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How to Pray Well

Prayer is the key to salvation, for all good prayer springs forth from a soul grounded in confident faith. In this excerpt, taken from Prayer: The Key to Salvation, Fr. Michael Müller, CSSR discusses the necessary conditions and qualities of efficacious prayer and how much our God desires us to confidently place all our cares, worries, sorrows, and joys in His loving hands.


Our Prayer Must Be Confident

According to the Apostle St. James, one of the principal defects of prayer is a want of confidence in God that He will hear our petition. “Let him,” says the Apostle, “who wavereth [that is, he who has no confidence in the Lord] not think that, when he prays, he will receive anything of Him.” “A diffident prayer,” says St. Bernard, “cannot penetrate into Heaven”; because immoderate fear restrains the soul so much, that, when she prays, she not only has no courage to raise herself to Heaven, but she dares not even so much as stir. Now she hopes to be heard, then she doubts, saying to herself: “I shall obtain what I ask; no, I shall not. God will grant what I pray for; no, He will not do so, or He will do so when too late. He will give it sparingly. I deserve to be heard; no, I do not deserve it. I am worthy of it; no, I am unworthy of it. God is merciful and liberal; but He is also a just God. His mercy is great, but my sins are too numerous and too great to be heard.”

Three Qualities of Good Faith

St. Peter, also, when walking upon the water at the command of Jesus, and perceiving the great wind, began to doubt, and lose confidence in the word of his Master. Our Lord reproached him for it, saying: “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Therefore, if we wish to be heard in prayer, we must, as the Apostle says, “pray with faith.” But this faith, to be good, must have three qualities: First, it must be the right faith in its true meaning, free from hesitation or doubt, as otherwise it would be infidelity or heresy; secondly, it must include confidence, or certain, firm hope, free from diffidence or despair; and thirdly, it must comprise a firm conviction of obtaining what we ask, excluding all wavering, or the fear of not obtaining what we ask.

Good Faith Makes Prayer Efficacious

This threefold faith makes prayer efficacious. It is, indeed, a great gift of the Lord to a soul, and almost a certain sign that He will hear her prayer, even though a miracle should be necessary to that effect, should this be for our good, or for the manifestation of the truth, and the glory of the Church. This is that wonder-working faith, that is, faith joined to a firm confidence in God’s aid for the working of the miracle. This confidence is produced by an interior impulse of the grace of God, who animates the thaumaturgus (the performer of the miracle), promising him, as it were, His assistance for the miracle which he intends to work. Of this confidence Jesus Christ says: “Amen, I say to you, if you shall have faith and stagger not, not only this of the fig tree shall you do, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Take up and cast thyself into the sea, it shall be done. And all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” (Matt. 21:21–22).

Our Lord’s Words on Prayer

I wish here to call attention to the fact, that, when our Lord Jesus Christ exhorts us to pray, he never uses the expressions: If you ask anything of “your Creator,” of “your Lord,” of “your God,” and the like, He will give it to you. He always says: “If you ask the Father anything.”

But whenever our Blessed Lord speaks of prayer, and wishes us to beg for His graces and gifts, He employs the sweet and most amiable name of Father. “Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9). And again: “Thou, when thou shalt 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.” (Matt. 6:6). And again: “Amen, amen I say to you, if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you.” (John 16:23). “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask for them.” (Matt. 7:11). 

Pray to Your Heavenly Father

Thus Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us that, when we pray to God, we should not address Him as the Almighty, the Creator, or the Saviour, but we should address Him as our Father. The name of Father is most pleasing to God. By calling Him our Father, we give Him more honor than by any other title. According to St. Cyril, “It is something far greater in God to be Father than to be Lord; as Father, He generates His Son, who is equal to Himself; but as Lord, He has created the universe, which is infinitely less than Himself.” (Lib. 1, Thesauri, chap. 6).

This article is taken from a chapter in Prayer: The Key to Salvation by Father Michael Müller, CSSR which is available from TAN Books

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