Pray Constantly

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According to the words of St. Alphonsus, one of the great doctors of the Church, prayer is the great means of salvation. He even wrote, “He who prays is certainly saved; he who does not pray is certainly damned. All the saints in heaven, except infants, were saved because they prayed; and all the damned in hell were damned because they did not pray, and this is their greatest torment to see how easily they could have been saved, had they prayed, and that now the time for prayer is over.”

Elsewhere Saint Alphonsus tells us the reason for this: without prayer, all our good resolutions will vanish into smoke, because we will not receive the grace we need to keep them. We know well enough what we should do; we even want to do it; but unless God helps us, when the occasion arises, we do not do it.

Saint Paul himself was conscious of this contradiction: “The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom. 7,19). Only through God’s grace, we are enabled to overcome the power of sin, and grace is given to prayer.

Prayer can rightly be compared to breathing. Breathing is made up of a twofold movement: expiration and inspiration, breathing out and drawing in. The same with prayer: from the heart goes out praise and thanksgiving to God, and in return man draws in forgiveness and grace.

Breathing is the condition of life; as long as there is a breath, there is life, but the moment breathing stops, death is certain, unless somebody is able to restore respiration. It is the same with prayer: as long as one prays, even if he is the greatest sinner, there is still some life in his soul and there is hope that he may recover. But when one has given up prayer, the only hope left for him is that through the prayers of others he may be brought back to prayer. And as risky as it is to count on artificial respiration to bring somebody back to life, it is equally risky to count on the prayers of others to be saved.

From this we understand why Jesus insisted “about the need to pray continually and never lose heart” (Lk. 18, 1); why he warned the Apostles in the garden to stay awake and to pray so as not to give in to temptation, because “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mk. 14,38).

The Apostles did not forget the lesson. The first thing they did after the Ascension was to gather in the upper room, where they were staying, and all together they “joined in continuous prayer” (Acts 1, 14). We see in the Acts how they remained faithful to prayer either in common or as individuals, before an election or an ordination, in time of persecution, before working a miracle, in prison, etc. In their writings, they exhort their disciples to do the same. Saint Paul, who so often assures his correspondents of his prayers for them and asks for theirs, reminds them also that they must be persevering in prayer (Col. 4,2), pray for all they need (Phil. 4,6), and “pray all the time” (Eph. 6,18). Peter (I Pet. 4,7) and John (I Jo. 5,14-16), James (1, 5-6; 5,13; 16-18), Jude (20), and the author of the letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 13,18) do the same.

Yet, great as it may be, our need to pray it is not the first reason why we must pray. The fundamental reason is that we owe it to God, a duty to thank and to praise him. This is why Jesus taught us to ask for God’s glory before asking ourselves, and even then, to ask what we need to fulfill this duty. Ours is a passing need and therefore we ask only for this day, the present life, while praising and thanking God remain our duty forever and will be our eternal occupation in heaven.

Even if prayer is a duty, it does not mean one should pray just because one has to. To be true, praise and thanksgiving must come from the heart; on the lips, alone they would be lies and it impossible to lie to God. Gratefulness and admiration spring from love and there is no love unless it is free. Yet we have a duty to love God; it is the first commandment and that love must be free.

How would it be possible not to be obliged to be grateful to God and at the same time not to love him for his goodness to us? All that we are all that we have, he has given us, and in addition, he wants to give us all that he has. Not only does he take constant care of us, but also he has adopted us for his children when to be accepted as servants in his heavenly palace would have been undreamed of honor. How heartless would we be, were we never to thank him. We should consider it a most elementary duty to say “thank you,” even for an insignificant gift or a passing kindness. Is it not a duty to recognize and honor excellence, and do we not admire it when we meet with it? When this excellence is an excelling goodness, how could we not live it? Excelling all excellent goodness is the infinite goodness of God, who gives to all most abundantly, not because he must or for the sake of gain, but out of pure generosity, because he is good, so infinitely good that he even gives to those who have offend him. Even when he asks us to love him in return, it is for our own good, so that loving as he loves, we may be happy as he is, since he is infinite happiness because he is infinite love.

