This text is published as Chapter 6 of How to Pray (Part One: Foundations). An introduction to the life of prayer with much practical advice about how to deepen your prayer life.
6 ABOUT CATHOLIC DEVOTIONS
HOLY SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION. A PATTERN OF PRAYER.
A pattern of ordinary prayer.
It’s mostly for the sake of those who want to pray a little more frequently that I’m going into detail in the next few pages about some devotions which can be given a place in a daily prayer-routine, to help them to walk unswervingly towards Christ; and it’s for the sake of those Christians who are unfamiliar with Catholicism that I include so many phrases here from Holy Scripture. It has thrilled me to realise, more and more, how the fullest-possible measure of gifts is given to us by God if we open our hearts and lives to what He offers us. We can receive His marvellous truths and graces both through the living Tradition of the Church and through Holy Scripture: as we’re guided by the teaching authority of the Church - by what we call the Magisterium.
Each one of us develops a different ‘pattern’ of prayer, however, from the next person - and so I’m not hoping to persuade anyone to follow this whole ‘pattern’ but to develop his own; yet I believe that everything in these paragraphs has been drawn from the Tradition of the Church or has a Scriptural basis - and accords with Catholic teaching, and so is worth considering; and while I’m mentioning our constant teaching, I’d better mention, to those who don’t know, that prayer has usually been associated with fasting and alms-giving; and so it’s for us to decide, with God’s help, how we shall honour Him and help our neighbour through these three ways of showing love and of doing penance.
I’d need another chapter, if I were to say much more about penance; but I’ll limit myself, here, to saying that every willing and patient acceptance of unavoidable sufferings, in loving imitation of Christ, can be offered as a penance for sins, whether for our own sins or for the faults of other people. The same is true of every sacrifice we make out of love for God: whether the sacrifice of one’s selfish ambitions, or secret acts of self-denial in things to do with sleep, food, entertainment or speech - though in moderation, and in humility.
The morning offering.
A marvellous way of beginning the day is by praying the Morning Offering. This is a way of turning to God as soon as we’re properly awake, to say “Here I am ... to OBEY your will” [Ps 40:7-8], as we resolve to be loving and kind today, whatever the cost. A traditional form of words is:
“Heavenly Father, I offer You my thoughts, words, actions and sufferings of this day, through the pure heart of Mary, for the intentions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Heaven; and I beseech You never to let me offend You, but faithfully to serve You, and to do Your Holy Will in all things.”
In being prepared to fulfil our duties and to accept with patience any unavoidable sufferings - by the grace of Christ - we can make up in our bodies “all that still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church” [Col 1:24]. We know that we can do this by uniting everything we suffer to Christ’s sufferings, so that we make one offering of love and obedience to the Father; and we know from our Tradition and from the examples of the Saints that we can ‘offer’ in this way every heart-ache, physical pain, pang of disappointment or humiliation.
A sincere heart is more important than fancy words, so it’s best to be honest in prayer, to confide in God about our special worries and weaknesses, and to ask the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and minds with His Love and His wisdom, as we begin a new day.
The ‘Hail Mary’.
It’s always worthwhile to ask the help of the Mother of God, by using the words which the Angel Gabriel, and then St. Elizabeth addressed to her, as recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel. We can say the “Hail Mary” in which we honour Christ by saying to the Blessed Virgin Mary: [Lk 1:42] “Blessed is the fruit of your womb ...” The whole of this little prayer reads:
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Then we can thank our Guardian Angel - one of the “ANGELS IN HEAVEN” [Mt 18:10] - for his care of us last night; and we can ask for his help whenever it’s needed, during the day ahead.
The ‘Stations of the Cross’.
If we’ve time, it only takes a few minutes to pray a brief version of the ‘Way of the Cross’ - also known as ‘The Stations of the Cross’. In this way we can honour Christ, and also remind ourselves that we are “PREACHING A CRUCIFIED CHRIST” [1 Co 1:23]. If we want to “LIVE GOOD AND RELIGIOUS LIVES HERE IN THIS PRESENT WORLD” [Tt 2:12] we’re more likely to persevere if we keep in mind Christ’s sacrifice, and if we remember that the good things we manage to do have been made possible by His graces.
