Means of Personal Salvation
Prayers of sinners
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- The necessity of prayer
- What is prayer?
- Conditions for infallibly
what is asked
The abbreviations for the Books of the Scripture are as follows:
Cor., Daniel: Dan., Ecclesiasticus: Ecclus., Ezechiel: Ez., Hebrew:
Isaias: Is., Matthew: Matt., Proverbs: Prov., Psalms: Ps.,
Thess., Timothy: Tim.
The following are extracted and rearranged for this media from the
treatise The Great Means of Salvation and of
by St. Alphonsus De Liguori and adapted for this media.It is available
through Our Blessed Lady of Victory Mission, Inc.,R.R. #2, Box 25,
SD 57006-9307, U.S.A., 605-693-3983.
- The Scriptures are clear enough in pointing out how necessary
to pray, if we would be saved. "We ought
always to pray, and not to faint"(Luke 18:1) "Watch
and pray, that ye enter not into temptation."(Matt.
26:41) "Ask, and it shall be given
you." (Matt. 7:7) The words "we ought,"
"pray," "ask," according to the general consent of
theologians, impose the precept, and denote the necessity of prayer.
is the means without which we cannot obtain the help necessary for
- The reason of this is evident. Without the assistance of God's
we can do no good thing: "Without Me, ye
can do nothing."(John 15:5) St. Augustine remarks on this
passage, that our Lord did not say, "Without Me, ye can complete
but "without Me, ye can do nothing;" giving us to understand,
that without grace we cannot even begin to do a good thing. Nay
more, St. Paul writes, that of ourselves we cannot even have the
to do good. "Not that we are sufficient to
think anything of ourselves, but our
is from God."(2 Cor 3:5). If we cannot even think a good thing, much less can we wish
it. The same thing is taught in many other passages of Scripture: "God
worketh all in all. I will cause you to walk in My commandments, and to
keep My judgments, and do them."(Ez. 36:27). So that, as
St. Leo I says, "Man does no good thing,
except that which God, by his grace, enables him to do,"
and hence the Council of Trent says: "If
any one shall assert, that without the previous inspiration of the Holy
Ghost, and his assistance, man can believe hope, love, or repent, as he
ought, in order to obtain the grace of justification, let him be
(Session 6, canon 3)
- We believe that no one approaches to be saved, except by the
God; that no one merits this help, unless he prays.
- From these two premises, on the one hand, that we can do
the assistance of grace; and on the other, that this assistance is only
given ordinarily by God to the man that prays, who does not see that
consequence follows, that prayer is absolutely necessary to us for
- God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when
not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for
those who pray.
- Hence it is that the generality of theologians, following St.
St. Chrysostom, Clement of Alexandria, St. Augustine, and other
teach that prayer is necessary to adults, not only because of the
of the precept (as they say), but because it is necessary as a means of
salvation. That is to say, in the ordinary course of Providence, it is
impossible that a Christian should be saved without recommending
to God, and asking for the graces necessary to salvation. St. Thomas
the same: "After baptism, continual prayer is
necessary to man, in order that he may enter heaven; for though by
our sins are remitted, there still remain concupiscence to assail us
within, and the world and the devil to assail us from without"
(P. 3, q. 39, a. 5). The reason then which makes us certain of the
of prayer is shortly this, in order to be saved we must contend and
conquer: "He that striveth for the mastery is
crowned except he strive lawfully."(2 Tim. 2:5) But without
the divine assistance we cannot resist the might of so many and so
enemies: now this assistance is only granted through prayer; therefore
without prayer there is no salvation.
- We, in a word, are merely beggars, who have nothing but what
on us as aIms: "But I am a beggar and poor." (Ps. 39:18)
The Lord, says St. Augustine, desires and wills to pour forth his
upon us, but will not give them except to him who prays. "God
wishes to give, but only gives to him who asks." This is
declared in the words, "Seek and it shall
be given to you."
- Whence it follows, says St. Teresa, that he who seeks not, does
receive. As moisture is necessary for the life of plants, to prevent
from drying up, so, says St. Chrysostom, is prayer necessary for our
Or, as he says in another place, prayer vivifies the soul, as the soul
vivifies the body: "As the body without the
soul cannot live, so the soul without prayer is dead and emits an
odor." He uses these words, because the man who omits to
recommend himself to God, at once begins to be defiled with sins.
is also called the food of the soul, because the body cannot be
without food; nor can the soul, says St. Augustine, be kept alive
prayer: "As the flesh is nourished by food,
so is man supported by prayers." All these comparisons
used by the holy Fathers are intended by them to teach the absolute
of prayer for the salvation of everyone.
