Sermon, Fifth Sunday of Easter, St. Paul the Apostle Church, Manhattan, 1880’s

Fifth Sunday After Easter

EPISTLE. St. James i. 22-27.
GOSPEL. St. John xvi. 23-30.

Amen, amen I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you. ST. JOHN xvi. 23.

WHAT a wonderful promise this is that everything we ask of Almighty God, who is the Father of mercies, shall he granted to us, if we ask it in the name of his only-begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Does our Lord really mean all he says? Do people get all they pray for? Does it not seem to us sometimes that we pray in vain that God seems to shut his cars Against our cry, and has no regard to our tears and supplications? Yes, it does often seem so, but it is not really so. God’s ways are not always our ways to reach the end we desire. And our own experience will tell us that it is very seldom it would be the best for us if God took us at our word.

The real reason why we do not obtain the answer we wish to many of our prayers is, first, because we do not ask, as we ought, in the name of Jesus Christ. What is it to ask in his name? It is to ask in the name of Him who came on earth, not to do his own will, but the will of his Divine Father. Oh! how seldom we pray for favors and blessings according to the will of God. Our blessed Lord, on the night before he was crucified, foreseeing his death, and bowed to the earth in his agony, ended his prayer with the words, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

That is not our way. When we are in sorrow and trouble we think God should will as we will, and we are disappointed and discouraged because we do not get well of our sickness, or that calamity we feared comes, or poverty sticks to us, or the conversion of those we pray for is denied, or we do not obtain the employment we seek, or we have to give up hope of getting that farm we set our heart upon.

Who is the judge, after all, about granting prayers? Who else but God, who not only has the power to grant or refuse them, as he chooses, but also has the perfect knowledge whether it would be best for us to receive a favorable answer or not? He who prays in the name of Jesus, prays with implicit trust in God s goodness and wisdom, and if he has not mistaken his own will for the will of God, will feel and should feel just as contented, no matter which way God answers his prayer.

The second reason why we do not always get what we pray for is because we are constantly asking for things which we dare not presume to ask in the name of Jesus Christ. We know in our heart of hearts that it is a petition he would not offer to his Divine Father for us. If we had to write that petition down we would neither begin nor end it with the words, “In the name of Jesus.” It is our pride that is praying, our worldly ambition, our lusts and our selfish desires. We do not put the name of Jesus to

our prayer, because the spirit of Jesus is not in it. Charity is wanting. We want to be happy, even if others are suffering. We want money, even if our brethren starve, We desire high places and the success of our undertakings, even if our neighbor and his interests go to the wall. Alas! it is self that prays the loudest and the oftenest and makes the greatest show.

Now, dear brethren, let us learn to bring all our prayers up to the right standard. No matter what we ask for, let it be always according to the will of God, and that alone. Then our prayer will surely be granted, for the will of God, no longer opposed and hindered by our will, accomplishes just what is best for us. If we do not get just what we think best, it is because God, in his divine generosity, chooses to give us something better, or takes a wiser way to do it than we knew of.

If I were to advise you how to always pray in the name of Jesus, I would say, Add always these words to every prayer you make : “So may God grant it, if my, salvation be in it.” God grants no prayer that does not have that end in view. His divine love for us constantly regards that, even if we forget it. Pray, then, with confidence and perseverance, but have a care to pray always with and for the will of God. Then in heaven we shall see, if not here, how not a single true prayer we ever made was left unanswered.

Paulist Fathers, Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year (New York: The Catholic Publication Society Co., 1886), 251-254.

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