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Reflections: Prayers & Dvtns. (How to Pray)

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Prayers & Devotions:

How to Pray

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How to Pray



How to Pray

Also See: Catholic Prayer (Topic Page)

"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mt. 6:5-8)

"This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mt. 6:9-13)

"Jesus said to them in reply, 'Have faith in God. Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.'" (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mk. 11:22-25)

"[Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.' He said to them, 'When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.'" (Lk. 11:1-4)

"But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil. A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord. For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given (her) for a covering?" (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 11:3-15)

"He that prays with confidence, obtains whatever he asks." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"He causes his prayers to be of more avail to himself, who offers them also for others." (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"All prayers are good, when these are accompanied by the right intention and good will." (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

"...he who comes to pray should conceal or omit nothing, but pour all out, flying with confidence into the bosom of God, his most loving Father. To this the Sacred Scriptures exhort us in these words: Pour out thy heart before him, cast thy care upon the Lord." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Before prayer, endeavor to realize whose presence you are approaching, and to whom you are about to speak. We can never fully understand how we ought to behave towards God, before whom the angels tremble." (St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church)

"If we wish to refer a petition to men of high station, we do not presume to do without humility and respect; how much more ought we to supplicate the Lord God of all things with humility and pure devotion. And let us be sure that we shall not be heard for our much speaking, but for purity of heart and tears of compunction." (St. Benedict, 6th century A.D.) 

"...prayer without humility obtains nothing... Even common sense tells us that prayer, to be good, must be humble. Should a poor man beg alms in haughty and imprudent manner, he would be despised by every person; for to beg and to be proud at the same time is an abominable thing... If humility, then, is required from men with asking a favor of their fellowmen, how much more will it not be required from us by the Lord of heaven and earth, when we address Him...?" (Muller)

"Anyone who has the habit of speaking before God's majesty as if he were speaking to a slave, careless about how he is speaking, and saying whatever comes into his head and whatever he's learned from saying prayers at other times, is in my opinion not praying. Please, God, may no Christian pray in this way." (St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church)

"...if your neighbor has injured you in any respect, when you pray to God your Father, beg of Him not only to deliver you from evil, that is, from the injuries which your neighbor inflicts; but also to rescue your neighbor from the power of the devil, whose wicked suggestions impel men to wrong." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Aspire to God with short but frequent outpourings of the heart; admire His bounty; invoke His aid; cast yourself in spirit at the foot of His cross; adore His goodness; treat with Him of your salvation; give Him your whole soul a thousand times in the day." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church) 

"Certainly our customary prayers ought to be said with giving of thanks, when we rise from sleep, when we go forth, when we prepare to receive food, after receiving it, and at the hour of incense, when at last we are going to rest." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church) 

"It is better to say one Pater Noster (Our Father) fervently and devoutly than a thousand with no devotion and full of distraction." (St. Edmund)

"It is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are full of wrath." (St. Ephraem the Syrian, Doctor of the Church)

"In Scripture we read: Before prayer, prepare the soul, and be not as a man that tempteth God. He tempts God who prays well but acts badly, and while he converses with God allows his mind to wander...the dispositions with which we pray are of such vital importance..." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Our prayers become effective through almsgiving; life is redeemed from dangers by almsgiving; souls are delivered from death by almsgiving." (St. Cyprian of Carthage)

"[T]he prayer best made and most pleasing to God, is that which leaves behind it the best results, proved by works; and not those sweetnesses which end in nothing but our own satisfaction." (St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church)

"Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with God. Speak with familiarity and confidence as to your dearest and most loving friend. Speak of your life, your plans, your troubles, your joys, your tears. In return, God will speak to you - not that you will hear audible words in your ears, but words that you will clearly understand in your heart. These may be feelings of peace, hope, interior joy, or sorrow for sin" (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"Stretch forth your hand towards God as an infant towards its father to be conducted by Him." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"We must be like the shepherds in the fields during the winter. They have a fire, but from time to time they search about for sticks to keep it alive. If we knew how to keep up the fire of the love of God in our heart by prayers and good works, it would not go out." (St. John Vianney)

"When we pray with attention and humility of mind and heart, we quit the earth and rise to Heaven. We reach the outstretched arms of God. We talk with the angels and the saints." (St. John Vianney)

"Let us, therefore, approach him in holiness of soul, lifting up to him pure and undefiled hands, loving our gentle and compassionate Father who made us his chosen portion." (Pope St. Clement I, circa 95 A.D.)