It’s because we believe in Christ’s love for us, and because we’ve entrusted our whole lives to Him, that we’re no longer worried about “SHARING HIS SUFFERINGS SO AS TO SHARE HIS GLORY” [Rm 8:17]. We know that “GOD’S WEAKNESS IS STRONGER THAN HUMAN STRENGTH” [1 Cor 1:25]; so whenever we pray the ‘Stations’, and look at the crucified Christ, we’re helped to move away from self-concern, towards a greater love for Christ Who died to save us.
These are the fourteen ‘Stations’ on which we can meditate, whether in an informal way, or using forms of prayer recommended by the Church:-
- Jesus is condemned to death.
- Jesus receives His Cross.
- Jesus’ first fall.
- Jesus meets His sorrowful Mother.
- Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene.
- Jesus’ face is wiped by Veronica.
- Jesus falls the second time.
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
- Jesus falls the third time.
- Jesus is stripped of His garments.
- Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
- Jesus dies on the Cross.
- Jesus’ body is taken down from the Cross.
- Jesus’ body is placed in the tomb.
The Jesus Prayer.
There’s a little prayer we can pray all day, if it seems right for us. It’s called the Jesus Prayer. It’s an effective way of reminding oneself of Christ’s presence within the soul, and of seeking His help. The prayer is derived from the words of the Tax Collector in one of Jesus’ parables. The Tax Collector stood in the Temple and prayed: “GOD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME, A SINNER” [Lk 18:13]; and by praying a similar prayer we too can remind ourselves, as we go about our hum-drum routine, that we are privileged to be able to serve the Holy One whose “glory fills the WHOLE earth” [Is 6:3]. Through this prayer, we can attempt never to do anything “except in the name of the Lord Jesus” [Col 3:17], as we reflect that our whole life ought to be dedicated to the One who “was with God in the Beginning” [Jn 1:2]. We can say, peacefully and silently, over and over again:
“Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Through attendance at daily Mass, if this is possible, we can hope to grow in faith, so that we can one day be “holy and SPOTless” [Ep 1:4] before the Father, ever more closely united with Christ, and with all who have been redeemed “THROUGH HIS BLOOD” [Ep 1:7] and who have tried to live in accordance with the tradition handed down by the Apostles and the whole Church. We can take all our private worries and fears to Mass, and all our hopes, too, to hand them over to God trustingly as we try to offer “petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving ... especially for kings and others in authority ...” [1 Tm 2:1-2]. Every worthwhile hope and prayer is offered to God, in union with Christ’s own Sacrificial Prayer, which gives Glory to the Father as no other prayer can do. Then we meet Christ, and are fed by Him, in the Sacrament of His Holy Body and Blood. In the wonder of Holy Communion we can be united not only to Christ, “THE LIVING BREAD WHICH CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN” [Jn 6:51], but also to everyone, living and departed, who is “in Communion” with Him.
The ‘Our Father’.
During every Mass, we pray the Lord’s Prayer, or the ‘Our Father’ as it’s also known. Christ responded to His disciples’ request that He teach them to pray, as we can read in Saint Matthew’s Gospel [Mt 6:9-13]. The form of words we use differs very little today, as we pray:
Our Father, Who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done on earth
as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
The Holy Rosary.
The Rosary is a simple and very calming way of settling down each day to meditate on various Gospel mysteries. We can use beads as a sort of ‘holy clock’, since we count our prayers and meditate on Our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem, or on His Resurrection, for as long as those prayers last. This is so simple that a child can do it, and so profound that great Saints have meditated in this way for many years. We recite the words of the Angel Gabriel to Our Blessed Lady, as we say: Hail Mary, full of grace, “the Lord is with you” [Lk 1:28];but we also pray the “Our Father” [Mt 6:9-13] and the “Glory be to the Father” [cf.Ph 2:11]. The details of this devotion can be found in any Rosary leaflet. You’ve seen the ‘Hail Mary’ near the beginning of this chapter, and the ‘Our Father’, above; but here is the ‘Glory be ...’ and also a list of the ‘Mysteries’ on which we can meditate as we’re reciting the prayers:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.
