Without exaggeration we can say: Whatsoever is truly great in this world is a fruit of prayer. Every man who has achieved something extraordinary in the Church has been a man of prayer. For this reason the beneficent influence of the contemplative orders in the Church is incalculable. The unthinking world calls such religious idlers, yet they are most useful persons.
Christ spent thirty years of His life in prayer and seclusion, and devoted but three years to teaching in public, to show us that the interior, secluded life of prayer is ten times dearer to Him than the active life.
Mary and Joseph, the greatest Saints, led a hidden, interior life of prayer. For the same reason Our Lord said that Mary Magdalen had chosen the “better part” in preference to Martha. This view has ever been held by the Church, for according to the doctrine of the holy Fathers, the contemplative state, the state of prayer, is a necessity for the Church Militant here on earth. This state, above all others, draws down God’s blessing on the Church, wins the battles of the Lord and brings about triumphs for His Spouse, the Church.
As in the Church, so in the family. It is a great favor to have God’s blessing on our work, on our undertakings. But let us never forget, it is prayer that draws down this blessing on our labors. To have peace in the family, to experience joy and comfort in the children, is a fruit of prayer. If our business prospers, if our enterprises succeed, we may owe this to someone who is praying for us, or it may be because we ourselves often kneel down and pray.
Prayer aids us in every necessity of life and gives consolation in affliction. Our Lord invites us, saying, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Ps. 49:15). “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” (Matt. 11:28).
We may also pray for temporal goods, and God will hear our prayer, provided such goods are no obstacle to our attaining salvation. “All things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come to you.” (Mark 11:24).
Our Lord makes no exception. He includes everything, temporal favors as well as spiritual graces. In the Our Father, He commands us to pray for “our daily bread.” God hears our petition for temporal goods; this is likewise the doctrine of the infallible Church. Holy Church knows well that man may plant and water, but God must give the increase. For this reason the Church has ordained the Rogation Days, the three days of prayer and procession preceding the Feast of the Ascension [in the traditional Latin liturgy], to obtain God’s blessing upon the fruits of the earth.
Yes, God grants petitions for temporal favors. Every Christian may and should, therefore, pray for success in business, for the preservation of health, for a bountiful harvest, etc. We must, however, always pray with conformity to the Will of God. How often has God in His infinite goodness most strikingly granted the requests of those who with childlike confidence prayed to Him for prosperity in temporal affairs!
This article is taken from a chapter in Prayer: The Great Means of Grace which is available from TAN Books.