"Holy Church does not teach us to pray for ourselves in particular, but always for ourselves and for our Christian brethren." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"...the best way of praying is to use the prayers of the Church." (Gueranger)

"For prayer to be effective our petitions should be for benefits worthily to be expected from God. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss (Jms. 4:3)." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"All that should be sought for in the exercise of prayer is conformity of our will with the divine will, in which consists the highest perfection." (St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church)

"Those who pray should not come to God with fruitless or naked prayers. Petition is ineffectual when it is barren entreaty that beseeches God." (St. Cyprian, 3rd century A.D.)

"The only way to pray is to pray; and the way to pray well is to pray much. If one has no time for this, then one must at least pray regularly. But the less one prays, the worse it goes." (Chapman)

"Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon you." (St. Ignatius Loyola)

"Center your prayers on the giver, not on the gifts...Are you truly seeking God or his benefits? Are you looking to his hands or to His heart?"

"When we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything except the object of its prayer." (St. Cyprian, 3rd century A.D.)

"Since, then, says the holy Abbot Nilus, our will is so acceptable to God, we ought, in our prayers, to ask of him the grace, not that we may do what he will, but that we may do all that he wishes us to do." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"There are two things necessary for one that prays; that he ask earnestly; and that he ask such things as he ought to ask." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"Never undertake any work or any action without first raising your mind to God and directing to him with a pure intention the action you are about to perform." (St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina)

"[T]he mind that is excited by passions and enervated by pleasure is insensible to the delights of heavenly things, and makes cold and neglectful prayers quite unworthy of being accepted by God" (Pope Leo XIII, "Octobri Mense", 1891)

"You do not then pray in order to teach God your wants, but to move Him, that you may become His friend by the importunity of your applications to Him, that you may be humbled, that you may be reminded of your sins." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"How speedily are the prayers of people who do good works heard! For it is precisely in fasting, almsdeeds and prayer that our righteousness in this life consists. Would you have your prayers fly to God equip them with the two wings of fasting and almsdeeds." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"He says, Sit you here, while I go and pray yonder (Mt. 26:36), because the disciples adhered inseparably to Christ; but it was His practice to pray apart from them, therein teaching us to study quiet and retirement for our prayers" (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"A person who is about to make a request to a secular prince takes pains to compose himself and his words by decent dress, becoming gesture, regulated speech and close attention of mind. How much more careful ought he to be in all these things when he is about to pray to almighty God in a sacred place!" (Council of Basel)

"When we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? Or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?" (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

"There are two kinds of prayer, one composed of praise with humiliation, the other of petitions, and more subdued. Whenever then you pray, do not first break forth into petition; but if you condemn your inclination, supplicate God as if of necessity forced thereto. And when you begin to pray, forget all visible and invisible creatures, but commence with the praise of Him who created all things. Hence it is added, And he says to them, When you pray, say, ' Our Father'." (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"We may also understand by the door of the chamber (Mt. 6:6), the mouth of the body; so that we should not pray to God with loudness of tone, but with silent heart, for three reasons. First, because God is not to be gained by vehement crying, but by a right conscience, seeing He is a hearer of the heart; secondly, because none but thyself and God should be privy to your secret prayers; thirdly, because if you pray aloud, you hinder any other from praying near you." (Pseudo Chrys, as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church)

"The best condition for praying well is habitual recollection. It is not without reason that St. Ignatius recommends the man who wishes to pray well to prepare the subject of his prayer on the preceding evening, so as to occupy the memory. Then he goes to rest with these thoughts in his mind; on waking he will call to mind the subject matter of his meditation prepared the evening before, and think quietly about it while dressing. This is the advice of one who was a master of asceticism and also an expert in psychology." (Plus)

