Dear Father Angelo,
I would like to express some reflections of mine.
– What is the true value of prayer? If this custom arises, for example, from the Gospel phrase “ask and it will be given to you”, then I wonder why even though we pray every Sunday, we never get what we ask for?
– If each of us has the gift of free will and can choose how to lead his/hers own life, then what sense does it make to pray for the dead,given that everything on earth has been fulfilled for them?
1. To the first question I will answer you with St. Thomas Aquinas:
“If the things that a person asks for himself are not useful to him for beatitude (for Heaven) he does not deserve them: indeed he sometimes compromises his merit, desiring and asking for these things:e.g. if one asks God to be able to commit a sin; which is the equivalent of praying in a non-pious way.
Sometimes, however, it is a question of unnecessary things, but not even clearly contrary to eternal salvation. And then, although those who pray may thus deserve eternal life, yet they do not deserve to obtain what they ask for. Hence the words of St. Augustine: “Whoever prays with faith for the needs of the present life, with equal mercy can be heard and not heard. Because the doctor knows better than the patient what is good for the sick” (In libro sententiarum Prosperi). For this reason St. Paul was not heard when he asked to be freed from the stimulus of the flesh, because it was not convenient.
On the other hand,if what someone asks is useful for his/hers beatitude, as an indispensable element for salvation, then one obtains it not only by praying, but also by doing other good works. Therefore, he/she infallibly receives what it has been asked for, but in due time: “in fact,” as St. Augustine notes, “certain things are not denied, but are deferred to be granted at the right moment” (Commentary on the Gospel of John).
However, this can be prevented if one does not insist on praying. This is why St. Basil wrote: “This is why you often ask and do not get, because you ask badly, and with little faith, or lightly, or by asking for things that do not help you, or without insisting”.
Moreover, because strictly speaking one cannot merit eternal life for others, in the sense we have seen above, consequently one might not always obtain for others the things that are required for eternal life.
For this same reason, those who pray for other people are not always granted.
Therefore, for anyone who wants to obtain what he asks for , the concurrence of these four conditions is required: that he prays for himself, that he asks for things necessary to save himself, and that he does it with pity and perseverance” (Sum theologica II-II, 83, 15, ad 2).
2. For the second question it is useful to remember that by the virtue of charity we all constitute one thing, one body.
So precisely because we are one we can also pray for others and in particular for the dead.
3. If the dead are in Purgatory they have charity. They are in fact saved because they possess Grace. They form with us the mystical Body of Christ
Then we can pray for them and help them in their purification, so that what one does at the same time redounds for the benefit of all.
4. If the dead are in Heaven, we don’t pray for them because they don’t need it.
However, we can rekindle our communion with them by praying in their honor and begging for their intercession.
5. If they find themselves in hell, unfortunately they are irremediably separated from us because they do not have charity and can no longer recover it.
6. However, since we do not know the eternal destiny of each deceased individual, with the exception of those who are proclaimed saints by the Church, we can and must pray for all, without excluding anyone.
In any case, our prayer always bears fruit for us and for everyone because when praying a soul elevates both itself and the whole Church, the whole world.
With the hope that you too can relentlessly elevate the Church and the world with your prayers, I greet you, I entrust you to the Lord and I bless you.