Prayers for all Occasions, Needs, and Intentions
What Is It?
Prayer is "the raising up of the mind and heart to God," begging His aid and blessing. It forms a considerable part of the worship we owe to God. It may be useful to give an outline of the Catholic teaching on this subject.
Although God gives some graces without being asked, such as the first moving grace of faith, and the grace of prayer, He has other graces necessary for salvation in store only for those who humbly ask for them. It is therefore necessary for those who have the use of reason to pray.
To make use of prayer is not only a counsel but a divine precept: "Watch ye and pray that ye enter not into temptation."
Therefore, to neglect prayer altogether for any great length of time would not only be dangerous but a grievous sin.
There are certain occasions in life in which we are especially bound to pray; as when pressed by a strong temptation which we feel we have not the strength to overcome; or when in danger of death; or when we are about to receive a sacrament, for the due reception of which prayer is required by way of preparation; or in time of great public calamity; and, in general, when there is a particular need of divine assistance.
Let us not to say, God is infinite goodness, He knows all our wants. He will grant us what is needful without asking for it. God requires that we should ask, not because He has need of knowing our wants, or because He is not ready to help us, but that we may, by asking, show our humility and dependence on Him, and enjoy the advantage and honor of praying to Him.
It is a part of the cherished duty of princes and princesses to present themselves morning and evening to their royal parents, to converse with them, to show them their filial love, respect, and gratitude and to make known their wants and wishes to them. No one would object to be a prince merely on account of the task of having to present himself dutifully every day to his parents. surely, if it be a task, it is a sweet one.
Prayer rightly regarded is a sweet duty, and it is a great honor to be allowed to present ourselves before our Creator, the omnipotent King of heaven, to be allowed to call Him Father, to be permitted to communicate with Him, to show Him our reverence, gratitude, and love, and to put our wants before Him. By it we enjoy an opportunity of dutifully acknowledging Him as the source of all good, the Author of our salvation; and of kindling in our hearts love towards Him by that sweet intercourse which prayer procures us, and by the benefits that prayer obtains.
Indeed to render the duty of prayer sweeter still, God does for us what kings and queens do not do for their children. He encourages us to approach Him with confidence, by pledging His word that our petitions shall never be rejected, even if we be in a state of sin like the poor publican or the penitent thief; for, though the prayer of the just is more acceptable to God, according to St. James: "The continual prayer of a just man availeth much" yet Christ says in general, without excluding the sinner: "Every one that asketh receiveth." For, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches: "The efficacy of prayer does not depend on the merit of the person who prays, but on the mercy of God, and on His faithfulness to His promise."
This promise of God, however, does not extend to petitions for things that are not for our spiritual good; as these could not be asked in the name of Jesus Christ, and because God, as a loving Father, would not grant what would be hurtful to us. Such petitions God refuses, as He refused that of the mother of the two sons of Zebedee, saying: "You know not what you ask," but He gives something better instead.
Therefore, when we ask for temporal favors, it should always be with resignation to God's will, and on condition that what we ask is profitable to our souls. Our Savior gave us an example of this resignation when, in the garden of Gethsemane, He besought His eternal Father to take from Him the bitter chalice that was prepared for Him, and then added: "But yet not My will but Thine be done."
Prayer, such as it should be, is always favorably heard. If sometimes our prayers are not answered, it is because we pray amiss, as St. James reminds us. Either because we pray with some lingering attachment to sin, or without attention and devotion; or because we pray without confidence and without humility. Therefore, prayer should be made:
1st, With devotion and attention; such as attention, at least, is requisite as would discourage willful distractions. If we ourselves do not pay attention to what we say, how can we expect that God will attend to it? To this end it is good before praying to remain some moments silent, and consider in Whose presence we are, the suitable attitude in which we should place ourselves, and with what dispositions and feelings we should pray. This is the advice of Ecclesiasticus: "Before prayer, prepare thy soul; and be not as a man that tempteth God."
2nd, With confidence: "nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, which is moved and carried about by the wind." "All things whatsoever you ask when ye pray," says our Lord, "believe that you shall receive: and they shall come unto you." Distrust or diffidence dishonors God; confidence honors God's goodness and faithfulness to His promises.
3rd, With humility. For it is written, "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is an instance of it. And it is also written, "the prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds." If our prayer is made with these conditions, it is sure to be heard with favor.
Sometimes, however, either to try us, or to cause us to value more what we ask for, or to make us pray more earnestly, so that He might afterwards reward us more abundantly, God delays to grant what we ask, as we learn from the parable of the unjust Judge and from the persevering woman of Chanaan.
Therefore we should not be disheartened when the favor is delayed, but recalling to mind those words of Christ: "Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you," We should, full of confidence, persevere in prayer; for that delay is for our good.
We should always pray for others; and this sort of prayer, while it will do good to our neighbor, will not be less, but even more beneficial to us than if we were praying for ourselves alone. The reason is, because our prayer is then grounded on charity. In the Lord's Prayer, which is the model of all prayers, we are taught to pray to our heavenly Father for all others as well as for ourselves.
Therefore, besides praying for ourselves in particular, let us also pray for the conversion of sinners, for the enlightenment of the Jews and of all unbelievers, for the unity of all Christians in the true faith, and for final perseverance in it, for those who are sick or dying, or in any danger, for our parents and relatives, friends and enemies, for those who rule the Church and the nation, for those who suffer persecution, distress of mind, or body, or any other kind of hardship and misery, and this, whether they are near to us or far away; and God the Giver of all good gifts will bestow His blessing both upon them and upon us in abundance, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose blessed name we are always to pray.