"To obtain the object of our prayers it will be found most helpful to reflect within ourselves who we are, - namely children of Adam, exiled from Paradise by a just sentence of banishment, and deserving, by our unworthiness and perversity, to become the objects of God's supreme hatred, and to be doomed to eternal punishment. This consideration should excite in us humility and lowliness. Thus our prayers will be full of Christian humility; and wholly distrusting ourselves, like the publican, we will fly to the mercy of God. Attributing all to His bounty we will render immortal thanks to Him who has imparted to us that Holy Spirit, relying on whom we are embolden to say: Abba (Father)." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"The sacred Scriptures, the fathers, and theologians, tell us that there are three eminent good works which are, at the same time, works of penance: prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds... Look at this centurion [in the Gospel], who comes to our Savior, beseeching Him to heal his servant. His prayer is humble; in all the sincerity of his heart, he deems himself unworthy to receive Jesus under his roof. His prayer is full of faith; he doubts not for an instant that Jesus is able to grant him what he asks. And with ardor he prays! The faith of this Gentile is greater than that of the children of Israel, and elicits praise from the Son of God. Such ought to be our prayer, when we solicit the cure of our souls. Let us acknowledge that we are not worthy to speak to God, and yet, let us have an unshaken confidence in the power and goodness of Him, who only commands us to pray that He may pour out His mercies upon us." (Gueranger)

"We should beseech God that His will be done, not only when our desires are wrong, or have the appearance of wrong. We should ask this even when the object of our desire is not really evil, as when the will, obeying its instinctive impulse, desires what is necessary for our preservation, and rejects what seems to be opposed thereto. When abut to pray for such things we should say from our hearts, Thy will be done, in imitation of the example of Him from whom we receive salvation and the science of salvation, who, when agitated by a natural dread of torments and of a cruel death, bowed in that horror of supreme sorrow with meek submission to the will of His heavenly Father: Not my will but thine be done (Lk. 22:42)." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Jesus Christ has taught us to pray for grace to do the will of God on Earth, as the saints do in Heaven. 'Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven' (Mt. 6:10). Hence St. Teresa says, that 'they who practice prayer, should seek in all things to conform their will to the will of God.' In this, she adds, consists the highest perfection. He that practices it in the most perfect manner, shall receive from God the greatest gifts, and shall make the greatest progress in the interior life." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"It is necessary to introduce into the mind a number of ideas and impressions which will be of use in prayer. Nothing will be of greater assistance than the fixed determination to come into daily close contact with God. To quote the words of the foundress of the Obleates of the Sacred Heart, Louise de Montiagnac: 'It is by accustoming ourselves to making acts of love at regular moments that we shall learn the good habit of being able to turn to God at all times." (Plus)

"Many persons who practice meditation come to prayer without having prepared for it: this, as we have said before, is a psychological error. It is more, it is an indelicacy. I am about to hold converse with God; it is important to emphasize this fact. With the Lord of all. Imagine that an important personage is coming to visit a city. Do you think that those whose business it is to receive him would say: 'It is quite futile to make any preparations beforehand; we shall get through it all right'?" (Plus)

"Anguish of soul, the persistent onslaught of temptation, our lack of virtue, slackness and failure in our works, our many offenses and negligences, fear of the divine judgment, all these should move us to approach the Lord with tears, in order to obtain help from him and also to increase without difficulty the treasure of our merit in his eyes. Nor should our tearful supplication be for ourselves alone. In the deluge of crime, which spreads far and wide, we especially should implore and pray for divine clemency; we should appeal insistently to Christ who in his infinite mercy lavishes his graces in his wonderful Sacrament: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people." (Pope St. Pius X, "Haerent Animo", 1908 A.D.)

