Our Lenten Journey with St Francis de Sales – 3 March – Ember Friday of the First Week in Lent – Ezekiel 18:20-28, John 5:1-15 – Scripture search here: https://www.drbo.org/
“Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer
and attend to the voice of my petition.”
“Do you wish to be made whole?”
THE GOAL OF PRAYER
St Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
“ … IN OUR PRIVATE PRAYERS what reverence ought we to have? In private prayer, we are before God, as in public prayer, although in public prayer we ought to be particularly attentive on account of the edification of our neighbour; exterior reverence is a great aid to the interior.
We have many examples which witness to the great exterior reverence which we ought to have when praying, even though it be private prayer. Listen to St. Paul: “I kneel, ” he says, “before the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for you all” (cf Eph 3:14).
And do you not see that the Saviour Himself, while praying to His Father, is prostrate on the ground? (cf. Mt 26:39 and Mk 14:35). ” (Sermon for the Palm Sunday, given on 12 April 1615).
“We must now speak of the final cause [that is, the goal] of prayer. We ought to know, in the first place that all things have been created for prayer and that, when God created angels and men, He did so that they might praise Him eternally in Heaven above, even though this is the last thing that we shall do – if that can be called “last” which is eternal.
To understand this better we will say this – when we wish to make something, we always look first to the end [or purpose], rather than to the work itself. For example, if we are to build a Church and we are asked why we are building it, we will respond that it is so that we can retire there and sing the praises of God; nevertheless, this will be the last thing that we shall do. …
Now prayer, according to most of the Fathers, is nothing other than a raising of the mind to heavenly things; others say, it is a petition but the two opinions are not at all opposed, for while raising our mind to God, we can ask Him for what seems necessary.
The principal petition which we ought to make to God is that of union of our wills with His and the final cause [goal] of prayer lies in desiring only God.
Accordingly,, all perfection is contained therein, as Brother Giles, the companion of St Francis [of Assisi] said, when a certain person asked him what he could do in order to be perfect very soon. “Give,” he replied, “one to One.” That is to say, you have only one soul and there is only God – give your soul to Him and He will give Himself to you.
The final cause [goal] of prayer, then, ought not to be to desire those tendernesses and consolations which our Lord sometimes gives, since union does not consist in that but rather, in conforming to the will of God.” (Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent, given on 22 March 1615).