The Joyful Mysteries.
- The Annunciation (to Mary, by an Angel).
- The Visitation (by Mary to Elizabeth).
- The birth of Jesus (in Bethlehem).
- The Presentation (of the infant Jesus).
- The finding of the child Jesus (in the Temple).
The Sorrowful Mysteries.
- The Agony in the garden (of Gethsemane).
- The Scourging at the pillar.
- The Crowning with thorns.
- The carrying of the Cross to Calvary.
- The Crucifixion of Jesus.
The Glorious Mysteries.
- The Resurrection (of Jesus from the dead).
- The Ascension (of Jesus into Heaven).
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit.
- The Assumption (of Mary, into Heaven).
- The Coronation (of Mary in Heaven) and the joy of all the Saints.
By Arrow Prayers - which are little darts of true prayer at odd moments of the day, perhaps ‘Lord, have mercy’, or ‘Jesus, I love you’ - it’s easy to remain in touch with God. It might take us a long time to develop the habit, but it becomes easier, the more we empty our minds of chatter and conflict, and of silly arguments, or silly novels - or of non-stop entertainment of any kind. Good social events are very important; but if there’s no silence in our lives we must go and find it.
Without silence, it’s hard for us to think; and without at least a few calm thoughts about God, love, gratitude, and good and evil, we shan’t be able to pray.
Busy people can take comfort, however, from knowing that every time we make a sincere act of faith in God - no matter how brief is this sort of arrow prayer - we please Him and strengthen our faith. And the same holds true for similar prayers.
I can make an act of faith by raising my heart and mind to God to say:
“I believe in you. Please increase my faith!”
I can make an act of hope by praying:
“I hope for the fulfilment of your promises to me. Increase my hope!”
I can make an act of love for God by praying:
“I love you. Please increase my love!”
I can make a simple act of contrition by praying:
“I’m sorry for my sins. Have mercy. Help me not to sin again.”
I can call out for help in every worry, danger or temptation by saying, aloud or silently:-
“Oh Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me.
Immaculate heart of Mary, be my refuge.”
You can probably find longer or more polished versions of such prayers in other books. The wonderful thing about any short but sincere prayers, however, is that they’re easy, and so we’re more likely to pray them; and they’re powerful precisely because they’re short and we scarcely have time for our minds to wander; and so we find ourselves calling out at moments of need; and of course God hears us - because we have prayed with faith and because He is good.
Never be ashamed to include traditional prayers in your devotions even when the language is unfamiliar. Every culture, society or family has its own phrases and expressions; so it’s your duty to become familiar with some of these things rather than to scorn them because they’re not used in your work-place.
The Divine Praises.
Praise and worship of God the Holy Trinity should be central to our lives; and that’s why I’m offering a few paragraphs about a basic but fruitful way of praising God. There are some of us who have wanted to fulfil our duty of giving praise to God, and yet who have often found ourselves somewhat tired or despondent. We have wondered how on earth we can offer praise to God which is sincere, when we’re more aware of life’s problems than of God’s blessings.
It’s helpful to realise, first, that to be looking for a way of praising God, even in difficulties, is a wonderful thing. We don’t have to be eloquent, but loving; and if we’re tired, we can give shape to our good intention by clothing our thoughts of praise in someone else’s words, for example, by using ‘The Divine Praises.’
If we come before God to recite beautiful phrases to God, and if we do so with the intention of praising Him and of expressing reverence and gratitude, we can be certain of several things. We can be sure that God delights in our obedience and humility. We are made one in praise with the whole of Heaven: with the Saintly Company which loves and worships God unceasingly. We ourselves are made more holy - since every good thing we do “in Christ” brings us an increase of grace; and the whole Church is helped - since every good thing done by a member of the Church benefits the whole Church.
