If you find yourself struggling with prayer, take heart! You will be encouraged by these words taken from Light and Peace!
13. Should it happen that the whole time given to prayer be passed in rejecting temptations or in recalling your mind from its wanderings, and you do not succeed in giving birth to a single devout thought or sentiment, St. Francis de Sales is authority for saying that your prayer is nevertheless all the more meritorious from the fact of its being so unsatisfactory to you.
It makes you more like to our divine Lord when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemani and on Mount Calvary. “Better to eat bread without sugar, than sugar without bread.
We should seek the God of consolations, not the consolations of God: and in order to possess God in heaven, we must now suffer with him and for him.”
“When your mind wanders or gives way to distractions, gently recall it and place it once more close to its Divine Master.
If you should do nothing else but repeat this during the whole time of prayer, your hour would be very well spent and you would perform a spiritual exercise most acceptable to God.”*—St. Francis de Sales.
14. It is well to bear in mind that in commanding us to pray always our Savior did not mean actual prayer, as that would be an impossibility. The desire to glorify God by all our actions suffices for the rigorous fulfillment of this precept, if this desire be habitual and permanent.
“You pray often,” says St. Augustine, “if you often have a desire to pay homage to God by your actions: you pray always if you always have this desire, no matter how you may be otherwise employed.”
“Need we be surprised that St. Augustine often assures us that the whole Christian life is but one long, continual tending of our hearts towards that eternal justice for which we sigh here below?
Our only happiness consists in ever thirsting for it, and this thirst is in itself a prayer; consequently if we always desire this justice, we pray always.
Do not think it necessary to pronounce a great many words and to struggle much with one’s self in order to pray. To pray is to ask God that his will may be done, to form some good desire, to raise the heart to God, to long for the riches he promises us, to sigh over our miseries and the danger we are in of displeasing him by violating His holy law.
Now this requires neither science nor method nor reasoning; one can pray without any distinct thought; no head-work is necessary; only a moment of time and a loving effusion of the heart are needed; and even this moment may be simultaneously occupied with something else, for so great is God’s condescension to our weakness that he permits us to divide it when necessary between him and creatures.
Yes, during this moment you can continue what you were doing: it is sufficient to offer to God your most ordinary occupations, or to perform them with the general intention of glorifying him.
This is the continual prayer required by St. Paul … thought by many devout persons to be impracticable, but in reality very easy for those who know that the best of all prayers is to do everything with a pure intention, and frequently to renew the desire to perform all our actions for God and in accordance with his divine will.”—Fénelon.
15. You should never omit or neglect the duties of your state of life in order to say certain self-imposed prayers. These duties are a substitute for prayers and are equally efficacious, St. Thomas teaches, for obtaining the graces you stand in need of and which are promised to those who ask them properly.
It is even more meritorious to perform some work for the love of God, to whom we offer it, than merely to raise the soul to Him by actual prayer.
“Every person is bound to observe strictly the duties of his particular calling. Whoever fails to do this, although he should raise the dead to life, is guilty of sin and should the sin be grave deserves damnation if he die therein.
For example, bishops are obliged to make a visitation of their diocese in order to console and instruct their flock and to rectify whatever may be amiss. If I, a bishop, neglect this duty I shall be lost even though I spend my entire time in prayer and fast all my life.”—St. Francis de Sales.
16. Make frequent use of the prayers called ejaculations,—which are short and loving aspirations that raise the soul to its Creator. According to St. Francis de Sales, ejaculations can in case of necessity replace all other prayers, whereas all other prayers cannot supply for the omission of ejaculations.
“Acquire the habit of making frequent ejaculations. They are sighs of love that dart upwards to God to sue for His aid and succor.
It will greatly facilitate this custom if you keep in mind the point of your morning’s meditation that you liked best and ponder it over during the day. In sickness let pious ejaculations take the place of all other prayers.”—St. Francis de Sales.
17. Ejaculatory prayers can be made at all times, wherever we are or whatever we may be doing. They might be compared to those aromatic pastilles, which we may always have about us and take from time to time to strengthen the stomach and please the palate.
Ejaculations have a like effect on the soul by refreshing and fortifying it.
18. The monks of old, of whom St. Augustine speaks, could not say long prayers, obliged as they were to earn their bread by daily toil. Ejaculatory prayers, therefore, took the place of all others for them, and it may be said that although laboring unceasingly they prayed continually.
19. I cannot too earnestly urge you to accustom yourself to the profitable and easy practice of making frequent ejaculations. It is far preferable to saying many other vocal prayers, for these when too numerous are apt to employ the lips only rather than to reanimate and enlighten the soul.
20. St. Theresa’s opinion is that the body should be in a comfortable position when we pray, as otherwise it is difficult for the mind to pay the proper attention to prayer and to the presence of God.
Do not then fatigue your body by remaining too long prostrate or kneeling: the important thing is that the soul should humble itself before God in sentiments of respect, confidence and love.