(Saint Thomas Aquinas as depicted by Gentile da Fabriano, circa 1400, Public Domain, U.S.A.)
“Ask and you shall receive” (Luke 11:9)
Here is the very powerful, sublime and awesome doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas (“the angelic doctor”) regarding the infallible efficacy of prayer. This doctrine should lead us to develop a tremendous confidence in the efficacy of prayer, especially as pertaining to our eternal salvation. In Question 83 on Prayer, Article 15, Saint Thomas lays down four conditions for the infallible efficacy of prayer. He states:
“Hence it is that four conditions are laid down: namely, to ask
(1) for ourselves
(2) things necessary for salvation
When all these four concur, we always obtain what we
Given this truly awe-inspiring doctrine on the infallible power of prayer, the importance and necessity of humble, persevering prayer cannot be overemphasized. Every night when we go to bed, we should fall down on our knees and humbly beg God for the graces we need to be saved, adding in our prayer that we desire these graces even if it be necessary for us to suffer immensely.
“Prayer is a more powerful force than all the physical energies taken together, more powerful than money, than learning. Prayer can accomplish what all material things and all created spirits cannot do by their natural powers….Prayer thus plays an infinitely greater role in the world than the most amazing discovery….Prayer assures two things to souls striving to attain to God: supernatural light which directs them; and divine energy, which urges them on” (Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pages 206-208).
This lofty doctrine of prayer should fill us with the greatest confidence in God. Our “humble, trusting, persevering prayer” will lead us to “the end ordained” by our Omnipotent and loving God: our salvation.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Note: I am basing this note completely on the wonderful insights of Father Garrigou-Lagrange, one of the greatest Catholic theologians of the 20th century and a professor of Saint John Paul II. Besides the work cited above, I am also drawing from pages 428-434 of The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I; see also page 377 of this work, a prayer to overcome obstacles to our salvation, which I personally think is highly valuable.
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