|A Sinner Should Pray With A Contrite Heart
Taken from THE GREAT MEANS OF GRACE: PRAYER, 1956
A PERSON who is in the state of mortal sin and is not willing to abandon his sinful ways is an enemy of God. To pray effectually he must have true contrition for his sins and a firm purpose to amend his life. St. Augustine therefore gives this advice: "First we must weep, then pray."
"The prayer of an evil tongue," says St. Bonaventure, "is not the supplication of one who prays, but the hissing of a serpent."
"If, however, a person falls into sin through human frailty or rashness," says St. Alphonsus, "and sighs over his misery and desires to be delivered therefrom; if he implores God to rend the fetters of his sins, he may rest assured that God will hear his petitions." Our Lord Himself declares: "For every one that asks, receives" [Luke 11:10], be he just or sinner.
St. Augustine asks, "If God did not hear the prayers of the sinner, what would it have availed the publican to ask for mercy?"
"When we pray for graces," says St. Thomas, "it is not absolutely necessary to be already friends of God; prayer itself will make us become His friends."
According to the words of St. John Chrysostom, no contrite sinner has ever implored God's grace and mercy in vain. The words of our Divine Savior Himself assure us of this: "Come to Me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you." [Matt. 11:28] Who should come? Only the just [those in the state of grace]? No! "They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill." [Matt. 9:12]
Consequently, Our Lord's invitation here is meant particularly for sinners. The word "burdened" is interpreted by the Holy Fathers as referring to sinners who are groaning under the weight of their sins, who take refuge in the Lord in order to be converted and to obtain their salvation. Only the impenitent sinner who continues to live in the state of mortal sin, who loves his sins, will not be heard. [Emphasis, this sentence only, added.]
God is so greatly inclined to pardon sinners that He laments their perdition when they depart from Him and live as dead to His grace. How lovingly He calls them, saying, "Why will ye die, O house of Israel? . . . Return ye and live." [Ezech. 18:31-32] He promises to receive the soul that has forsaken Him as soon as she returns to His friendship: "Turn ye to Me . . . and I will turn to thee." [Zach. 1:3] Oh, if sinners but knew with what tender mercy God stands waiting to forgive them! "The Lord waiteth, that He may have mercy on thee." [Is. 30:18]
In a word. He has declared that when a person repents of having offended Him, He forgets all his sins: "I will not remember all his iniquities." [Ezech. 18:22] As soon as you fallen into any fault, raise your eyes to God, make an act of love, and with humble confession hope assuredly for His pardon. Then God, Who is "merciful and gracious, patient and of much compassion" will let you hear His words to the penitent Magdalen, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," and He will give you strength to be faithful to Him for the time to come.
If the prayer of the sinner thus pierces the clouds, how acceptable and precious in the sight of the Lord must be the prayer of the just and devout soul!
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