Perhaps the thought of God’s goodness will have more meaning - for those who believe - if it’s become plainer now that He brings tremendous results from even a single one of our tiny prayers. This is the prayer I mentioned; and it’s a privilege to be able to say it in church, near the tabernacle, if this is possible; and if you recite it slowly and reverently you’ll probably be more prayerful and peaceful by the end of it, with your troubles seeming less significant:-
Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be Saint Joseph, her spouse most chaste.
Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.
The Apostles’ Creed.
Have you ever studied ‘The Apostles’ Creed’?
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth,
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and
born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body
and the life everlasting,
A wonderful way of praising and thanking God is by telling Him that we believe in everything that He’s revealed to us; and we can do this by a sincere recitation of the Creed, which is a great personal prayer, if we make it our own. There’s more than one version; the simplest is ‘The Apostles’ Creed’ above.
You can recite the whole prayer in one ‘go’, with fervour; or you could speak one line at a time to God, with a pause for silent prayer between phrases: whatever suits your outlook and your need.
Whether we use long prayers, or short ones, however, we can be sure that if our prayers are sincere we are doing something extremely worthwhile. How marvellous: that we can “offer God an unending sacrifice of praise” [Heb 13:15] in every circumstance!
Making a visit.
It’s a good idea to try to develop the habit of visiting Christ in the Blessed Sacrament when we have the opportunity and if the church isn’t locked to deter thieves. Being able to go so close to Christ on earth can make us long even more fervently to be brought “safely to His heavenly kingdom” [2 Tm 4:18] one day. It’s true that Christ is with us, spiritually, through our baptism; but Holy Scripture says: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven” [Jn 6:51]; so when we visit the Living Bread which is Christ, He gives us the strength to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” [Mt 5:44], whether He means people who despise us, or anyone else.
It’s here before Christ that we can look at life quietly, in His Presence, and without interruptions from ‘phonecalls or the door bell. Then, although we’ve been tempted, sometimes, to think that the events in our lives are dreary or unimportant, we can be reassured that we’re doing the Will of God as described in Holy Scripture if we do our small tasks and quietly make little sacrifices for the love of God, even if “the world hates you” as “it hated me” [Jn 15:18]. The beliefs of Christians are frequently mocked in the media, nowadays, but we need only carry on with our attempt to live in “kindness and humility, gentleness and patience” [Col 3:12] no matter how much we fail.
We can be sure that Jesus is saying to us “I was hungry and you gave me food” [Mt 25:35] each time we welcome a visitor or feed our family. God has chosen very ordinary persons like us, who “by human reckoning” might be “common and contemptible” [1 Co 1:27-28] and asks us to be kind and welcoming, too, secretly aware that we might one day have “entertained angels without knowing it” [Heb 13:2]. It’s when we have tried to be “faithful in small things” [Mt 25:21] that we can hope to say, perhaps, that by the grace of Christ we are “in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered” [2 Co 4:8].
What a comfort it is to be able to reflect on Christ’s words about Christian life: “IF Anyone loves me HE will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him” [Jn 14:23]. All the devotions which I’m mentioning can be part of our attempt to remain “faithful to THE teaching of the Apostles, TO THE BROTHERHOOD, to the breaking of the bread and TO the prayers” [Ac 2:42].
No matter how much we pray, we can benefit from a little bit of Spiritual Reading each day. We can receive great help both in prayer and in everyday problems, even if we can only manage a paragraph or two from the lives of the Saints or from a history of the Church. Such reading reminds us to hold firm “by the faith you have been taught.” [Col 2:7] We must obey the Apostle’s plea that we “obey your leaders ... BECAUSE THEY MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT OF THE WAY THEY LOOK AFTER your souls” [Heb 13:17].
