Man has two lives, that of the body and that of the soul. Each one, on its own plane, follows the same laws.
The life of the body depends first of all on food, as our food, so our health; next on exercise, by which the body is developed and strengthened; lastly on rest, by which the body renews the energy it has lost by exercise. To overstep one of these laws in greater or lesser degree means illness or even death. The soul, on the supernatural plane, is subject to the same laws, which it may no more disregard than may the body.
Now God is the food, the sustenance, the life of the soul; God known, loved, served by faith here on earth; God seen, possessed, loved in His unveiled glory in heaven. Always God.
But the soul nourishes itself on God by meditation on His word, by His grace, and by prayer, which is the foundation of contemplation and the only means of obtaining the grace of God.
And just as in nature every constitution requires different nutrition according to age, labor, and the expenditure of energy, so every soul needs a particular quantity of prayer.
Bear in mind that the divine life is not nourished by virtue but by prayer; for virtue is a sacrifice, of using of one’s forces, not a nutriment. Whoever knows how to pray according to his need has found his law of life.
It is not the same for all. Some need less prayer to keep themselves in the state of grace, others need a great deal. This observation is not open to doubt; it is proven by experience.
Here is the soul that keeps itself in the state of grace with little prayer; it has no need of more; yet it will not rise to great heights.
Another, on the contrary, finds great difficulty in maintaining itself in grace with even a great deal of prayer and feels the need of devoting itself entirely to it. Such a soul must pray, must pray always! It resembles those weaklings who have to eat very frequently, else they become ill.
But there are prayers belonging to one’s state in life which one is obliged to say. The priest has his office, the religious has the prayers prescribed by his rule. These it is never permissible to omit or to shorten and at will.
Then there, too, piety makes religious cult of persons living in the midst of the world. The grace of God demands more of these souls than simply morning and evening prayer. They have to pray more in order to preserve their piety; they could not do it otherwise.
But you know there are two kinds of prayer, vocal prayer, of which we have just spoken, and mental prayer, which is the soul of the first.
If, during vocal prayer, your soul does not pray, if your intention is not directed to God, words will be of no value; their efficacy depends on your heart, your intention.
Is mental prayer, considered in its more restricted sense of meditation, necessary? It is at least very helpful, since all the saints have practiced it and recommended it. It is very helpful because it is difficult to attain to holiness without it.
This brings me to observe that there is prayer of obligation, prayers of counsel, and prayer of perfection. Yes, you’re strictly obliged to pray under penalty of losing your soul. Open the gospel and you’ll find in at the precept of prayer.
It does not specify how much, because that depends on each one’s need. But you must pray enough to keep yourself in the state of grace, enough to keep equal to your duties.
Otherwise, you will be like a swimmer who ceases to use his arms and is plainly about to drown. He will either have to redouble his efforts or his weight will drag him down, and he will be engulfed.
Whenever you are about to be overwhelmed by a flood of temptation, pray more than ever. In everything we are guided by our need. Oh, how serious, then, is the necessity we are under to pray according to our need!
Pray, then, as much as is necessary to make you a true Christian. Whenever you are about to be overwhelmed by a flood of temptation, pray more than ever. In everything we are guided by our need.
Oh, how serious, then, is the necessity we are under to pray according to our need! Our eternal salvation is at stake!
Are you prone to neglect the duties of your state? Then you do not pray enough; you are endangering your soul. Send up your cry to God, bestir yourself!
The misery of your fallen state has slackened your efforts; resist with all your might, or it will completely overcome you.
Pray, then, as much as is necessary to make you a true Christian.
The third prayer, that of perfection, is the prayer of the soul which wishes to live by Jesus, which makes its only rule of conduct the will of God in all things.
It enters into familiar conversation with Our Lord, will have to live in God and by God. Such is the religious life, a life of perfection for those who understand it, a life in which we give ourselves to God that he may be our one law, our aim, the center of our life, and our happiness.
Such a soul’s entire enjoyment consists in prayer, and that is surely not astonishing. For if it controls its imagination, subjects it’s reason, God in return pours forth in it the fullness of his sweetest consolations.
How rare are these beautiful souls! Yet they are to be found. And what can they not do in this state? The saints converted whole nations by their prayers. Did they pray more than anyone else? Not necessarily.
But they prayed better; they prayed with all their faculties. Yes, all the power of the saints was in their prayer, and how great it was, O my God! But, in practice, how shall I know that my prayers are sufficient for my state?
If you are progressing in virtue, you are praying enough. We know we have taken the proper quantity of food when it is easily digested and keeps us strong and well.
Do your prayers sustain you in the grace of your state of life; do they make you grow? If so, you are assimilating this spiritual food.
If you are borne far up on the wings of prayer, you are taking sufficient nourishment and will mount higher and higher.
If, on the contrary, your vocal and mental prayers barely keep you above the ground, so that you are every moment in danger of falling, then they are not enabling you to rise above your old sinful nature, and you are certainly neither praying well nor enough.
You deserve the reproach of our Savior: “This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” And what a great misfortune will result? We shall die of starvation at the Saviors royal banquet!
Already we are very ill and near to death. The Bread of Life has become for us a bread of death, and the good wine a deadly potion. Then what is left to restore us to health? Nothing!
Take from the body its nourishment, and it will die. Take from the soul its prayer, from an adorer his admiration, and all is over; he is loss for all eternity! Is this really possible? Yes, it is certain.
Confession cannot raise you up again; for what good is confession without contrition? And what is contrition but a more perfect prayer? Nor will Communion have any effect. What can Communion do for a dying person who can only open unseeing eyes?
No, If God wills to perform a miracle of mercy, all He can do will be to give you back the love of prayer. The person who has lost his vocation, who had given up piety, began by giving up prayer.
More violent temptations assailed him; the enemy attacked him with renewed fury, and because he had cast away his weapons, he was vanquished. Consider this well, for this is of the greatest importance. That is why the Church earnestly admonishes us to take care not to neglect our prayers and urges us to pray as often as we can.
Prayer is our guide, our spiritual life. Without it we should only blunder painfully at every step. Do you feel the need of praying? Do you go to prayer, to adoration, as you would to table?
Then it is well with you! Do you try hard to do better, to overcome your faults? That is a good sign. It proves you feel within you the strength to labor. But if you grow weary of adoration and are glad when the time comes to leave the church, O, then are you ill and greatly to be pitied!
It is said that constant enjoyment of good food will make the most delicious things pall on the us at last and, cause disgust and nausea. In the service of God, at the table of the King of Kings, we must be on our guard against that.
We must not let our taste be dulled by habit. Let us always find some new sentiment to fix our thoughts, to touch and enkindle our heart, and move us to prayer. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice!
We must always have this hunger, even arouse it, and take care not to lose our spiritual taste. For, I repeat, God cannot save us unless he makes us pray. Let us then keep watch over our prayers!