Father Girardey gives a fourth reason why we ought to pray: because we need God’s help. To make his point, he relates this story about a priest and a farmer:
“One day, whilst taking a much needed recreation in a country place, [a priest] passed alongside a beautiful farm, in which an abundant crop of the finest cereals was approaching maturity. He tarried quite a while to admire the splendid sight. When in the meantime the owner of the farm came along, the priest expressed his admiration of the fine promising crop and remarked: ‘What a fine crop you have! You ought to thank God for blessing you with such a crop.’ ‘What!’ exclaimed the farmer, ‘I do not see why I should thank God for it, since it is all owing to my hard work and to plenty of good fertilizers.'”
“The following year the good priest returned to the same place for a few weeks rest; and one day he took a stroll to the same farm. But what a change was there! All the neighboring farms gave promise of exceptionally fine crops, but the farm he had so much admired the year before, was now mostly a parched, barren waste, and the thin spare ears of wheat appeared so wretched and poor as not to be worth the gathering. This time also he met the farmer and questioned him about his crop. In doleful tones the farmer bewailed his exceedingly bad luck, as he expressed it. ‘But,’ asked the priest, ‘did you not work hard and use plenty of good fertilizers?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the farmer, ‘but in spite of this, I have the poorest crop I have ever seen. I do not know to what to attribute my bad luck and the good luck of my neighbors, who have not worked half as hard as I did.’ ‘If you do not know,’ said the priest, ‘I will tell you. You may work as hard and as long as you can, you may, besides, use all the best fertilizers in the world, if you lack the blessing of God, you shall never succeed. . . . Remember the words of the psalmist: Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Ps 126:1). Henceforth never lose sight of the fact that you stand in need of God, of His blessing in all you do, if you wish to succeed.'”
“The Council of Trent, adopting the saying of St. Augustine, says: ‘God in commanding us to do what we are not able to accomplish of ourselves, admonishes us to do all we can of ourselves and to pray to Him for help to do what is beyond our power, and when we so pray, He imparts to us the grace to accomplish it.'”
Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).