- The Apostle writes to Timothy: "I
therefore, that first of all supplications, petitions, and
be made." (1 Tim. 2:1) St. Thomas explains, that prayer
is properly the lifting up of the soul to God. Petition is that kind of
prayer which begs for determinate objects; when the thing sought is
(as when we say, "Incline to my aid, O God!"
it is called supplication. Obsecration is a solemn adjuration, or
of the grounds on which we dare to ask a favor; as when we say, "By
Thy cross and Passion, O Lord, deliver us!" Finally,
is the returning of thanks for benefits received, whereby, says St.
we merit to receive greater favors. Prayer, in a strict sense, says the
holy Doctor, means recourse to God; but in its general signification it
includes all the kinds just enumerated.
for infallibly obtaining what is asked
St. Thomas lists four of them: one should pray for oneself, one
pray for that which is necessary for salvation, one should pray
and that one should pray with perseverance.
- The reason that one must pray for
oneself is that the granting of a divine grace always
is properly disposed. For this reason, prayer for others is always
because we cannot be certain of the dispositions of the person for whom
we pray. Nevertheless, praying for other is still infallibly
if the person prayed for puts no impediment in the way. This is assured
by St. James (5:16): "Pray one for another,
that you may be saved; for the continual prayer of the just man
- Since "God wills all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4), it is
pleasing to Him when one prays for what is
for one's salvation. For instance, one can petition God to
me only the necessaries of life" (Prov. 30:8), to save oneself, to
prevent oneself from committing mortal sin, to perform some salutary
or even the gift of final perseverance.
- To pray
means we must pray with humility, confidence, attention, and petition
the name of Christ.
- HUMILITY-- The Lord does indeed
the prayers of his servants, but only of his servants who are humble. "He
hath had regard to the prayer of the humble." (Ps. 101:18). "A contrite and humble heart, O God,
wilt not despise." (Ps. 1:19) Others he does not regard,
but rejects them: "God resisteth the proud,
and giveth grace to the humble." (James 4:6) He does not
hear the prayers of the proud who trust in their own strength; but for
that reason leaves them to their own feebleness; and in this state
of God's aid, they must certainly perish. It is of faith, that without
the aid of grace we cannot do any good work, nor even think good
thought. "Without grace men do not good
either in thought or in deed," say St Augustine. We may
conclude with St. Augustine, is all the grand science of a Christian,
TO KNOW THAT HE IS NOTHING, AND CAN DO NOTHING. This is the whole of
Great Science, to know that man is nothing. For then he will never
to furnish himself, by prayer to God, with that strength which he has
of himself, and which he needs in order to resist temptation, and to do
good; and so, with the help of God, who never refuses anything to the
who prays to him in humility, he will be able to do all things: "The
prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds, and he
not depart until the Most High behold." (Ecclus 35:21).
- CONFIDENCE -- The principal
that St. James gives us, if we wish by prayer to obtain grace from God,
is, that we pray with a confidence that feels sure of being heard, and
without hesitating: "Let him ask in faith,
nothing wavering." (James 1:6) God is much pleased with
our confidence in his mercy, because we then honor and exalt that
goodness which it was his object in creating us to manifest to the
God protects and saves all those who confide in Him: "He is the
Protector of all that hope Him." (Ps. 17:31), "Thou who
savest them that trust in Thee." (Ps. 16:7) God himself says: "Because he hoped in me I will deliver
I will protect him; I will deliver him all I will glorify him."
(Ps. 90:14) lsaias says of those who place their hope in God: "They
that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings
as the eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not
faint." (Is. 40:31) And when did it ever happen that a man had
confidence in God and was lost? "No one bath hoped in the Lord
and bath been confounded." ( Ecclus:2:11) David calls the man
happy who trusts in God: "Blessed is the
man that trusteth in Thee." (Ps. 83:13) And why? Because,
says he, he who trusts in God will always find himself surrounded by
mercy. "Mercy shall encompass him that hopeth
in the Lord."(Ps. 31:10) So that he shall be surrounded
and guarded by God on every side in such a way that he shall be
from losing his soul.
- ATTENTION -- We should pray with
i.e. with concentration and focus of all our psychological energy on
prayer, on the meaning of prayer, or on God himself.
- PRAY IN THE NAME OF CHRIST --
swears to us: "Amen, amen, I say to you,
if you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it you."