Moreover, he rewards us when we give him the love we owe him. Did ever a man reward anybody for paying his debts? He might perhaps grant a discount, but surely not repay a thousand fold over what he received.

If prayer is a duty as loving God is a duty, then how foolish it is to say, “I pray or I go to Mass when I feel like it.” Would you dare say: “I’ll love God, when I feel like it?” Would you dare tell your boss: “I’ll work when I feel like it?” Better, not try it, not even once! A duty binds, whether we like it or not. However, if such were your disposition then all the greater would be the need for you to pray and to ask God to open your eyes on your spiritual misery.

Because we all fall so short in giving God the praise and thanksgiving, he deserves, and because we cannot even hope ever to praise and thank him enough, we all need to ask with the Apostles: Lord, teach us how to pray.e52ba72bd99102208b63e3455a828d7c

Paul@thecatholicword.com

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Not Only Christmas Day

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Lord, this is my prayer
Not only on Christmas Day
But until I see You face to face
May I live my life this way:

Just like the baby Jesus
I ever hope to be,
Resting in Your loving arms
Trusting in Your sovereignty.

And like the growing Christ child
In wisdom daily learning,
May I ever seek to know You
With my mind and spirit yearning.

Like the Son so faithful
Let me follow in Your light,
Meek and bold, humble and strong
Not afraid to face the night.

Nor cowardly to suffer
And stand for truth alone,
Knowing that Your kingdom
Awaits my going home.
Not afraid to sacrifice
Though great may be the cost,
Mindful how You rescued me
From broken-hearted loss.

Like my risen Savior
The babe, the child, the Son,
May my life forever speak
Of who You are and all You’ve done.

So while this world rejoices
And celebrates Your birth,
I treasure You, the greatest gift
Unequaled in Your worth.

I long to hear the same words
That welcomed home Your Son,
“Come, good and faithful servant,”
Your Master says, “Well done.”

And may heaven welcome others
Who will join with me in praise
Because I lived for Jesus Christ
Not only Christmas Day

God’s Gift of Salvation

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HOW DO I PLEASE GOD?

Many people believe that when they die God will accept them into His presence because they have lived good lives. They might point to the fact that they have given money to charity, that they have attended church, or that they have not done anything “really bad.”

WHAT IS HUMANITY’S TRUE CONDITION?

Nevertheless, in the Bible, God says that no one can live up to His righteous standard. “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12).

Earlier in the book of Romans, the author Paul goes further to describe humanity’s miserable condition and the reality of God’s wrath against us for our evil: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

In short, humanity is completely unrighteous in God’s sight, and God is going to judge humanity for its sin and evil.

WHERE DOES SINFUL HUMANITY GO WHEN THEY DIE?

If we remain in our sins, we will die, not only physically but eternally as well. The Bible tells us why: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). It also describes the day when God judges sinful humanity; “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15).

This miserable destiny is the lot of all humankind if they remain alienated from God. Thankfully, God did not ignore us in our unrighteousness and rebellion but provided a way of escape from His wrath!

HOW DO WE ESCAPE?

Too often, we as sinful humans imagine that we can counteract our unrighteous deeds by doing good deeds. However, in God’s economy, human performance just does not cut it. Our own works will not save us; God’s grace is the only way to salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

How do we experience this grace? How can we be reconciled to God and receive this eternal life? This is the most important question each human being must ask.

WHAT IS GOD’S WAY OF SALVATION?

Despite our inability to save ourselves, God made a way of salvation for sinful humanity. Describing this plan is the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s solution is His own Son: Jesus Christ.

Just prior to John 3:16, John describes who Jesus Christ is. He identifies Jesus Christ as the “Word” when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

Simply put, Jesus Christ is both God and Man. Many other passages confirm this fact: “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16); “Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Romans 9:5); “But of the Son He says, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).

WHAT DID JESUS CHRIST COME TO ACCOMPLISH?

