Our good Lord has provided us with an unfailing resource in all our wants, that is, prayer; promising, moreover, on His divine word, that He will always grant us what we ask, provided that we pray with proper dispositions.
Prayer, my dear children, is the first duty of every Christian. It is a special command of God; but besides that, it is a great privilege, a high honor, and an immense advantage to us to be allowed to speak freely to the divine majesty. The kings of this earth, as St. Teresa beautifully observes, do not allow their subjects to make known their petitions to them, except through their nobles and officers of state; but we may at all times approach to the king of heaven, adore Him, thank Him for His goodness, and lay open to Him all our wants, both for soul and body. And what is the most consoling is, that He is always glad to receive us, ready to hear us, and willing and able to help us; whereas earthly kings sometimes receive the petitions of their subjects with a very bad grace, and very often refuse them.
Your catechism tells you that prayer is the raising of our heart and mind to God. It is the mind which thinks, it is the heart which hopes and loves. Prayer, therefore, consists in thinking of God, in hoping in Him, and loving Him. You see from this that it is not strictly necessary to say any words when we pray. If we only think of God in our minds and love Him with our hearts, we make a good prayer, though we may not say a single word.
Father Vianney, the Cure of Ars, speaks of a man who was a simple peasant, poor in the goods of this world and ignorant of its learning, but rich in piety and virtue. He was particularly remarkable for his ardent devotion to our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament. Whether going to his work or returning from it, never did that good man pass the church without entering it to adore his Lord. The priest who watched him with delight, could never perceive the slightest movement of the lips. Being surprised at this circumstance, he said to him one day: "My good man, what do you say to our Lord in those long visits you pay Him every day?" "I say nothing to Him," was the reply; "I look at Him and He looks at me."
A beautiful and sublime answer. He said nothing, he opened no book, he could not read, but he had eyes—eyes of the body and eyes of the soul, and he opened them, the eyes of the soul especially, and fixed them on our Lord. He fastened upon Him his whole mind, his whole heart, his memory, his understanding, all his senses, all his affections. This is the secret of becoming saints. God expressly promises protection and deliverance to those who call upon Him in any necessity.
You remember the three young men in the fiery furnace, they prayed and were saved. Daniel in the lions' den subdued the fury of the beasts by prayer. In the year 350 the city of Nisibis was besieged by the Persian king, Sapor II. St. James, bishop of that city, mounted the walls of that city and prayed to the Lord against the unbelievers; God heard his prayer in a miraculous way. Suddenly there came swarms of flies, which attacked the trunks of the enemy's elephants, and the ears and nostrils of the horses, rendering them untractable and causing so great a disorder in the camp that Sapor was reluctantly obliged to give up the siege.
Prayer closes the door of our heart against all the enemies of our soul, that they cannot enter and rob us of the treasure of grace. A young man, named Pacho, retired into the desert, there to do penance for his sins. After several years he suffered such violent temptations that he conceived the idea of taking his own life. With this intention he laid himself before a cave in which were two hyenas, wishing to be devoured by them. But they did not injure him. Then he took a poisonous serpent, bared his breast and irritated the serpent, that its bite might be more deadly; but it had no poison for him. The youth now turned his wrath against heaven and accused God, because He would not let him die. But behold ! on a sudden he hears an interior voice which says to him: "Wretch! what do you mean? Do you think you can overcome temptations by your own strength? Pray, pray, and you will conquer."
The youth followed this advice; he began to pray, and as often as temptation assailed him, he prayed with great fervor, and came off victorious after each conflict.
As long as a Christian prays with fervor and devotion he leads a good life. Temptations may be numerous; he stands firm, for as the stake supports the little tree, so prayer supports him. But if he becomes careless in prayer, and neglects it altogether, or performs it only hastily, he totters and falls. St. Peter denied his Master three different times. Why? Because he neglected prayer. Our Lord had commanded him and the other apostles to watch and pray, but they slept. Therefore, pray without ceasing, for prayer is the most necessary means for the preservation of grace and of perseverance in virtue.
A little boy, whose name was Johnny, asked his mother some very hard and troublesome questions. His parents were not Christians. They did not go to church and they did not pray, but they wanted Johnny to go to Sunday school and to Mass, and taught him to say his prayers. And at the end he would add some words of his own. "God bless papa, God bless mama, God bless Johnny, and make him a good boy." One night after he had said his prayers and kissed his mother good night, he looked up into her face, and said:
"Mama, do you pray?" "No, darling," she said. "Does papa pray?" "I never heard him pray," said his mother. "Then why do you make me pray?" he said. "So that you may be a good boy." "Don't you want to be good, mama ?" he said. "Oh, yes, I want to be good." "Don't papa want to be good ?" he asked. "Oh, I think so." "Then why don't you and papa both pray, too?" he asked. She was not quite ready to answer that hard question, and the little lad went on talking. "Well, mama," said he, "I guess God will hear the prayer of a little boy like me, but don't you think you and papa expect too much of such a little boy ? Do you think that God wants me to do all the praying for this whole family ? It seems to me that you and papa might help me a little." But he was growing sleepy, and he was soon far off in dreamland.
He did not think of it any more, perhaps, and he never asked those hard questions again. Indeed, he didn't need to ask them again, for the father and mother that night, after he was sound asleep, talked it all over and came and knelt by his bed and gave their hearts to God like little children, and prayed that God would answer their little boy's prayer. God does not want little children to be the only ones to pray. He wants fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, and grandfathers and grandmothers all to pray to Him, for He is our Father and Friend and He loves to have us speak to Him,
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921