We can say of good writers what we say of good friends: “whoever finds one has found a RARE treasure” [Si 6:14]. They not only boost our morale, but sometimes lead us closer to God; and it’s worth copying little pieces of inspiring writing into a small notebook, for meditation - or for special help in times of difficulty; or perhaps a scrap of paper with a Psalm written out can be recited whenever we’re alone or afraid, for example; and through it, as we pray to God with faith, we can receive tremendous help from God.
Holy Scripture: inspired by God.
A brief period of Bible Study for a few minutes each day enables us to learn more about “the wisdom that leads to salvation” [2 Tm 3:15] which is a phrase which beautifully describes Our Lord and also reminds us that “all scripture is inspired by God” [2 Tm 3:16]. It’s worthwhile to ‘dig deep’ into Holy Scripture. Nuggets of pure gold surface just when we need them.
We can use the daily Mass-readings as the passages we study each day, or we can use Bible-reading notes, which some people find invaluable. After meditation and prayer, we could even look up difficult phrases in a reliable Biblical Commentary. There’s always more to astonish us about the “Son of God” [Mt 14:33] Who is revealed in the pages of the Gospels. He Who said “The Father and I are one” [Jn 10:30] is infinitely fascinating. We can make brief notes to remind ourselves, in bad patches, of our discoveries about God’s love for us. This can help us when we feel we’re unlovable.
At the end of the day.
During Evening Prayers, before we go to bed, we can take all our miseries to the Lord, again, and all our thanks, too, and sorrow for the sins and failings of another day. Jesus said to Saint Paul: “my Grace is enough for you” [2 Co 12:9], so we must believe that Our Lord wants us to do our best, but not to worry about anything. That’s why we can pray with confidence “to be given a place in Him” [Ph 3:9], here in our ordinary life, and later, we hope, in heaven. We can follow the advice that we “PRAY FOR IT, ASKING GOD FOR IT WITH PRAYER AND THANKSGIVING” [ph 4:6]. Our trust is mingled with “reverence and fear” [Heb 12:28]: I mean a holy fear before the Father Who is offering us “an unshakeable kingdom” [Heb 12:28]. Of course we’re not worthy of such a gift; but it’s ours, undeserved, through Christ’s sacrifice; and that’s one reason why it’s good to turn to the Saints in Heaven to ask them to pray for us so that we’ll be more loving and Christ-like. We ask the Saints for help just as we ask our local friends for their prayers. Death hasn’t separated us from people in Purgatory or Heaven. We’re bound together in the Communion of Saints, through our love for Christ and our Baptism.
The Scriptures tell us that the Apostles prayed “in the upper room” after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, and that they “joined IN CONTINUOUS prayer, together with ... Mary the mother of Jesus” [Ac 1:13-14]; so we can ask Our Lady to pray for us too. We can take comfort in having “so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us” [Heb 12:1].
Whatever our day has been like, we can reflect that perhaps we have “not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death” in defence of the Faith [Heb 12:4]. This helps us to see our small problems in perspective.
A blessing, with holy water.
Last of all, each night, we can Bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, using holy water from the church. The Bible is full of blessings; and this ceremony can be a way of saying to God: “In you, Yahweh, I take SHELTER” for another night and another day [Ps 31:1].
This can remind us of Jesus, before His Ascension, when, “LIFTING UP His hands He blessed them” [Lk 24:50]. Also, the water and the Cross are an ancient and traditional reminder of our Baptism long ago, “in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Mt 28:19].
It’s good to thank our Guardian Angels once again for their care of us [Mt 18:10], and to pray that we’ll be held fast within God’s love: whether we see another day dawn, or whether one night we die and slip away.
Christ: waiting to greet us.
