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On Prayer

Our Lady of the Rosary Library






Pentecost Sunday




From the “Catechism of the Council of Trent”

issued by Pope St. Pius V

Whatever is necessary to the performance of the duty of prayer is comprised
in that divine formula which Christ the Lord deigned to make known to His
Apostles, and through them and their successors to all Christians. Its
thoughts and words should be so deeply impressed on the mind and memory as
to be ever in readiness. To assist pastors, however, in teaching the
faithful concerning this prayer, we have set down from those writers who
are conspicuous for learning and fullness in this matter, whatever appeared
to us most suitable, leaving it to pastors to draw upon the same sources
for further information, should they deem it necessary.

Necessity of Prayer

In the first place the necessity of prayer should be insisted upon. Prayer
is a duty not only recommended by way of counsel, but also commanded by
obligatory precept. Christ the Lord declared this when He said: “We should
pray always.” This necessity of prayer the Church points out in the
prelude, if we may so call it, which she prefixes to the Lord’s Prayer:

“Admonished by salutary precepts, and taught by divine instruction, we
presume to say,” etc.

Therefore, since prayer is necessary to the Christian, the Son of God,
yielding to the request of the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray,” gave
them a prescribed form of prayer, and encouraged them to hope that the
objects of their petitions would be granted. He Himself was to them a model
of prayer; He not only prayed assiduously, but watched whole nights in

The Apostles, also, did not omit to recommend this duty to those who had
been converted to the faith of Jesus Christ. St. Peter and St. John are
most diligent in their admonitions to the devout; and the Apostle, mindful
of its nature, frequently admonishes Christians of the salutary necessity
of prayer.

Besides, so various are our temporal and spiritual necessities, that we
must have recourse to prayer as the best means for communicating our wants
and receiving whatever we need. For since God owes nothing to anyone, we
must ask of Him in prayer those things we need, seeing that He has
constituted prayer as a necessary means for the accomplishment of our
desires, particularly since it is clear that there are blessings which we
cannot hope to obtain otherwise than through prayer. Thus devout prayer has
such efficacy that it is a most powerful means of casting out demons; for
there is a certain kind of demon which is not cast out but by prayer and

Those, therefore, who do not practice assiduous and regular prayer deprive
themselves of a powerful means of obtaining gifts of singular value. To
succeed in obtaining the object of your desires, it is not enough that you
ask that which is good; your entreaties must also be assiduous. “Every one
that asketh”, says St. Jerome, “receiveth, as it is written. If, therefore,
it is not given you, this is because you do not ask. Ask, therefore, and
you shall receive”.

The Fruits of Prayer

Moreover, this necessity of prayer is also productive of the greatest
delight and usefulness, since it bears most abundant fruits. When it is
necessary to instruct the faithful concerning these fruits, pastors will
find ample matter in sacred writers. We have made from these sources a
selection which appeared to us to suit the present purpose.
Prayer Honours God

The first fruit which we receive is that by praying we honour God, since
prayer is a certain act of religion, which is compared in Scripture to a
sweet perfume. “Let my prayer”, says the Prophet, “be directed as incense
in thy sight”. By prayer we confess our subjection to God; we acknowledge
and proclaim Him to be the author of all good, in whom alone we center all
our hopes, who alone is our refuge, in all dangers and the bulwark of our
salvation. Of this fruit we are admonished also in these words: “Call upon
me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”

Prayer Obtains What We Request
Another most pleasing and invaluable fruit of prayer is that it is heard by
God. “Prayer is the key of heaven”, says St. Augustine; “prayer ascends,
and the mercy of God descends. High as are the heavens, and low as is the
earth, God hears the voice of man”. Such is the utility, such the efficacy
of prayer, that through it we obtain a plenitude of heavenly gifts. Thus by

prayer we secure the guidance and aid of the Holy Spirit, the security and
preservation of the faith, deliverance from punishment, divine protection
under temptation, victory over the devil. In a word, there is in prayer an
accumulation of spiritual joy; and hence our Lord said: “Ask, and you shall
receive, that your joy may be full”.

Nor can we, for a moment, doubt that God in His goodness awaits and is at
all times ready to hear our petitions — a truth to which the Sacred
Scriptures bear ample testimony. Since, however, the texts are easy of
access, we shall content ourselves with citing as an example the words of
Isaias: Then shalt thou call, and the Lord will hear: thou shalt cry, and
he will say, “Here I am”; and again, “It shall come to pass, that before
they call, I will hear: as they are yet speaking, I will hear.” With regard
to instances of persons, who have obtained from God the objects of their
prayers, they are almost innumerable, and too well known to require special

Unwise And Indevout Prayers Unheard

Sometimes, indeed, it happens that what we ask of God we do not obtain. But
it is then especially that God looks to our welfare, either because He
bestows on us other gifts of higher value and in greater abundance, or
because what we ask, far from being necessary or useful, would prove
superfluous and injurious. “God,” says St. Augustine, “denies some things
in His mercy which He grants in His wrath.Sometimes, also, such is the
remissness and negligence with which we pray, that we ourselves do not
attend to what we say.”

Since prayer is an elevation of the soul to God, if, while we pray, the
mind, instead of being fixed upon God, is distracted, and the tongue slurs
over the words at random, without attention, without devotion, with what
propriety can we give to such empty sounds the name of Christian prayer?
We should not, therefore, be at all surprised, if God does not comply with
our requests; either because by our negligence and indifference we almost
show that we do not really desire what we ask, or because we ask those
things, which, if granted, would be prejudicial to our interests.

