divine Saviour would not have taught it to us in His admirable prayer, the Our Father, in which He enjoins us to ask our Heavenly Father: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Wherefore, he who through willful neglect, would not pray once a day, would be guilty of a venial sin. He who would neglect all prayer for a whole month, or for two months, would commit a grievous sin for neglecting for such a long time to give to God the honor he owes Him by expressing his belief and confidence in God and the love he owes Him; such is the teaching of Saint Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church.

For our daily prayer there is no special time prescribed, so that he who prays to God at any time during the day, would thereby satisfy his obligation towards God; this is the general rule; nevertheless, there are circumstances in which we would be bound at once to pray, and even to pray many times during the day, such as, whenever and as often as a violent temptation to sin arises and assails us, or we are in danger of death, or have to receive a sacrament.

A good Catholic always says his morning prayers, as we shall see later on. Before his meals he asks God to bless him and his food, and after his meals he thanks Him for providing him with food and other benefits, for in the Old Law this was even a special command: “When thou shalt have eaten, . . . take heed diligently lest thou forget the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:12,13) “For all these things bless the Lord, that made thee, and replenished thee with all His good things” (Eccli. 32:17). A good Catholic, when at work, follows the admonition of Saint Ambrose and renders his work meritorious: “We can follow no better order in our employments,” says the saint, “than to begin and end them with God.” By doing this we sanctify our work and “lay up treasures in heaven” which no one can deprive us of, as our divine Saviour declares (Matthew 6:20).

In the next place, we should never omit to say the Night Prayers before retiring to rest, as will be said further on. Prayer is as necessary for our spiritual life, for the life of our soul, as breath and food are necessary for our body, as water is necessary for a fish. It is especially necessary when the life of our soul is in danger. As long as we are on earth we cannot escape temptation, and temptation is always more or less dangerous to the spiritual life of our soul. People are lost, not because they wish to be lost, nor because they lack the resolution to avoid sin, but because they neglect to pray when they are assailed by temptation. We are never more weak or more helpless, or more in need of God’s help, than when temptation to sin assails us. God will then surely help us, if we pray to Him for help; but if we do not pray then, we shall be left to our own weakness and easily yield to the temptation and fall into sin. However strong and persistent the temptation, we can surely overcome it, if we at once pray to God to help us, and persist in prayer until we have got rid of it, for prayer will obtain for us God’s grace, which will enable us to overcome temptation, as God Himself declared to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (II Corinthians 12:9). Hence whenever we are aware of a temptation assailing us, let us at once say in our heart: “My God, help me! Jesus, Mary, help me! Jesus and Mary, do not let me yield to this temptation and offend God!” Saint Alphonsus declares that he who remembers that in temptation he pronounced devoutly the names of Jesus and Mary, in order to obtain their help, may feel assured that he did not yield to the temptation.

We should pray also in all our afflictions, troubles, trials, pains, crosses and sufferings, in all the dangers we meet with, and implore of God, patience to bear them, and holy resignation to His will in our regard, so that they may be profitable to our salvation as a means of atoning for our sins and laying up for us treasures of merit in heaven. Let us in all our wants with a childlike confidence ask our Father in heaven to come to our relief. And whenever our prayers have been heard, when ever God has bestowed any benefit upon us, let us not fail in the duty of gratitude for His bounty in our regard. This will render us pleasing to God and draw further benefits upon us.

We ought to raise our heart to God from time to time during the day either by renewing our good intention or by some short prayer, such as an act of divine love, as we shall see further on. We should pray whenever we receive a sacrament, or when we are in church, not only during divine service, but even at other times, especially if the Blessed Sacrament is therein. Finally, if there is a time when we should pray, and pray most earnestly, it is when we are in danger of death, and about to appear before the divine Judge to give an account of our whole life and receive our eternal sentence!

