As prayer is a necessary means of obtaining every need, so it is also sufficient for everything.
The power of prayer comes from the promise that Jesus made concerning prayer, as He so beautifully shows: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.” His promise is a solemn one by which He pledges His divine word. It is a comprehensive and unconditional promise, limited only by our welfare and the glory of God. Miracles are not excluded. Prayer has worked many. Even Heaven is included; indeed, Heaven especially, and before all else. “If you ask the Father anything in my name, He will give it to you. . . . Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
Prayer, then, is infallible — that is, it will always be heard, not because of any power on our part, but because of Christ’s promise that He will not fail to answer our prayers. Even the prayers of those in mortal sin are infallibly heard, if they sincerely want to repent, as did the thief on the cross.
The power of prayer depends on God’s infinite goodness and mercy
The reason your petitions are granted is not your worthiness and merit, but the infinite mercy of God. If your merit were the reason, you would not petition, but demand; but as it is, you ask. And so you must have faith and trust in God’s goodness and mercy.
The power of God’s answer extends as far as your need and His divine mercy. You may pray for whatever you desire, whatever is reasonable and pleasing to God — especially spiritual gifts. The more necessary and the more excellent the gift, the more confidently you may trust that it will be granted to you. If you pray for temporal gifts and it seems as though God has not heard you, remember that the only reason He does not grant them is that He knows they would prove harmful to you. If temporal gifts are denied, you can be sure that God has some greater gift to bestow.
Holy Scripture has splendid pictures of the power of prayer: Israel in the desert, Moses and Joshua, the mighty deeds of the judges and the Maccabees, the miracles of our Lord and the Apostles, and the whole history of God’s chosen people and of the early Catholic Church. Prayer figures in a constant and marvelous exchange between human need and divine help.
Jesus told the people several parables in which He stressed the goodness and mercy of God in answering prayer. He spoke of a judge who, although unjust, was willing to help a poor widow because she appealed to him with all the fervor of her heart. How much more will the just God hear us, His own children!
Jesus spoke of a man who went to his neighbor at night to beg for some bread for a friend who had just arrived from a long journey. Because he continued to knock, his neighbor was compelled to get up and grant his request even in the middle of the night. Such is the effect of perseverance in prayer.
Our Lord also mentioned the willingness of a father to come to the aid of his child when that child begs for help. The father will not offer the child a snake or a stone when he asks for food. If we, imperfect as we are, do these things for our children, then certainly the heavenly Father, who is goodness itself, will give us good things when we ask Him.
And if mothers are so sensitive to the needs of their children, how much more the Father and Creator of all mankind must be alert to the needs of His children when they speak to Him in prayer! A mother’s love is a spark compared with the burning furnace of God’s infinite love for us, His creatures. If mothers are so ready to help when they hear their children in need, how can God our Father fail to hear your voice when you cry to Him in prayer?
And all the tender affection He pours out upon countless other souls does not lessen His love for you. His care of the entire universe is insignificant compared with the care He has for your immortal soul.