Confidence in prayer

Confidence in prayer


What about confidence in prayer?

Coming into the Lenten season and processing through some personally challenging times, it was a question I had, finding wisdom from my reading in Cassian’s Conferences, the book mentioned in Chapter 73 of the Rule of St Benedict.

First, St Benedict mentions that if you are hastening on to the perfection of monastic life then;

What page, what passage of the Old and New Testament is not the truest guides for human life?

But also, he says,

what book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator,


Whereby he mentions the Conferences and Institutes. You can access several formats of this work here, as well as a good introduction to this mystic, theologian and desert father. 


The section on confidence in prayer in Conference Nine is what I’d like to highlight. It follows after a discussion which speaks of a kind of prayer one might experience with no hesitation or uneasiness which undermines our confidence. One feels in the “flush of prayer that you have been granted what we sought” with no doubt that your prayer “has effectively reached through to God.”

Our conviction that God is looking at us and that He has the power to grant what we ask of Him, earns us the right to be heard and to be given what we seek.


But, he says, Germanus taught that this kind of confidence in being heard comes from a purity of conscience. What about those of us whose hearts are sadly aware of sin? How can we have this confidence? “What about if we have no merits to give us assurance, how can we presume our prayers are heard?”

Great question, isn’t it? And comforting to know that even as far back as the desert fathers this was a struggle for those seeking perfection in the monastic life.

And from Issac’s wisdom, Cassian relays the answer:


The words of the gospel and of the prophets bear witness to the fact that the reasons for being heard are as different as souls and their dispositions.


  • You have it as the outcome of the harmony between two people what the Lord Himself laid down: 

” If two of you on earth agree to ask anything it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven.  ( Mt 18:19)

  •  You have it in fullness of faith which is compared to a mustard seed:


” If your faith were the size of a mustard seed you would say to this mountain move from here, and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Mt 17:19)

  • You have it in the persistence of prayer that unwearying persistence which the Lord called importunity: 

Amen, I will tell you, he will get up and give him what he wants if not for the sake of friendship then because of importunity.” (Lk 11:18)

  • You have it in the good fruit of almsgiving:

Give your alms into the heart of the poor man and your alms will pray for you on the day of tribulation.

  • You have it in a changed style of living and in the works of mercy:

” Break the chains of impiety, each the crushing loads.” ( Is 58:6)


And the prophets add this after criticizing the sterility of a

profitless fast:


” Then you will call out and the Lord will hear you; you will cry out and He will say, here I am.” ( Is 58:9)

  • Sometimes it’s too great a burden of sorrows which causes us to be heard:

” I cried in distress to the Lord and He heard me.” ( Ps 119:1)


” Do not afflict the stranger because if he cries out to me I shall hear him, for I am merciful.” ( Ex 22:21, 27)

So you see then the many ways in which the grace of being head is won. No one, therefore, should allow the misery of his conscience to break him in discouragement {….}

We must therefore not be hesitant and lacking in faith.


What an encouragement for prayer as we begin the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday next week.



  •  Art: John Cassian, Wikipedia
  • Quotes: John Cassian Conferences, Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press




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