Morning Prayers

“To Thee (O God,) will I pray in the morning. Thou shalt hear my voice. In the morning I will stand before Thee.” (Psalm 5:4) It is most appropriate and becoming to follow the example of the royal psalmist, who often alleges his own example of praying to God in the earliest part of the day, as we can see by the following verses of the psalms: “It is good to give praise to the Lord, . . . and to show forth Thy mercy in the morning” (Psalm 91:2,3); “O God, my God, to Thee do I watch at the break of day” (Psalm 62:2); “My eyes to Thee have prevented (anticipated) the morning, that I might meditate in Thy word.” (Psalm 118:148) Let us heed the admonition of the Holy Ghost, and never fail to say our morning prayers: “We ought to forestall the sun to bless God and adore Him at the dawning of light” (Wisdom 16:28); “The wise man will give his heart to resort early to the Lord that made him” (Eccli. 39:6,7). Why should we say our morning prayers? “Because,” says Saint Ambrose, “we owe to God the first affections of our heart, the first sound of our voice, the first words of our lips.” It is meet that we should give to the Almighty, our Creator and Sovereign Lord, our first thoughts of the day, thanking Him for having preserved us during the night, and asking Him to bless, help and protect us during the day, and making Him an offering of ourselves and of all our thoughts and actions of the day which has just begun. Every one, however busy he may be, can easily do this much every morning, for this takes only a minute or two and can be done whilst we are dressing; our other prayers may be postponed to a more convenient time. More over, as Saint John Climacus says, “we should give to God the first fruits of the day, and the whole day will belong to God,” and will be profitable to our soul. How unchristian, how impolite and unjust is he, who after prolonging his sleep out of sloth beyond his needs, to have no thought of God, his Lord and Benefactor, or for Him! The following is a short but comprehensive formula for our MORNING PRAYER. (When you awake, offer your first thoughts to God, saying: O my God I give my self entirely to Thee. Then whilst rising make the sign of the cross.) O my God, prostrate before Thee, I adore Thy boundless Majesty; I love Thine infinite Goodness above all things; I thank Thee for all the benefits Thou hast conferred on me, especially for having preserved me during this night. In union with the merits of Jesus Christ, I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts, words, actions and sufferings of this day. I offer them to Thy glory and for the salvation of my soul. With the help of Thy grace I purpose this day to avoid sin and all the occasions of sin! I offer all the indulgences I can gain for the souls in purgatory. O my God, for the love of Jesus Christ, preserve me this day from all sin. And Thou, O my Jesus, grant by Thy merits that I may always be faithful to Thee. O Mary, my Mother, bless me this day and protect me from all evil. My holy Guardian Angel and all my Patron Saints, pray for me. Amen.

Then add three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and one Our Father and one Hail Mary in honor of your holy Patron.

Before beginning an action, make a good intention, saying: All for Thee, O My Jesus, all for Thee.

Night Prayers

Saint Bernard writing on Night Prayers, says: “Suppose you had been blind, deaf and dumb, or a cripple, and a certain physician had, with a wonderful remedy, cured you instantaneously. How grateful you would be to so great a benefactor, when on the night after your cure, you would lay down to rest for the first time in your life in perfect health! And now how can you retire to rest without thanking God, who on that day and every day of your life has given you sight, hearing, speech and the use of your limbs, life and health, and provided you with food and all the other necessaries of life? When you give a small alms to a very needy person, he does not go away without thanking you. And God has fed you and provided for your wants all the day long, and, moreover, to Him you owe all you have and all you are; how can you, how dare you retire to rest at night without a word or a thought of sincere thanks to Him who never ceases to bestow upon you priceless benefits! Your servants, the members of your household bid you good night, and you thank them for it, although it is not in their power to give you a good night! But to God, who alone can give you a good night, you would fail to offer Him due thanks, or a prayer to continue His benefits in your regard! How ungrateful! How wicked is such a conduct!”