(John 16:23) ("Amen, amen, I say to you," which, according
to St. Augustine, is a species of oath). What our Lord says amounts to:
Go to My Father in My name, through My
ask the favors which you want, and I promise and swear to you that what
ever you ask, My Father will grant. O God, what greater
can a sinner have after his fall and to know for certain that all he
from God in the name of Jesus Christ will be given to him! I say "all"
but I mean only that which has reference to his eternal salvation: for
with respect to temporal goods, we have already shown that God even
asked, sometimes does no give them; because he sees that they would
our soul. But so far as relates to spiritual goods, his promise to hear
us is not conditional, but absolute; and therefore St Augustine tells
that those things which God promises absolutely, we should demand with
absolute certainty of receiving: Those things which God promises, seek
with certainty. And how, says the Saint, can God ever deny us his grace
than we to receive them! "He is more willing
to be munificent of his benefits to thee than thou art desirous to
- One must pray with perseverance.
The grace of salvation is not a single grace, but a chain of graces,
of which are at last linked with the grace of final perseverance. Now,
to this chain of graces here ought to correspond another chain (as it
of our prayers if we, by neglecting to pray, break the chain of our
the chain of graces will be broken too; and as it is by this that we
to obtain salvation, we shall not be saved. Fr. Suarez says that anyone
who prays for final perseverance will infallibly obtain it. But it is
enough, says St. Bellarmine, to ask the grace of perseverance once, or
a few times: we ought always to ask it, every day till our death, if we
wish to obtain it: "It must be asked day
by day, that it may be obtained day by day." He who asks
it one day, obtains it for that one day: but if he does not ask it the
next day, the next day he will fall. The Lord repeated time and again
necessity of perseverance in prayer until we obtain what we ask. Recall
the parable of the friend who came to beg for bread (Luke 11:5-13), of
the evil judge and the importunate widow (Luke 18:1-5), the moving
of the woman of Cana who insisted in spite of an apparent rebuff (Matt.
15:21-28), and the sublime example of Christ himself, who frequently
the whole night in prayer and in Gethsemane prayed in great anguish to
his heavenly Father (Luke 6:12; 22:44). "Watch
ye therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to
escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son
man." (Luke 21:36) "Pray
without intermission." (1 Thess. 5:17) To obtain
we must always recommend ourselves to God morning and night,
at Mass, at Holy Communion, and always; especially in time of
when we must keep repeating, "Lord help me;
Lord, assist me; keep Thy hand upon me; leave me not; have pit upon me!"
Is there anything easier than to say Lord, help me, assist me!
the Gospel Jesus declares, "Ask, and ye shall
receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you."
Prayers of sinners
- St. Thomas does not hesitate to affirm that even the sinner is
if he prays; for though his prayer is not meritorious, yet it has the
of impetration,--that is, of obtaining what we ask; because impetration
is not founded on God's justice, but on his goodness. "Merit,"
he says, "depends on justice; impetration,
on grace." Thus did Daniel pray, "Incline,
O my God, Thy ear and hear... For not in our justifications do we
our prayers before Thy face, but in the multitude of Thy mercies."
(Dan. 9:18) St. Bernard says that the prayer of a sinner to escape from
sin arises from the desire to return to the grace of God. Now this
is a gift, which is certainly given by no other than God himself; to
end, therefore, says St. Bernard, would God give to a sinner this holy
desire, unless he meant to hear him? The Holy Scripture is full of
in which the sinners were delivered from sin by prayer. St. Chrysostom
says that the only time when God is angry with us is when we neglect to
ask him for his gifts: "He is only angry
when we do not pray." And how can it ever happen that God
will not hear a soul who asks him for favors all according to his
When the soul says to him, Lord, I ask Thee
for goods of this world,--riches, pleasures, honors; I ask Thee only
Thy grace: deliver me from sin, grant me a good death, give me
give me Thy holy love (which is that grace which St. Francis de
Sales says we should seek more than all others), give
me resignation to Thy will; how is it possible that God
not hear! What petitions wilt Thou, O my God, ever hear (says St.
if Thou dost not hear those which are made after thy own heart? "What
prayers dost Thou hear, if Thou hearest not these?"
Sections on Baptism and Faith are taken and adapted from "The
of Perseverance" by Monsignor Gaume, imprimatured by Paulus Cardinal
Cullen, Archbishop Dubliniensis; reprinted in Jesus
Christ Catholic by K.E. Gillette with Ecclesiastical
Victory Publications, Arcadia, California.
- The Necessity of Baptism. Of all the Sacraments, the most
is Baptism. Faith teaches us that no person unbaptized can be saved,
is, can be admitted to the vision of God, face to face in Heaven. The
of Our Saviour are formal: "Unless a man
be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the
of God." (John 3:5).
