Pray constantly

620px-Angelico,_maria_tra_i_santi_domenico_e_tommaso_d'aquinoThursday in the IV Week of AugustFrom the Works of St Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.  When Paul says: “Rejoice always”, he shows how they ought to behave towards God; and he mentions three things.  First, to rejoice in him; and so Paul says, “Rejoice always”, that is, in God; for whatever evil might occur, it is incomparable to the goodness which is God.  Hence, no evil ought to interrupt it, and so Paul insists: “Rejoice always.”  Secondly, to pray for the blessings they want to receive.  Paul urges, “Pray constantly”.  “They ought always to pray and not lose heart”.  How is this possible?  It may happen in three ways.

First, that person who does not neglect the appointed hours for prayer, prays always. “You shall eat at my table always”.  Secondly, “Pray constantly” means to pray continuously. But then prayer is considered under the aspect of the effect of the prayer.  For prayer is the unfolding or expression of desire; for when I desire something, then I ask for it by praying.  So prayer is the petition of suitable things from God; and so desire has the power of prayer. “O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek”.  Therefore, whatever we do is the result of a desire; so prayer always remains in force in the good things we do; for the good things we do flow forth from the desire of the good.  There is a commentary on this verse pointing out: “He does not cease praying, who does not cease doing good.”

A third way by which it is possible to pray without ceasing is through the giving of alms which may be a sort of cause of continual prayer.  In the lives of the Fathers we read: “He who gives alms is the one who always prays, for the person who receives alms prays for you even when you are asleep.”  The third thing he mentions is to offer thanks for those blessings already received, hence Paul says: in all circumstances, that is, in good times and in bad times, give thanks.  “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him”; “abounding in thanksgiving”; “with thanksgiving”.  For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”.

Responsory.  Prayer is good || with fasting and alms more than to lay up treasures of gold: for * Alms delivereth from death, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.  V. Neglect not to pray, and to give alms. * Alms delivereth … Glory be … Alms delivereth …