Comparatively few Catholics neglect to say some prayers before retiring to rest at night. Those who never pray at night are spiritually in a very bad and dangerous plight, for experience tells us that such persons have practically given up prayer altogether, and there is but little hope of their salvation.

There are many reasons why the father of a family should assemble his whole household every night for night prayers in common, as was the universal custom formerly. He owes this to his house hold on account of his obligation to give them a good example and to see that they perform their duty to God as well as himself. The spirit of charity, union and concord reigns in the families that say their prayers together every night. Moreover, experience proves that a special blessing of God dwells in such families and in each of its members, and that there is no scandal to bring sorrow and shame in their happy homes. May this practice, so Catholic and so pleasing to God, soon become universal among the Catholics of our country! The following is hereby recommended as a short

Formula of Night Prayers

After making the sign of the cross, say: O my God, I thank Thee from my inmost heart for all the graces and benefits Thou hast conferred on me, especially for having called me to the true faith, for having given me Jesus Christ as my Saviour, the Blessed Virgin as my Mother, and for having preserved me this day. (Here briefly examine your conscience: What sins have you committed this day in thought? in word? in action? by omission? After answering inwardly each question, say from your very heart:)

O my God, I have repaid with ingratitude Thy numberless benefits. I detest my sins, because they displease Thee, who art deserving of all my love; I repent of them with my whole heart. Forgive me through the merits of Jesus Christ. Let me not die in my sins as I deserve. I am firmly resolved, with the assistance of Thy grace, not to sin any more, to confess my sins as soon as possible and to amend my life.

O my God, who art the infallible Truth, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, I believe all that the Holy Church proposes to my belief, because Thou hast revealed it to her. I believe that Thou reward the just forever in heaven and punish the wicked forever in hell. I believe that Thou art One in Essence, and three in Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I believe in the incarnation, the passion and the death of Jesus Christ. I thank Thee for having made me a Christian, and I protest that I will live and die in this faith.

O my God, trusting in Thy promises, and because Thou art faithful, powerful and merciful, I hope through the merits of Jesus Christ, for the pardon of my sins, final perseverance and the glory of heaven.

O my God, because Thou art infinite Goodness and worthy of infinite love, I love Thee with my whole heart above all things. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee, and for Thy sake I forgive all who have injured me.

Bless, O Lord, all my relatives and acquaintances and benefactors, my friends and my enemies. Protect, direct and bless our Holy Father the Pope, our bishop and all the bishops and priests of Thy holy Church, my pastor, my confessor, and all my superiors both spiritual and temporal, and all religious. Help the poor, the afflicted, the tempted, the persecuted, prisoners and travelers, the sick and the dying. Convert all heretics, unbelievers and all sinners, assist all in danger of soul and body, and grant perseverance to the just. O God of mercy, have pity also on the suffering souls in purgatory, especially on those for whom it behooves me to pray, and give them eternal rest.

O my God, I beseech Thee to preserve me this night from all evil. I take this rest to please Thee, and with my every breath I intend to love, thank and praise Thee as the saints and angels do in heaven. O Mary, my dear Mother, bless me and protect me and pray for me now and at the hour of my death. Holy Guardian Angel and all my holy Patron Saints, intercede for me. Amen.

(Recite three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and one Our Father and one Hail Mary in honor of your holy Patron. When in bed say:)

It is appointed for me to die once; I know not when, nor where, nor how; but what I do know is that, if I die in mortal sin, I shall be lost! (If you are in mortal sin, make as perfect an act of contrition as you can and resolve to go to confession as soon as possible).

Ejaculatory Prayers

“Where your treasure is,” says our divine Saviour, “there your heart is also” (Luke 12:34). Where our heart is, there also are our thoughts. The lover very often, if not constantly, thinks of his beloved. Whatever his occupations, wherever he may be, his thoughts affectionately revert to his beloved. In like manner, he who loves God very much, often thinks of God, often gives expression in his heart to the love he has for God by short, but fervid, prayers, which are the aspirations of his loving heart to his beloved Lord, who is everywhere present. These short prayers are usually called ejaculatory prayers, be cause they are like fiery darts of love bursting forth from the furnace of divine love pent up in his heart. The more intense the divine love, the more frequent and vehement are these prayers.