"He that prepares not his soul before prayer by forgiving those against whom he has anything, or in some other way disposing himself to devotion, does not do what he can to be heard by God, wherefore he tempts God implicitly as it were. And though this implicit temptation would seem to arise from presumption or indiscretion, yet the very fact that a man behaves presumptuously and without due care in matters relating to God implies irreverence towards Him. For it is written (1 Peter 5:6): 'Be you humbled... under the mighty hand of God,' and (2 Timothy 2:15): 'Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God.' Therefore also this kind of temptation is a species of irreligion." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"The chief requisite...of a good prayer is...a firm and unwavering faith. This the Apostle shows by an antithesis: How shall they call on him whom they have not believed? 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, by removing all doubts, gives strength and firmness to faith. This is the meaning of the exhortation of St. Ignatius to those who would approach 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." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Another necessary condition of prayer is constancy. The great efficacy of perseverance, the Son of God 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. 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 the Lord and of the Apostle. And should the will at any time fail us, we should beg of God by prayer the strength to persevere." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"For there are some who, contrary to the command of Christ, reverse the order of this [Our Lord's] prayer. He who commands us to have recourse to Him in the day of tribulation, has also prescribed to us the order in which we should pray. It is His will that, before we pray to be delivered from evil, we ask that the name of God be sanctified, that His kingdom come, and so on through the other petitions, which are, as it were, so many steps by which we reach this last Petition. Yet there are those who, if their hand, their side, or their foot ache; if they suffer loss of property; if menaces or dangers from an enemy alarm them; if famine, war or pestilence afflict them, omit all the other Petitions of the Lord's Prayer and ask only to be delivered from these evils. This practice is at variance with the command of Christ the Lord: Seek first the kingdom of God. To pray, therefore, as we ought, we should have in view the greater glory of God, even when we ask deliverance from calamities, trials and dangers." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"The first preparation...for prayer is an unfeigned humility of soul, an acknowledgement of our sinfulness, 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 [for example in the following as well as in many other passages]: He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble, and he hath not despised their petitions; the prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds... Two examples...we shall not pass over in silence. The publican, who, standing afar off, would not so much a lift up his eyes toward heaven, and the woman, a sinner, who, moved with sorrow, washed the feet of Christ the Lord, with her tears, illustrate the great efficacy which Christian humility imparts to prayer." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"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 filled with blood. Anger and strife we should also avoid, for they have great influence in preventing our prayers from being heard. Concerning them the Apostle says: I will that men pray in every place, lifting up pure hands, without anger and contention. Implacable hatred of any person on account of injuries received 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, He says, forgive, if you have aught against any man; and, if you will not forgive men, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your offences. Hardness and inhumanity to the poor we should also 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." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Since, however, to obtain what we ask we must pray in a becoming manner, it appears expedient to explain the dispositions with which this prayer should be offered to God...The pastor, then, should admonish the faithful, that he who comes to offer this Petition must first acknowledge, and next feel sorrow and compunction for his sins. He must also be firmly convinced that to sinners, thus disposed and prepared, God is willing to grant pardon. This confidence is necessary to sinners, lest perhaps the bitter remembrance and acknowledgment of their sins should be followed by that despair of pardon, which of old seized the mind of Cain and of Judas, both of whom looked on God solely as an avenger and punisher, forgetting that He is also mild and merciful. In this Petition, therefore, we ought to be so disposed, that, acknowledging our sins in the bitterness of our souls, we may fly to God as a Father, not as to a Judge, imploring Him to deal with us not according to His justice, but according to His mercy." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"He who has redeemed you, has shown you what He would have you do. He would have you be instant in prayer, He would have you ponder in your heart the blessings you are praying for, He would have you ask and receive what His goodness is longing to impart. He never refuses His blessings to them that pray, but rather stirs men up by His mercy not to faint in praying. Gladly accept the Lord's encouragement: be willing to do what He commands, not to do what He forbids. Lastly, consider what a blessed privilege is granted you, to talk with God in your prayers, and make known to Him all your wants, while He though not in words, yet by His mercy, answers you, for He despises not petitions, He tires not but when you are silent." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"To prayer let us unite fasting and almsdeeds. 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. Almsdeeds have also an intimate connection with prayer. For what claims 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 pious prayer; our offenses against man we redeem by almsdeeds; the stains of our own lives we wash away by fasting." (Catechism of the Council of Trent) 

"We must...pray in spirit and in truth; 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... 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 God to whom the secrets of the hearts are 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. Such was also the payer of David, for he says: My heart hath said to thee, my face hath sought thee. 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 fervor of him who prays. We sometimes, says St. Augustine, in his letter to Proba, animate ourselves to intensify of our holy desire by having recourse to words and other signs; filled with vehement ardor and piety, we find it impossible at times not to express our feelings in words; for while the soul exults with joy, the tongue should also give utterance to that exultation. And surely it becomes us to make to God this complete sacrifice of soul and body, a kind of prayer which the Apostles were accustomed to use, as we learn from many passages of the Acts and of the Apostle." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"But to prayer we must also join penance, the spirit of penance, and the practice of Christian penance. Thus Our divine Master teaches us, whose first preaching was precisely penance: 'Jesus began to preach and to say, Do penance' (Matt. iv. 17). The same is the teaching of all Christian tradition, of the whole history of the Church. In the great calamities, in the great tribulations of Christianity, when the need of God's help was most pressing, the faithful either spontaneously, or more often following the lead and exhortations of their holy Pastors, have always taken in hand the two most mighty weapons of spiritual life: prayer and penance. By that sacred instinct, by which unconsciously as it were the Christian people is guided when not led astray by the sowers of tares, and which is none other than that 'mind of Christ' (I Cor. ii. 16) of which the Apostle speaks, the faithful have always felt immediately in such cases the need of purifying their souls from sin with contrition of heart, with the sacrament of reconciliation, and of appeasing divine Justice with external works of penance as well." (Pope Pius XI, "Caritate Christi Compulsi", 1932 A.D.)