Why did Christ take on a human nature? Why did He have to die? Christ took on a human nature to live the perfect human life that we could not live ourselves. “For we have not an high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Most shocking is the question of why Christ had to die on the cross. Because God is infinitely just, He cannot sweep our sin under the carpet. Either He must punish us for our sins, or He must punish a voluntary substitute. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ was the voluntary substitute for sinners, and “He humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8b).

So not only did Christ live a perfect life in our place, he also died the death that we deserved to die, and He absorbed God’s wrath on our behalf. Therefore, the Bible can say, “…we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” (Romans 5:10b)

If Christ had remained on the cross or in the grave, it would all be just a sad story—but Christ did not stay dead. As a declaration that God is satisfied with the perfect sacrifice of His Son on our behalf, God raised His Son from the dead, and in His resurrection all who believes in Christ have the hope of a future resurrection to eternal life. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man came also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21).

HOW DO I RECEIVE THIS FREE GIFT?

In light of this amazing sacrifice, we might imagine that the cost of such a salvation on our part would be higher than we could afford. God has already told us that our good works do not save us. Our only hope of salvation and eternal life is, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

God’s Gift Of Salvation

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How Do I Please God?                                                                                Image

Many people believe that when they die God will accept them into His presence because they have lived good lives. They might point to the fact that they have given money to charity, that they have attended church, or that they have not done anything “really bad.”

What Is Humanity’s True Condition?

Nevertheless, in the Bible, God says that no one can live up to His righteous standard. “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12).

Earlier in the book of Romans, the author Paul goes further to describe humanity’s miserable condition and the reality of God’s wrath against us for our evil: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

In short, humanity is completely unrighteous in God’s sight, and God is going to judge humanity for its sin and evil.

Where Does Sinful Humanity Go When They Die?

If we remain in our sins, we will die, not only physically but eternally as well. The Bible tells us why: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). It also describes the day when God judges sinful humanity; “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15).

This miserable destiny is the lot of all humankind if they remain alienated from God. Thankfully, God did not ignore us in our unrighteousness and rebellion but provided a way of escape from His wrath!

How Do We Escape?

Too often, we as sinful humans imagine that we can counteract our unrighteous deeds by doing good deeds. However, in God’s economy, human performance just does not cut it. Our own works will not save us; God’s grace is the only way to salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

How do we experience this grace? How can we be reconciled to God and receive this eternal life? This is the most important question each human being must ask.

What Is God’s Way Of Salvation?

Despite our inability to save ourselves, God made a way of salvation for sinful humanity. Describing this plan is the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s solution is His own Son: Jesus Christ.

Just prior to John 3:16, John describes who Jesus Christ is. He identifies Jesus Christ as the “Word” when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

Simply put, Jesus Christ is both God and Man. Many other passages confirm this fact: “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16); “Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Romans 9:5); “But of the Son He says, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).

What Did Jesus Christ Come To Accomplish?

Why did Christ take on a human nature? Why did He have to die? Christ took on a human nature to live the perfect human life that we could not live ourselves. “For we have not an high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Most shocking is the question of why Christ had to die on the cross. Because God is infinitely just, He cannot sweep our sin under the carpet. Either He must punish us for our sins, or He must punish a voluntary substitute. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ was the voluntary substitute for sinners, and “He humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8b).

So not only did Christ live a perfect life in our place, he also died the death that we deserved to die, and He absorbed God’s wrath on our behalf. Therefore, the Bible can say, “…we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” (Romans 5:10b)

If Christ had remained on the cross or in the grave, it would all be just a sad story—but Christ did not stay dead. As a declaration that God is satisfied with the perfect sacrifice of His Son on our behalf, God raised His Son from the dead, and in His resurrection all who believes in Christ have the hope of a future resurrection to eternal life. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man came also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21).

How Do I Receive This Free Gift?

In light of this amazing sacrifice, we might imagine that the cost of such a salvation on our part would be higher than we could afford. God has already told us that our good works do not save us. Our only hope of salvation and eternal life is, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

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