These devotions, all centred around the Word of God in our daily life, can be seen not as the main events of our life, but as pauses or ‘markers’ in what is the one ‘event’ we live - by which I mean ‘life-in-Christ’: something precious and real, although spiritual and therefore invisible amidst life’s earthly events. But we can hope to be wrapped firmly in prayer as we keep plodding on in one direction. United to Christ Our Lord we travel towards the Father, and Heaven, in the power of the Holy Spirit. And if one person’s prayers differ greatly from the next person’s devotions, that’s all right. All we need to do is to turn to Christ Himself at frequent intervals each day, sometimes with joy, peacefully, and sometimes repentant, but always believing, despite our moods, that we’re precious to Him, and that He loves us, even though our faith may be dim, or our behaviour uncharitable. He doesn’t change!
In case anyone thinks that the devotions I’ve mentioned sound exhausting, I must point out that most of the items listed take only a few minutes or a few seconds of time each day; and in sickness or exhaustion, things can be left out with a clear conscience. I don’t mean that we should discard our devotions carelessly; we need to sort out, first, which of our devotions really suits us - as our circumstances change over the years. But we’ll probably realise that there are a few essentials amongst our prayer-habits without which a normal Christian life is just not possible. Since the whole point of prayer is to be brought closer to the Father, through Christ and His Spirit, we shall not only not progress, if we neglect or close off all points of contact, but we might find ourselves back where we started or worse.
Perhaps I’ve given the impression that this business of prayer is all about thoughts and words: something cerebral, with room neither for the silence of contemplation nor for any peaceful reflection upon the sort of images that can help us to become more aware of God. Perhaps the rest of the book will provide enough pointers towards the true contemplative prayer which is a gift from God; and if I mention images, it’s to say how important at different times or different stages of my own life have been things precious to our Tradition: things such as the crucifix, Bible illustrations, prayer-cards, little relics, pictures of the Saints, holy-medals and other items: but I call most of these things very important yet not essential.
Perhaps these material objects can be seen, by those who have never before seen or seriously considered them, as being like little pieces of Scripture-truth, but in another form: holy reminders almost ‘transposed’ into items which are small enough for a fallible human being to handle, and also attractive enough to persuade us to focus more frequently on God in prayer.
Some of these pious objects are the direct ‘descendants’, perhaps, of the wall paintings and statues in British churches in medieval times, when illiterate folk learned about God and the Bible by looking at religious pictures. Yet pictures can be helpful in every age, even if we can read books; and the Church today promotes the wise use of sacred art and sculpture.
We can become as familiar with pictures of the Saints as with the photographs of our family members - alive or departed. That’s because we can learn to see the ‘Communion of Saints’ as a reality now, and so can begin to look forward to meeting the Saints, one day, just as we hope to meet our friends and relations.
Turning our backs on God’s blessings.
There’s not enough space here to mention other forms of prayer, or other helps to prayer, such as Eucharistic devotions, pilgrimages or retreats, or the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate heart of Mary, or scapulars and medals, or the feasts and fasts of our Liturgical Year within the Church. As I mentioned at the beginning, my aim in describing a number of daily devotions is to demonstrate that a life of ‘known-union’ with Christ in contemplative prayer isn’t usually established unless a firm foundation has been placed within the heart and life of the person who claims to want to know and love God; and no foundation can be very firm if it doesn’t contain some small measure of sincere interest in the Holy Trinity, with sincere efforts to ‘meet’ God in prayer, and some degree of ‘inculturation’ in the Catholic way of life and prayer. Everyone who sincerely longs to be close to Christ must make sincere attempts to live in a way appropriate for a ‘child of God’, to do penance for his own sins and for the sins of others, and to love and serve his neighbour.
Our tiniest sincere efforts delight God; but also, quite wonderfully, they propel us closer towards Him, with the result that we can be drenched in His torrent of grace as He pours down His blessings upon us. If we make no effort to please Him - or to pray to Him - we’re turning our backs, so to speak, on the blessings which flow from Him unceasingly.
God’s love for us is unconditional and total; and that’s precisely why He doesn’t force anyone to receive His gifts; yet this means that He ‘cannot’ draw into a blissful and intimate relationship with Himself someone who, by his attitude, is resolutely walking away from Divine Love; and yet God ‘longs’ to give joy. He longs to see us living in union with Him forever.