We turn today to the Doctor of Morals, St Alphonsus Liguori, from whom we learn the necessity and value of prayer.
The grace of prayer is available to all.
St. Alphonsus Liguori emphasized that prayer is truly possible to all adults. There is none who is unable to pray. Surely, it is true that many are incapable of the prayer of quiet, nay even of any form of mental prayer . Yet, each is able to make at least some short but fervent petition to our Lord by which more grace for greater prayer can be gained.
This grace of prayer, a prayer by which we beg the Almighty to take pity on our lowliness, is a grace available to all people – even to the worst of sinners, and at the moment of death. None can claim that they have received no talents from God, for at least this grace is given and always available to all.
If a man should cooperate with this grace, and make some little prayer of petition to God, more grace would be given. As this new grace finds a soul cooperative to its mighty works, yet greater graces still are bestowed. Thus, by cooperating with this ever-ready grace of prayer, the soul wins more and more graces which make her capable of truly great and heroic acts.
By prayer, every other needed grace is gained
Consider the following two quotations St. Alphonsus’ most important work, “The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection”
“If we do not pray, we have no excuse, for the grace of prayer is given to everyone … if we are not saved, the whole fault will be ours, because we did not pray.” (Chapter II)
“We are so poor that we have nothing; but if we pray we are no longer poor.” (Chapter II)
On August 1st, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI took occasion to comment on these words in the Angelus Address on St. Alphonsus’ feast day:
“More than anything else, we need [God’s] liberating presence, which truly makes our lives fully human and therefore full of joy. And it is only through prayer that we are able to welcome him and his grace, which by enlightening us in every situation, enables us to discern the true good, and by strengthening us, makes our will effective; that is, it enables us to do the good that is known. Often we recognize the good, but we are unable to do it. Through prayer, we arrive at the point of being able to carry it out.”
“In the wake of St. Augustine, [St. Alphonsus] invites every Christian to not be afraid of obtaining from God, through prayer, the strength he does not possess and that he needs to do the good, in the certainty that the Lord does not withhold his help from whoever prays with humility.”
To this realization of the constant availability of the grace of prayer, together with the recognition of the power of prayer to gain further graces, we must add the great axiom of St. Alphonsus:
“He who prays is saved. He who does not pray is damned!”
Hence, salvation is possible to all, since prayer is possible to all. But it is our great task then to pray at all times, but especially when tempted or when striving to complete some task important for our salvation – for without prayer we will fall, but with prayer we will easily overcome every obstacle.