PRAYER is nothing else but the application of the heart to God, and the interior exercise of love. St Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. v. 17). Our Lord says: “Take ye heed, watch and pray.” “And what I say unto you, I say unto all” (Mark xiii. 33, 37). All, then, are capable of prayer, and it is the duty of all to engage in it.
But I do not think that all are fit for meditation; and, therefore, it is not that sort of prayer which God demands or desires of them.
My dear friends, whoever you may be, who desire to be saved, come unto God in prayer. “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich” (Rev. iii. 18). It is easily to be obtained, far more easily than you could ever imagine.
Come, all ye that are athirst, and take this water of life freely (see Rev. xxii. 17). Do not amuse yourselves by hewing out to yourselves “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. ii. 13). Come, hungry souls, who find nothing that can satisfy you, and you shall be filled. Come, poor afflicted ones, weighed down with griefs and sorrows, and you shall be comforted. Come, sick ones, to the great Physician, and do not fear to approach Him because you are so weak and diseased: expose all your diseases to Him, and they shall be healed.
Come, children, to your Father; He will receive you with open arms of love. Come, wandering and scattered sheep, to your Shepherd. Come, sinners, to your Saviour. Come, ignorant and foolish ones, who believe yourselves incapable of prayer; it is you who are the most fitted for it. Come all without exception; Jesus Christ calls you all.
Let those only refuse to come who have no heart. The invitation is not for them; for we must have a heart in order to love. But who is indeed without heart? Oh, come and give that heart to God, and learn in the place of prayer how to do it! All those who long for prayer are capable of it, who have ordinary grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is freely promised to all who ask it.
Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of God. He tells us this Himself: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. xvii. 1). Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually.
What we need, then, is an attitude of prayer, in which we can constantly abide, and out of which exterior occupations cannot draw us; a prayer which can be offered alike by princes, kings, prelates, magistrates, soldiers, children, artisans, labourers, women, and the sick. This prayer is not mental, but of the heart.
It is not a prayer of thought alone, because the mind of man is so limited, that while it is occupied with one thing it cannot be thinking of another. But it is the prayer of the heart, which cannot be interrupted by the occupations of the mind. Nothing can interrupt the prayer of the heart but unruly affections; and when once we have tasted of the love of God, it is impossible to find our delight in anything but Himself.
Nothing is easier than to have God and to live upon Him. He is more truly in us than we are in ourselves. He is more anxious to give Himself to us than we are to possess Him. All that we want is to know the way to seek Him, which is so easy and so natural, that breathing itself is not more so.
Oh, you who imagine yourselves incapable of religious feeling, you may live in prayer and in God as easily and as continuously as you live by the air you breathe. Will you not, then, be inexcusable if you neglect to do it, after you have learned the way?