This sermon on prayer is in part a repetition of the preceding sermon.
German text: Erlangen Edition, 12:165; Walch Edition, 11:1251; St. Louis Walch, 11:927.
THE FIVE REQUISITES OF TRUE PRAYER.
I. THE FIRST REQUISITE —THE PROMISE OF GOD TO MAN 1.
II.THE SECOND REQUISITE —FAITH IN GOD’ S PROMISE 2.
III. THE THIRD REQUISITE-FAITH THAT OUR PRAYER WILL BE HEARD
* He who doubts that he will be heard commits a double sin 3-4.
IV. THE FORTH REQUISITE — ASENSE OF OUR UNWORTHINESS 5-6.
V. THE FIFTH REQUISITE -THAT WE DO NOT LIMIT GOD IN ANY WAY
A SERMON ON PRAYER.
1. First we note that in order for a prayer to be really right and to be heard five things are required. The first is, that we have from God his promise or his permission to speak to him, and that we remember the same before we pray and remind God of it, thereby encouraging ourselves to pray in a calm and confident frame of mind. Had God not told us to pray, and pledged himself to hear us, none of his creatures could ever, with all their prayers, obtain so much as a grain of corn. From this, then, there follows that no one receives anything from God by virtue of his own merit or that of his prayer. His answer comes by virtue of the divinegoodness alone, which precedes every prayer and desire, which moves us, through his gracious promise and call, to pray and to desire, in order that we may learn how much he cares for us, and how he is more ready to give than we are to receive. He would have us seek to become bold, to pray in a calm and confident spirit, since he offers all, and even more, than we are able to ask.
2. In the second place, it is necessary that we never doubt the pledge and promise of the true and faithfulGod. For even to this end did God pledge himself to hear, yea, commanded us to pray, in order that we may always have a sure and firm faith that we will be heard; as Jesus says in Matthew 21:22: “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Christ says in Luke 11:9-13: “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” With this and like promises and commands we must consolingly exercise ourselves and pray in true confidence.
3. In the third place, if one prays doubting that God will hear him, and only offers his prayers as a venture, whether it be granted or not granted, he is guilty of two wickeddeeds. The first is, that he, himself, makes his prayer unavailing and he labors in vain. For Jesus says: “Whoever will ask of God, let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” James 1:6-7. He means that the heart of such a man does not continue stable, therefore God can give it nothing; but faith keeps the heart calm and stable and makes it receptive for the divinegifts.
5. In the fourth place, some say: Yes, I would gladly trust that my prayer would be heard, if I were only worthy and prayed aright. My answer is: If you do not pray until you know and experience that you are fit, then you will never need to pray. As I have said before, our prayers must not be founded nor rest upon ourselves or their own merits, but upon the unshakable truth of the divinepromise. Where they are founded upon anything else, they are false, and deceive us, even though the heartbreak in the midst of its great devotions and we weep drops of blood. The very reason we do pray is because of our unworthiness; and just through the fact that we believe we are unworthy and confidently venture upon God’s faithfulness to his Word do we become worthy to pray and to be heard. Be you as unworthy as you may, only look to it, and with all earnestness accept it as true, that a thousandfold more depends upon this, that you know God’s truth and not change his faithfulpromise into a lie by your doubting. Your worthiness does not help you, but your unworthiness is no barrier. Disbelief condemns you, and trust makes you worthy and sustains you.
7. In the fifth place, one should so act in this confidence of prayer as not to limit God and specify the day or place, nor designate the way or measure of the prayer’s fulfillment; but leave all to his own will, wisdom and almightypower. Then confidently and cheerfully await the answer, not even wishing to know how and where, how soon, how long, and through whom. His divinewisdom will find far better ways and measures, time and place, than we can devise, even should we perform miracles. So, in the Old Testament, the children of Israel all trusted in God to deliver them while yet there was no possible way before their eyes, nor even in their thoughts; then the RedSea parted and offered them a way through the waters, and suddenly drowned all their enemies. Exodus 14.
8. Thus Judith, the holy woman, did when she heard that the citizens of Bethulia wished to deliver the city to their enemies within five days if God, in the meantime, did not help. She reproved them and said, Now who are ye, that have tempted God? They are not designs by which one acquires grace; but they awaken more disgrace. Do you wish to set a time for God to show you mercy, and specify a day according to your own pleasure?
9. In like manner, St. Paul says that God’s ability is thus proved, in that he does exceeding abundantly above and better than we ask or think. Ephesians 3:20. Therefore, we should know that we are too finite to be able to name, picture or designate the time, place, way, measure and other circumstances for that which we ask of God. Let us leave that entirely to him, and immovably and steadfastly believe that he will hear us.