To Devout Prayer And Dispositions God Grants More Than Is Asked
On the other hand, to those who pray with devout attention, God grants more
than they ask. This the Apostle declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians,
and the same truth is unfolded ill the parable of the prodigal son, who
would have deemed it a kindness to be admitted into the number of his
father’s servants.

Nay, God heaps His favours not only on those who seek them, but also on
those who are rightly disposed; and this, not only with abundance, but also
with readiness. This is shown by the words of Scripture: “The Lord hath
heard the desire of the poor.” For God hastens to grant the inner and
hidden desires of the needy without awaiting their utterance.

Prayer Exercises And Increases Faith
Another fruit of prayer is, that it exercises and augments the virtues of
the soul, particularly the virtue of faith. As they who have not faith in
God, cannot pray as they ought, for “how can they call on him, whom they
have not believed?” So the faithful, in proportion to the fervour of their
prayers, possess a stronger and a more assured faith in the protecting
providence of God, which requires principally that in all needs we have
recourse to Him.

Prayer Strengthens Our Hope In God
God, it is true, might bestow on us all things abundantly, although we did
not ask them or even think of them, just as He bestows on the irrational
creation all things necessary for the support of life. But our most
bountiful Father wishes to be invoked by His children; He wishes that,
praying as we ought each day of our lives, we may pray with increased
confidence. He wishes that in obtaining our requests we may more and more
bear witness to and declare His goodness towards us.
Prayer Increases Charity

Our charity is also augmented. In recognising God as the author of every
blessing and of every good, we are led to cling to Him with the most
devoted love. And as those who cherish a mutual affection become more
ardently attached by frequent interviews and conversations, so the oftener
the soul prays devoutly and implores the divine mercy, thus holding
converse with God, the more exquisite is the sense of delight which she
experiences in each prayer, and the more ardently is she inflamed to love
and adore Him.

Prayer Disposes The Soul For Divine Blessings
Furthermore, God wishes us to make use of prayer, in order that burning
with the desire of asking what we are anxious to obtain, we may thus by our
perseverance and zeal make such advances in spiritual life, as to be worthy
to obtain those blessings which the soul could not obtain before because of
its dryness and lack of devotion.

Prayer Makes Us Realise Our Own Needfulness
Moreover, God wishes us to realise, and always keep in mind, that,
unassisted by His heavenly grace, we can of ourselves do nothing, and
should therefore apply ourselves to prayer with all the powers of our

Prayer Is A Protection Against The Devil
The weapons which prayer supplies are most powerful against our bitterest
foes. “With the cries of our prayers,” says St. Hilary, “we must fight
against the devil and his armed hosts.”

Prayer Promotes A Virtuous Life
From prayer we also derive this important advantage that though we are
inclined to evil and to the indulgence of various passions, as a
consequence of our natural frailty, God permits us to raise our hearts to
Him, in order that while we address Him in prayer, and endeavour to deserve
His gifts, we may be inspired with a love of innocence, and, by effacing
our sins, be purified from every stain of guilt.

Prayer Disarms The Divine Vengeance
Finally, as St. Jerome observes, prayer disarms the anger of God. Hence,
these words of God addressed to Moses: “Let me alone,” when Moses sought by
his prayer to stay the punishments God was about to inflict on His people.
Nothing is so efficacious in appeasing God, when His wrath is kindled;
nothing so effectually delays or averts the punishments prepared for the
wicked as the prayers of men.

The Parts Of Prayer
The necessity and advantages of Christian prayer being explained, the
faithful should also know how many, and what are the parts of which it is
composed; for that this pertains to the perfect discharge of this duty, we
learn from the Apostle. In his Epistle to Timothy, exhorting to pious and
holy prayer, he carefully enumerates the parts of which it consists: “I
desire therefore first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions,

and thanksgivings be made for all men.” Although the shades of distinction
between these different parts of prayer are delicate, yet the pastor,
should he deem the explanation useful to his people, should consult, among
others, St. Hilary and St. Augustine.

The Two Chief Parts Of Prayer Petition And Thanksgiving
There are two principal parts of prayer, petition and thanksgiving, and
since these are the sources, as it were, from which all the others spring,
they appear to us to be of too much importance to be omitted. For we
approach God and offer Him the tribute of our worship, either to obtain
some favour, or to return Him thanks for those with which His bounty every
day enriches and adorns us. God Himself indicated both these most necessary
parts of prayer when He declared by the mouth of David: “Call upon me in
the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”

Who does not perceive how much we stand in need of the goodness and
beneficence of God, if he but consider the extreme destitution and misery
of man? On the other hand, all that have eyes and understanding know God’s
loving kindness toward man and the liberal bounty He exercises in our
behalf. Wherever we cast our eyes, wherever we turn our thoughts, the
admirable light of the divine goodness and beneficence beams upon us. What
have we that is not the gift of His bounty? If, then, all things are the

gifts and favor’s bestowed on us by His goodness, why should not everyone,
as much as possible, celebrate the praises of God, and thank Him for His
boundless beneficence.

Degrees Of Petition And Thanksgiving
Of these duties of petition and thanksgiving each contains many subordinate
degrees. In order, therefore, that the faithful may not only pray, but also
pray in the best manner, the pastor should propose to them the most perfect
mode of praying, and should exhort them to use it to the best of their


The above is from the “Catechism of the Council of Trent” (available online

at and in print from

It was published in the May issue of “Catholic Family News”


Sincerely in Christ,
Our Lady of the Rosary Library
“Pray and work for souls”
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