Even if God had not promised to give us every grace that we earnestly ask Him for, we should still have strong reasons for supposing that He will never refuse the gift of perseverance in His love to those who ask it.
The first is that He is infinitely good; for as there is no man hard-hearted enough to refuse help to a mendicant, which he can give without depriving himself of anything, how can we believe that God, whose gifts are without number, and whose treasures are inexhaustible, as the Church tells us, could close His heart against a poor creature in danger of losing eternal salvation, who has no other protector than He, who earnestly implores Him to stretch out His hand and help him, which He certainly can do without cost? What an idea, I repeat, must we have formed of our great God if we can imagine Him to be guilty of such cruelty. Let us blush for shame, and be horrified with ourselves at having had the terrible presumption of placing the Father of Mercies below the least compassionate of men.
And let us listen while He Himself explains this point to us in the Gospel of St. Matthew. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask them” (Matt. 7:11).
St. Bernard has dared to say to Mary, whose mercy is only that of a creature, “Let him only deny thy goodness, O blessed Virgin, who hast invoked thee and whom thou hast not helped.” How much more have we the right to say to our heavenly Father, whose mercy is essential as well as infinite, “Let him only deny Thy mercy, O most clement God, who has implored it in his hour of need, and whose prayer Thou hast not heard.” But we have lingered too long on a point universally believed.
The second reason is His fatherly love, which leaves no room for doubting His gracious dispositions toward us. “The name of Father,” says St. Augustine, “inspires us with confidence and emboldens us to ask for the graces we need; for if, before we pray, He has given us the glorious privilege of being His children, so that in all truth we can call Him Father, how can He be deaf to our prayers when we earnestly ask Him to keep us in this high rank, in this happy condition?”
The third reason is because He has already bestowed on us gifts greater than those we can ask from Him. “The great things Thou hast done in our favor,” says St. Anselm, “assure us that we may ask for lesser ones; for what are all the graces that we shall have to ask for in the course of our lives, in comparison with Thy charity in clothing Thyself with our poor nature, and submitting for us to the infamous and agonizing death of the Cross?” And St. Paul dwells on this powerful reason in his epistle to the Romans, in which he says, “He that spared not even His own son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also with Him given us all things” (Rom. 8:3). In the fifth chapter, he uses the same argument but strengthens it by observing that when He gave us this unspeakable gift, we were His enemies, from which he concludes that now being His friends, He will never refuse us graces far less precious. “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10).
The fourth reason for confidence, which is a weighty one, is founded on the pleasure that God has in granting our petitions. As His greatest desire is that we should persevere in His love — and this is the end of all His works, whether of nature or of grace — how can He refuse our prayers for the means of attaining it? What should we think of a father, who, having urged his son on to scientific studies, and spent a large sum every year for the purpose, should afterward obstinately refuse to give him a shilling toward the purchase of some book that was necessary for him? We should certainly say that he was most unreasonable. How, then, dare we suppose that God would act in this manner? St. Augustine truly says, “He who has paid so dearly for us will not let us perish; certainly He has not redeemed us that He may lose us.”
Finally, it is certain (and I beg of you to weigh well what I am going to say), it is certain that, prayer being a grace, we could not pray for perseverance in His love unless He inspired us, from which I derive another and fifth reason for hoping without a doubt that He will give us what we ask from Him.
Why should He inspire us to pray if He is not ready to hear our prayers? “It is Thou, O my God,” says St. Anselm, “who hast inspired me with this good desire, but wherefore shouldst Thou inspire me with it if Thou didst not will to hear me?” “Assuredly,” says St. Bernard, “he who desires a request to be made to him, cannot refuse it when it is presented.”
Whoever will weigh these various reasons with the attention they deserve will see as clearly as daylight that our petitions are certain to be heard. No, it is not possible that the Author of all good things, whose nature is goodness; whose riches are so great that, however abundant His generosities, they are neither diminished nor exhausted; who has adopted us as His children; who, with His great tenderness, has loaded us with blessings such as we should never have dared to ask Him for — it is not possible, I say, that He should now refuse our prayers for the gift most necessary for us, most pleasing to Him, which He inspires us to desire fervently: I mean an unshaken perseverance in His love. “Far be it from us,” cries St. Peter Chrysologus, “to entertain any doubt on this subject. A son can never fear that his father will refuse him the means of becoming virtuous.”
Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Holy Confidence: The Forgotten Path for Growing Closer to God, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.