It is by means of such prayers that we can fulfill the injunction of Saint Paul to the early Christians: “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17); “Praying at all times in the spirit” (Ephesians 6:18); “I will that men pray in every place” (I Timothy 2:8). We cannot all the time pray or reflect on divine and holy subjects, because it is not physically in our power; but we can frequently during the day recall God’s presence and raise our heart to Him by a short aspiration or prayer, no matter where we are, or in what occupations we may be engaged. This we can do without being observed by any one, with out ceasing or interrupting our employment. Saint Ignatius, even when overburdened with business, was accustomed to raise his heart to God by a fervent ejaculatory prayer every time he heard the clock strike. Saint Alphonsus always found means to recite a short prayer every quarter of an hour. Saint Vincent de Paul, even when in company of the great, would do the same. The example of these saints is imitated by all persons who earnestly endeavor to sanctify themselves, and should be imitated especially by all who can scarcely find time to devote to prayer.

Precious, indeed, are the effects of the habit of making frequent ejaculatory prayers. “He who desires to make progress in divine love,” says the pious and learned Denis the Carthusian, “should very frequently raise his heart to the Lord in terms of affection. If he perseveres in this, he will soon have the happiness to cast out of his heart all worldly attachments and worry, and the love of God will flourish therein.” “He who frequently makes ejaculatory prayers,” says Saint John Chrysostom, “closes the door of his mind and heart to the devil, and prevents him from disturbing him by evil thoughts.” “Often raise your mind and heart to God,” says Saint Francis de Sales, “and therefrom shoot forth fiery short prayers, adoring Him, doing homage to His infinite Majesty, invoking His omnipotence, offering yourself to Him very often during the day, praising His infinite Goodness, manifesting the affections of your heart for Him in every possible way. By doing this with boundless confidence your soul will experience the impressions of the divine protection. Without habitual ejaculatory prayers it will be impossible to lead a truly devout life.” On the other hand, he who perseveres in the habit of making them frequently and fervently, will easily learn how to make mental prayer, and become a man of prayer. A man of prayer is one to whom prayer is a second nature, like breathing, who has no difficulty in having re course to prayer on every occasion, in every want. Some examples of ejaculatory prayers. O my God, I love Thee. My God, I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee with all my heart. Lord, teach me how to pray. Jesus, give me patience. Jesus, help me. Mary, help me. “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.” (Psalm 69:2). O Lord, have mercy on me. For give me, O my Jesus. O my Jesus, make me faithful to Thee. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere. O sweetest Heart of Jesus, I implore that I may love Thee more and more. Blessed be God. Blessed be His holy Name. Blessed be the Name of Jesus. Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. Thy will be done, O my God. Heart of Jesus, burning with love of us, inflame our hearts with love of Thee. Sweet Heart of Jesus, be my love. Saviour of the world, have mercy on us. Virgin Mother of God, pray for us. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee. Mary, my Mother, show thyself a mother to me. Mary, our hope, have compassion on us. Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. Mary, Refuge of sinners, pray for me. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for me. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Saint Joseph, friend of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul; Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony; Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul with you in peace. Holy Guardian Angel, help me, protect and pray for me. By thy holy and Immaculate Conception, O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, purify my body and sanctify my soul. My sweetest Jesus, be not my Judge, but my Saviour. Jesus, my God, I love Thee above all things. Blessed be the most Sacred Eucharistic Heart of Jesus! Divine Heart of Jesus, convert sinners, save the dying, free the holy souls in purgatory. Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, burning with love of us, inflame our hearts with love of Thee.