Praying For Temporal Things

Father Girardey writes: “As to temporal matters, we have a kind of claim to be heard when we pray for the necessaries of life, for our divine Saviour Himself has taught us to do so in His admirable prayer, the Our Father, in which He wishes us to say to our heavenly Father: ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ that is, necessary food, clothing and shelter.”

“Whenever we ask for temporal blessings, such as success in our undertakings, the cure of disease, deliverance from crosses and trials, we should ask God for them conditionally, that is, pray for it in this manner: ‘O my God, grant me . . . if this is good for me, if it does not prove injurious to my salvation.’ Let us, whenever we pray to God, observe the admonitions of our divine Saviour: ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all the rest shall be added unto you’ (Matt 6:33). If you act otherwise, Jesus will say to you as He did to the sons of Zebedee, who had asked to sit one at His right hand the other at His left, when He would come into His kingdom, that is, for the two highest positions, or offices: ‘You know not what you are asking’ (Matt 20:22).”

Father Girardey observes that temporal misfortunes, corporal sufferings, physical evils, and loss of goods are often “great blessings and sometimes indispensable means of salvation, so that very frequently were God to free us from them, it would be rather a punishment than a blessing. Loss of health, of goods, sufferings, contradictions, disappointments, adversity and other so-called misfortunes cause many a sinner to be converted, to return to God, to amend his ways and lead a holy and virtuous life, who would, without them, have continued to live in sin and end in losing his soul. When fortune smiles on a man, he will naturally be more and more attached to worldly goods and may be easily estranged from God and from God’s service. Moreover, just as God has destined for every man his place in heaven, so also He has destined for each man the crosses that will bring him to heaven.”

“It is not wrong, however, to pray for temporal goods and favors. . . . But to neglect to pray for spiritual favors, for what is necessary for salvation, for what greatly promotes it, and to pray only for temporal benefits is to pray, at most, only for trifles, for useless things. . . . ‘God,’ says St. Basil, ‘ is almighty, and most liberal in His favors; we should, therefore, ask Him for great things, and not for mere trifles.’ All temporal goods, however great and precious, are but trifles, when compared with even the slightest spiritual favor.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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