First Point.—To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in virtue of His merits and in union with Him. We are, after all, only sinful men, and we only merit the anger of Heaven; so that when God deigns to hear us it is not through any merit of ours, but it is solely in consideration of Jesus His Son. He is the powerful Mediator between God and man, He is the eternal Intercessor before His Father, He constantly offers our prayers to Him, and thus secures for them a favorable acceptance. Nothing is agreeable to God except what comes to Him through His divine Son. When our prayers are presented by Him, when they are united and, as it were, incorporated with His, they then become, in a manner, divine prayers. It is not we, properly speaking, whom God hears, but Jesus who prays for us and with us, and hence the efficacy of prayer offered in His name. God, who owes us nothing, can refuse nothing to His Son.
And so at every instant the benefits of redemption are applied to each of our actions. Jesus on earth was our Redeemer; in heaven He is our Intercessor, and, on His heavenly throne He consummates the grand work which He began on the cross. He has not ceased to shed His blood for us, except to offer it continually in our behalf. This teaching, which is at once consoling and encouraging, shows us our blessed Saviour standing between His Father and us; in one hand He offers Him our prayers and in the other He brings us His graces. He is all-powerful before God because of His merits, and over our hearts, to make us acquire them. The apostles did not yet know this consoling dogma of the mediatorship of Jesus. Hitherto they had prayed, as all the other Jews had prayed, in their faith in the Messias. By commanding them to pray, henceforth, in His name, the divine Master began to reveal to them His character of Mediator. But you, who know this truth so well, approach your heavenly Father; clothed by the merits of your Saviour, pray in His name, being fully assured that you shall be heard. The promise of Jesus is most formal: "Everything that you shall ask the Father in My name shall be given you."
Second Point.—To pray in the name of Jesus is to ask what He wishes we should ask. As there are two kinds of goods, spiritual and temporal, there are also two kinds of legitimate objects which we may request, but the rules of prayer are not the same for both. Certainly we are not forbidden to ask God for temporal goods. In the prayer which Jesus Himself has dictated to us He makes us ask for our daily bread, and the Church, enlightened by His spirit, implores fruitfulness for the earth, regularity of the seasons, the health of the atmosphere, the prosperity of States, and universal peace. Let us also ask, with her, all these blessings, but let us ask them as she does. We should observe in our
prayers the order the Church follows and the end she proposes.
The order which the Church follows is according to the precept of her divine Founder. She begins her prayer by asking for the kingdom of God and His justice; her petitions for earthly things are only secondary.
The end which the Church proposes in her prayers. She does not ask the goods of the present life, except in so far as they may be conducive to salvation. These are the only prayers in the temporal order which may be made in the name of Jesus. The mission of our divine Saviour, His labors, His sufferings, and His pains were only for our sanctification. It would, then, be a gross error to think of applying to objects which are foreign to salvation those merits of Jesus which have only our salvation for their object and aim. As for prayers in the spiritual order, they can be general or particular. We may ask in general for our salvation and the graces which shall be conducive for it, or we may solicit a special and distinct grace. The first kind of prayer is at all times and under every circumstance assured of its effect. The promise of Jesus applies to it in all its extent and without restriction or reserve of any kind. God wishes our salvation as much and more than we do so that when we ask of Him, in the name of Jesus, that which enables us to gain our salvation we are certain to obtain it. Sometimes the request of a special grace, as the conversion of a parent, thenreformation of a defect, is not heard; it is because God knows best what is advantageous for us. That which we desire as our greatest good may be perhaps opposed to a greater good, of which we are ignorant, or may be prejudicial to us in a way we do not perceive. Again, it is the infinite goodness of God which refuses us. In vain did the great St. Paul ask of God three times to be delivered from the angel of Satan, who tormented him. This trial was useful for him, since the magnificent revelations with which he was favored were not occasions of pride and destruction for him. God Himself assured him that His grace was sufficient, and that his virtue should be perfected by temptations.
Third Point.—To pray in the name of Jesus is to ask as He wishes us to ask, viz., with purity of heart, humility, confidence, perseverance, and attention. Prayer should come from a heart which is pure and exempt from sin. The sinner has lost all the rights which the merits of Jesus had acquired for him to the grace of salvation. One prayer only can serve him, and it is the prayer of penance; there remains but one grace to implore, arid that is pardon. Every other shall be useless for him and shall be refused. If, then, you have had the misfortune to sin, beg before everything, by your most ardent supplications, the grace of your pardon, and that only shall render you worthy to receive other graces.
The second condition of prayer is humility. " The prayer of the humble man shall penetrate the clouds." The impious Achab at last humbled himself before God, and by this act alone he obtained that the thunders of the heavenly anger, already suspended above his head, should be turned away. Is it possible for us to have an idea of prayer and be ignorant of this fundamental rule? Why, arrogance in prayer is not only a vice—it is contradiction, it is a madness! Would some great one of the earth receive a request which should be asked with pride? The very need which leads us to the feet of the King of kings should make us also feel our dependence on Him.
Confidence is the third condition of prayer. A man would feel injured if you should doubt his word. Your doubts are then an outrage against God. And of what are you uncertain? Is it of His fidelity, or is it of His power? Put no limit to your hopes; He has placed none to His engagements. You will never please Him by reserved or timid requests. Fearlessly ask the most excellent gifts. If it is a virtue you need, ask that it be perfect; if it is a victory, ask that it may be complete ; if it is the pardon of your sins, then ask for the entire remission of them. Divine munificence is the contrary of human liberality: the more you ask, the more you have a right to obtain.
The fourth quality of prayer is perseverance. Jesus promises that prayer made in His name shall be heard, but He has not designated the time. He engages Himself to grant every request, but not as soon as you have formulated your demands. Often, on the contrary, He seems not to hear you, but this is precisely to test your faith, your patience, your humility, and your fervor. And, after all, are not
the graces of God sufficiently precious and worthy of being asked for long and often?
Attention is the fifth condition of prayer. Without attention there can be no prayer. The most necessary act of religion cannot be a purely exterior practice. Can we, in good faith, persuade ourselves that we love God, and implore Him, and return Him thanks, and yet without thinking of Him? That which essentially constitutes prayer, the prayer which God hears, is not a mere sound which comes from the mouth and is lost in the air, but it is the sentiment of the heart which arises to Him. Let us reflect on these different conditions of prayer, and see if we have hitherto prayed in the name of Jesus.
Source: Short Instructions on the Feasts of the Year, Imprimatur 1897