« How great is the power of prayer ! It is like a queen who has free access, at all the times, to the king, and can get all she wants » (Thérèse, le Little Flower MsC,25 rv). « Ah, if only it were true » is what we may be thinking… Thérèse is challenging our faith.
Faith and fruitfulness
Not every prayer is granted, but prayer does not stand on the level of efficiency, of automatism, and one cannot restrict its fruits to fulfilment only. Efficiency and fruitfulness are not synonymous. Fruitfulness is about life.
Abraham’s example speaks for itself. God prompts Abram to leave everything by informing him of His promise. Abram is trusting, he lets himself be stripped, impoverished. Through his obedience he enters into a new relationship with his God. God proclaims then : « No longer shall your name be Abram, from now on your name shall be Abraham » (Gen.17,5). Abraham will become the perfect man of God, submitting himself, even in the worst situations (cf. Gn.22) So, the first fruit of Abram’s faith is himself, what he has become, Abraham, a convert ! And Abraham becomes, according to the divine promise « father of a multitude » (Gen.17,5). His fruit unfolds itself in his fatherhood, through his whole person. It is the same for us in regard to prayer. It leads us on a journey of conversion. God becomes our God (“my God”), the One who is very close : the God of our days, a providential God… and it bears fruit, whether we see it or not, in every season (cf. Jer 17 : 7-8).
Prayer is powerful insofar as it is the meeting of a trusting and obedient heart with Him who wishes us to have life and life in abundance (cf.Jn, 10,10). Its fruits do not depend on our worthiness, on our abilities, or even on our perfection. The Catechism states that the foundations of prayer stem from the thirst for God and from poverty (cf.CEC n° 2559) It is like a perfusion for a very sick person, prayer connects us, through an act of faith which subtends it, to the Source of all good, to Life. Like the perfusion for a very sick patient, prayer connects us, through the act of faith that underlies it, to the Source of all good, to Life.
A reciprocal « in-dwelling »
« I am the vine ; you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing » says Jesus (John 15,5). Pope Francis specifies : « It is truly a matter of dwelling actively, but also to dwell reciprocally, me in Him and Him in me !
Fruitfulness is for those who pray with their heart, that is to say, who engage in their prayer their whole being, at all times and in all places, in all circumstances: « For me, prayer is an impulse of the heart, it is a simple cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trials as in the midst of joy, and it is also something great, supernaturel, which gladdens my soul and unites me to Jesus » (the little Flower MsC,25rv) « To dwell » requires perseverence. Prayer alone can communicate this strength to us. So, prayer is like a drop of water which feeds the seed hidden in the earth and the grace of God is like the sun which draws the seed towards light and life, makes it grow and gives it its fruit.
The Virgin Mary did not cease to believe and to adhere to the will of the Father. « I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word » (Luke 1,38) Bearing within her the promise of God like a seed in fertile ground, she has become the Mother of all the living. Faith, which is first and foremost a personnal attachment of man to God’s will, is equally an attitude of soul and heart which puts all its trust in God and surrenders to His purposes. This is the foundation that enables the fruit of prayer to be born and to remain.
Pope Francis tells us that prayer of intercession consists in “being a bridge between God and men.” (Catechesis 17th june 2020). Thus the Scriptures usually represent Moses with his hands extended to heaven, to God, as if to serve with his own being as a bridge between heaven and earth. His faith in God is one with the fatherhood he feels for his people, with whom he maintains close bonds of solidarity.” It will be the same for us, if we wish to pray in depth to the point of suffering and crying on behalf of our neighbour. Like Moses, and because of our faith in God, we will be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in humanity. Only persevering prayer, typical of the heart that truly loves and keeps faith, will be able to defy the temptation of discouragement and judgment. Thus did Moses at the time when his people had fallen into sin and denied him while denying their God: Moses remained in solidarity with the people whom God had entrusted to him and interceded for them (cf. Ex 32:11-14).
Our prayer is called to be grafted on to Jesus’s great prayer of intercession. Then it is necessarily fruitful since Jesus won over death and sin, He has won over all the obstacles. It is often invisible to the naked eye, but through faith, we know Christ is victorious and He hears each of our prayer.
We probably might not appreciate the power of praise and its fruitfulness. Father Cantalamessa states: « The Holy Spirit’s greatest miracles are not only obtained as an answer to our supplications, but to our praise, especially when undergoing trials. This proves grace to be stronger than nature. » and he goes on to say “ The miracle of Paul and Silas in jail – and the three young men in the furnace – repeats itself on many occasions and in countless ways (…) « Try in order to believe » was the advice Merlin Carothers gave to his readers in «Prison to praise” Yes, let’s try, let’s believe, let’s fight against doubt ! Often, we do not recognize the answers of God which, it is true, can be paradoxical. But let us keep in mind that praise is a kind of prayer that is extremely fruitful. that praise is a kind of prayer that is extremely fruitful. Yes, the power of prayer is great, even if, very often, it is hidden to the naked eye… No sincere prayer, prayed with faith, is lost. God bends down to the poor, He hears our prayer. Maybe Jesus is reminding us, as He did to his disciples who were shamefaced seeing the failure of their prayer, that some victories are only gained through prayer and fasting…
« As believers, we are convinced prayer is a real strength, which opens up the world to God. We are convinced God listens and can act upon history.. » Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI
To Go Further…
Justo for today:
Give me a lever !
« A scholar has said: “Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I will lift the world.” What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained in all its fullness. The Almighty has given them as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with a fire of love. And it is in this way that they have lifted the world ; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it» (Thérèse, the little Flower MsC, 36r)
Find the previous articles in our “Life of prayer” series.
(publication edited by brothers and sisters of the Community of the Beatitudes – © rights reserved).