Let us also reflect on the necessity of prayer. St. Chrysostom says that, as the body without the soul is dead, so the soul is dead without prayer. He also teaches that, as water is necessary to prevent the decay of plants, so prayer is necessary to preserve us from perdition. God wills that all men be saved (1Tim 2:4DR. See NIV and AMP and NAB), - and is unwilling that any be lost. The Lord. . . dealt patiently for Your sake, not willing that any one should perish, but that all should return to penance. (2 Peter 3:9DR; NIV-AMP, NAB) But he also wishes that we ask him for the graces necessary for salvation. For, on the one hand, it is impossible for us to observe the divine commands, and save our souls, without the actual assistance of God; and on the other, ordinarily speaking, God will not give us his graces unless we ask them from him, Hence the holy Council of Trent has declared that God has not commanded impossibilities; because he either gives us the proximate and actual grace to fulfill his precepts, or he gives us the grace to ask him for this actual aid. (session 6, c 11.) St. Augustine teaches, that God gives without prayer the first graces, such as vocation to the faith and to repentance; but all other graces, and particularly the gift of perseverance, he gives only to those who ask them.
Hence, theologians, after St. Basil, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, Clement of Alexandria, and others, teach, that for adults prayer is necessary as a means of salvation; so that, without it, it is impossible to be saved. And the most learned Lessius says that this doctrine must be held as of faith.
The Scriptures are clear on this point. We
ought always to pray.(
Luke 18:1 DR; NAB;
) Pray, lest you enter into
22:40 DR; NAB;
Ask, and You shall receive.(Matt.
7:7 DR; NAB;
) Pray without
Thess. 5:17 DR; NAB;
) The words, we ought pray, ask, according to St. Thomas
part, qu. 39, art. 5; on
prayer, and Christ's
prayer.) and the generality of
theologians, imply a strict precept, which binds under grievous sin
particularly in three cases. First, when a person is in the state of
sin; secondly, when he is in danger of death; and thirdly, when he is
in great danger of falling into sin. Theologians teach that,
ordinarily, he who neglects prayer for a month, or at most, for two
months, is guilty of a mortal sin (Less., loco citato). The
reason is, because prayer is a means without which we cannot obtain
the helps necessary for salvation.
Ask, and you shall receive. He who asks, receives; then, says St. Teresa, he who does not ask, does not receive. And before her, St. James said the same thing. You have not, because you ask not.(James 4:2 DR; NIV ; NAB) Prayer is particularly necessary to obtain the virtue of continence. And said the wise man, as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it, . . . I went to the Lord, and besought Him. Let us conclude this point. He who prays, is certainly saved; he who does not pray, is certainly lost. All the elect are saved by prayer; all the damned are lost by neglect of prayer, and their greatest despair is, and will be forever, caused by the conviction, that they had it in their power to save their souls so easily by prayer, and that now the time of salvation is no more.
Ah, my Redeemer how have I been able hitherto to live in such forgetfulness of You? You were prepared to grant me all the graces that I should ask of you; you only waited for me to ask them. But I have thought only of indulging my senses, and have been indifferent about the privation and loss of your love and of your grace. Lord forget all my ingratitude, and have mercy on me. Pardon me all the displeasure I have given you, and grant me perseverance. O God of my soul give me the grace always to ask your aid not to offend you. Do not permit me to be, as I have hitherto been, negligent in the performance of this duty. Grant me light and strength always to recommend myself to you, and particularly when my enemies tempt me to offend you again. Grant, O my God this grace through the merits of Jesus Christ, and through the love which you bear to him. O Lord I have offended you enough. I wish to love you during the remainder of my life. Give me your love; and may this love remind me to ask your aid whenever I am in danger of losing you by sin. Mary, my hope after Jesus through your intercession I hope for the grace to recommend myself in all my temptations to you and to your Son. Hear me, O my Queen, through the love which you bear to Jesus Christ.
Rev. Eugene Grimm, editor, Preparation for Death or "Considerations on the Eternal Truths" by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Redemptorist Fathers, NY (1926) pp. 304-306. Imprimatur, Patrick Cardinal Hayes, July 26, 1926.
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