- Such has been in all ages the invariable doctrine of the Church,
proclaimed by the Council of Trent :"If
anyone assert, that the sin of Adam, single in its source, but common
all and proper to each person by transmission, and not by simple
is effaced by human effects, or by any other means than the merits of
only Mediator, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who reconciled us to God in His
by becoming our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption; or
that the said merits of Jesus Christ are applied to children and adults
by the Sacrament of Baptism, conferred according to the forms used in
Church: let him be anathema."
- The dogma of the Church,which cannot be
by anyone including the Pope, states that "Baptism
by water (Baptismus fluminis) is, since the promulgation of the Gospel,
necessary for all men without exception, for salvation."
The obligation of receiving Baptism in order to be saved began on the
when Our Lord said to His Apostles: "Go,
teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. 28:19).
- Effects of Water Baptism
- It effaces original sin, and all
sins, however enormous, that one may have committed before its
Such has been the constant doctrine of the Church, formally defined by
the Council of Trent.
- It remits all the punishment due to sin,
both eternal and temporal, so that he who dies immediately after
goes straight to Heaven. The ignorance and the concupiscence
to sin) which remain in us after Baptism are indeed the consequences of
original sin, but they are not sins.
- Baptism gives us a divine life, and makes
children of God. It is by Baptism that we become participators
the life of the New Adam. Hence, the Grace of Baptism is a Grace
to our soul, effacing all its stains, cleansing it from all its
and communicating to it all the infused virtues, Faith, Hope, Charity,
and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, which render it beautiful and pleasing
in the sight of God. We are by this means incorporated with Our Lord,
members with their head, and God adopts us as His children and makes us
the heirs of His kingdom and co-heirs with Jesus Christ
- Baptism makes us children of the Church.
It places us among the number of the faithful, gives us a right to the
other Sacraments, and enables us to share in all the goods of our
the Church. Without Baptism we are incapable of receiving the other
so that the ordination of a person who should he ordained priest
having been baptized would be absolutely null and it should be repeated
again after baptizing him
- Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible
which prevents the reception of the Sacrament a second time. "As,
according to the order of nature," says St Augustine, "we can be born only once, so there
only one spiritual regeneration, and Baptism can never be repeated."
- From adults the Church requires the following dispositions: (a)
(b) faith; (c) instruction,
that is to say a knowledge of the things which, by a necessity of means
and a necessity of precept, must be believed; (d) sincere sorrow
for their sins.
- The necessity of Faith. In order to be baptized, the person must
a profession of Faith. This is because "without
Faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6). Our
Lord commanded the Apostles: "Go ye into
the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that
and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not, shall be
- What is Faith? Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue by
we firmly believe all that the Church teaches, because God has revealed
it, and He is truth itself.
In order to be saved, one must have Divine
Faith -- actual, explicit, exterior, living Faith. Actual
Faith requires one to make formal acts of Faith, implicit or
explicit, such as making the sign of the cross, a Mass well heard, the
recital of the Lord's Prayer, the acceptance of affliction, etc. Explicit
Faith consists in knowing and believing distinctly and in
the truths of Religion: we are not bound to know and believe them all
an explicit Faith, but only a few main articles of Faith. These
of Faith are contained in the Apostles' Creed. To have an exterior
Faith is to show our Faith by our words and our works. Living
Faith is that which is animated by Charity, and joined to
practice of good works.
- Faith is a gift of God :
we cannot have it of ourselves by the resources of our own minds or the
efforts of our own wills. Faith is an alms, a benefit, that can proceed
only from the liberality of our Heavenly Father.
- Faith is a supernatural virtue:
that is a virtue which makes us believe truths that we cannot
by the mere light of reason, and that are intended to conduct us to an
everlasting happiness, not our due.
- All that the Church teaches:
authority which instructs us on the truths of Religion being
good sense points out that we should receive all those truths alike,
its being permitted us to select some and to reject others. We say "all
that the Church teaches," because it belongs to the Church alone to
propose a truth as an article of Faith
- Because God has revealed it:
point of fact, the Church invents nothing;
she is content with manifesting to us the truths which God has confided
for guardianship and explanation to her.
- Because He is truth itself:
foundation of our Faith is the veracity of God, who can neither deceive
us nor be deceived Himself. It follows hence that we are a thousand
more certain in regard to the truths of Faith than in regard to things
that we see with our eyes, or touch with our hands, or believe on the
- What must one do to save one's soul? To save one's soul a person
worship God by Faith, Hope,
and Charity (as defined above); that is,
(she) must believe in Him, must hope in Him, and must love Him with his
(her) whole heart.
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"Who is like unto God?"
Created July 16, 1996.