What should we pray for? In what order?

Of Petition, from Finding God through Meditation, by St. Peter of Alcantara

This noble oblation being well performed, we may securely and confidently proceed to the asking of any gifts and graces. First, therefore, Almighty God is to be prayed to with inflamed charity and ardent zeal of his divine honor, for the conversion of all nations, that all people may be illuminated with the knowledge of him, praying and adoring him as the only true and living God. To this end, from the bottom of our hearts, we may utter the words of the kingly prophet: “Let people, O God, confess to thee; let all people give praise to thee” (Ps 66:4).

Then, we must pray to God for the prelates of the Church, the supreme pastor, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and other prelates, that he would be pleased so to govern and illuminate them, with the light of his heavenly grace, that they may be able to bring all men to the knowledge and obedience of their Creator. We must also pray to God for kings and princes, (as St. Paul admonishes) and for all men placed in authority, that by their diligent care, their subjects may live a quiet life, well instructed with honest manners, for this is grateful to God, that wills all should be saved and come to the knowledge of his truth. Then for all the members of his Mystical Body; for the just, that he would be pleased to conserve them in their sanctity; for sinners, to convert them from their wicked courses to the amendment of their lives; for the dead, that he would free them from the expiating torments wherein they are detained and bring them to their eternal rest.

We must pray to God for the poor infirm captives, bond-slaves, or others, in whatsoever tribulation; that for the merits of his dear Son, he would vouchsafe to help and free them from all their miseries. After we have prayed for the good of our neighbors, let us, at length, intreat for our own necessities, which discretion will teach everyone in particular (if he be not altogether ignorant of himself) what they are. But, that we may set down a method for beginners, we will lead them into this pathway.

First, therefore we must pray to God, that through the merits and Passion of his only begotten Son, he would pardon our sins, give us grace to avoid them and to expiate them with good works worthy of penance; but especially, to implore for help and assistance against those evil inclinations and vices in which we are most addicted, laying open to our heavenly physician all the wounds of our diseased souls, that with the ointment of holy grace he would heal them.

Then, let us ask for the most excellent virtues wherein the whole perfection of a Christian man consists; for example, faith, hope, charity, fear, humility, patience, obedience, fortitude in adversity, poverty of spirit, contempt of the world, true discretion, purity of intention, and others like to these, which are placed in the supreme top of a spiritual building.

  • Faith is the prime root and foundation of a Christian.

  • Hope is a staff to defend us from all tribulations of this present life.

  • Charity is the end of all perfection.

  • Fear of God is the beginning of true wisdom.

  • Humility is the basis and ground work of all virtues.

  • Patience is the strongest armour against the fury of our enemies.

  • Obedience is the most grateful oblation to God, wherein man offers himself for a sacrifice.

  • Discretion is the eye of the soul.

  • Fortitude the hand thereof, wherewith it brings all works unto perfection.

  • Purity of intention directs all her actions unto God. 

We must after pray for other virtues which may help us forward in the way of perfection; as moderation in meat and drink, moderation of the tongue, custody of the senses, modesty and composition of the outward man, sweetness in giving good example to our neighbours, rigor and severity towards ourselves, and the like.

Last of all, we must conclude this petition with a fervent imploring of the divine love and here to pause awhile, so that the chiefest part of time be spent in an earnest desiring of this grace and favor, seeing in the divine love all our joy consists of, to that end, this prayer following will not be unprofitable. 

Finding God through Meditation, by St. Peter of Alcantara, brings the wisdom of the great saint into your hands. St. Peter directed St. Teresa of Avila on difficult questions she had about prayer and she turned to this work for guidance.

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