"The first thing we must do in prayer is to represent to ourselves, by the help of our memory, the point or mystery which we may wish to be the subject of our prayer. Then the understanding must examine this point, and consider all the particulars of it. Finally, the will must produce acts, according as the understanding has digested the matter which had been proposed to it by the memory. But since this discourse of the understanding is the source whence all our acts in prayer flow, and, since we can make no act which does not, necessarily, spring from this our meditation, it follows that we must be particularly careful to make this well. The truth is, this proposition is self evident, for there is no one that has the least tincture of philosophy but knows that the will is a blind power, unable to attach itself to anything unless the understanding guides it. Hence it is a maxim received by all philosophers, 'that nothing can be willed unless it is first known.' The will, having of itself no light, must borrow it from the understanding, which goes before it to give it knowledge and to discover what it ought to love or hate. It is this that made St. Augustine say that 'we may love the things we never saw, but never those we have not known'; and St. Gregory says, 'No one can love what he is entirely ignorant of.' The reason of this is, that the object of the will being a known good, we cannot love anything but because we perceive it is good and deserving of love; just as, on the contrary, we do not hate a thing or fly from it, unless we conceive it to be bad and deserving of hatred. It is clear, therefore, that the operation of the understanding is the foundation of all our acts in prayer; whence it follows that meditation is most necessary, and that prayer cannot be perfect unless meditation goes before, or accompanies it, as says Hugo of St. Victor." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church) [Note: Original source material attributes the above quotation to St. Alphonsus Liguori. However, we believe the author is A. Rodriguez, S.J.]

"Three conditions are requisite for prayer. First, that the person who prays should approach God Whom he prays: this is signified in the word prayer, because prayer is 'the raising up of one's mind to God.' The second is that there should be a petition, and this is signified in the word intercession. In this case sometimes one asks for something definite, and then some say it is intercession properly so called, or we may ask for some thing indefinitely, for instance to be helped by God, or we may simply indicate a fact, as in John 11:3, 'Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick,' and then they call it insinuation. The third condition is the reason for impetrating what we ask for: and this either on the part of God, or on the part of the person who asks. The reason of impetration on the part of God is His sanctity, on account of which we ask to be heard, according to Daniel 9:17,18, 'For Thy own sake, incline, O God, Thy ear'; and to this pertains supplication which means a pleading through sacred things, as when we say, 'Through Thy nativity, deliver us, O Lord.' The reason for impetration on the part of the person who asks is thanksgiving; since 'through giving thanks for benefits received we merit to receive yet greater benefits,' as we say in the collect (Ember Friday in September and Postcommunion of the common of a Confessor Bishop). Hence a gloss on 1 Timothy 2:1 says that 'in the Mass, the consecration is preceded by supplication,' in which certain sacred things are called to mind; that 'prayers are in the consecration itself,' in which especially the mind should be raised up to God; and that 'intercessions are in the petitions that follow, and thanksgivings at the end.' We may notice these four things in several of the Church's collects. Thus in the collect of Trinity Sunday the words, 'Almighty eternal God' belong to the offering up of prayer to God; the words, 'Who hast given to Thy servants,' etc. belong to thanksgiving; the words, 'grant, we beseech Thee,' belong to intercession; and the words at the end, 'Through Our Lord,' etc. belong to supplication." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

Also See: Asking Great Things of God | Aspirations | Benefits of Prayer | Efficacy of Prayer | Evening Prayer | Exhortations to Prayer | Faith / Prayer | Frequent Prayer | Morning Prayers | Necessity of Prayer | No Prayer is Lost | Obliged Prayer | Perseverance in Prayer | Prayer & Fasting | Prayer & Penance | Prayer & The Blessed Sacrament | Prayer in Our Own Words | Praying for One's Enemies | Problems / Difficulties in Prayer | Public vs. Private Prayer | Rosary | Sacred Heart of Jesus | "Unheard" / "Unanswered" Prayers | What Prayer Is | What We May Pray For | Wordiness in Prayer | Prayer Tips & Insights

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