The necessity of trying to see the imponderables and hear the interior voices
People have an interior instinct that tells them that this belongs to the order of Providence.
In this, we see very different ways for souls. We find everything in the lives of the saints. Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus, for example, had that resolution of "not asking anything and not refusing anything."
Now, she, who had that habit, is the saint who most encouraged petitions from earth. Her intention was to spend Heaven doing good and showering earth with roses. She stimulates people to ask.
Her way was one; other souls show many diverse ways. An example of a petition not meant in the way of Saint Therese is that of Saint Scholastica.
She knew by revelation that Saint Benedict's death was imminent. If I am not mistaken, she went to a place close to Monte Casino, where Saint Benedict was living, to converse with him. Suddenly, night comes and Saint Benedict wants to leave. Saint Scholastica objects and asks him to stay, but he refuses.
She cries a bit, then prays, and a terrible storm breaks. Saint Benedict asks, "My sister, what have you done?"
She answers, "God is better than you; I asked you, but you did not listen to me; I asked God and He heeded me."
You see, she asked for a great storm in order to detain her brother to talk a little more. It is not "not asking anything and not refusing anything." It is definitely "asking."
It is a spiritual way whereby a different grace touches that soul. There are many mansions in the house of the Heavenly Father. When the soul prays well, it finds its proper way.
Here is surely a case of the graces that God always gives. We must pray to persist along that way. It needs be said, however, that God wants us to remain in a certain twilight, for it possible for us to err in interpreting the interior voice of God.
Let us consider the example of Saint Joan of Arc. It seems, from what is said about her life, that she never imagined she would die at the stake. That end was not what she considered the natural end of her career. I have a certain impression that she died quite surprised with all that was happening to her. Of course, she was resigned. But what direction were things taking?
It is revealing, in that vein, that at a certain point she attempted to escape the tower where she was imprisoned, leaping and even hurting herself.
I heard, but we should verify, for I don't know if it is true, that Saint Paul did something similar. He predicted the place of his death and then it did not happen. But, I do not know if it that is true.
The background of all this is the following: We must do God's will.
But there is no disagreement with the principle that we know the will of God about many things and therefore we can legitimately see clearly.
In a certain circumstance in the life of Saint Teresa of Jesus, her Carmelite superior obtained a document from the Pope destroying all her work. After a first movement of perplexity, she ordered all the convents to pray, and she ended up victorious.
How is it possible to be sure that God wants that? Had God so wanted, she may not have attained the same good result. But there was a dynamism that gave her assurance.
Those imponderables exist, and we have to accustom ourselves to them. Super-regulating our spiritual life or becoming impatient with it, is to act against the course established by God.
Consider, for example, Saint Thomas Aquinas. We should always follow his opinion. Now, we know that Saint Thomas erred in certain matters, so much so that he retracted. Only a person who confesses his error retracts.
Nevertheless, we should always follow Saint Thomas's opinion.
What is the meaning of this? It means that we must have a great malleability, a great suppleness]. I may also be mistaken interiorly in things like that and may not see my own way well. That does not mean I can never trust what is made known to me interiorly about my own way. My spiritual director can also err about me. That does not mean that spiritual direction is worthless. This alternative, infallibility or nothing, is obviously not included in the line of Providence.
A good prayer is always heeded
Applying these principles to obtaining material goods, success in tests, health, and everything else, the answer is very simple. We must confide on these terms: When we have well-considered reasons, in accord with good spirit, for regarding this as good and agreeable to Providence, we must trust that we will obtain it.
But if God does not grant what we ask for conditionally -- as it should be -- He will give us something else.
Prayer goes unheeded; it always brings some benefit. For example, I ask God for a watch. If it is not a petition that offends Him if I do not ask out of vanity or stupidity, but He does not give me the watch, He will give me something else. It will be whatever He wants. It could be greater graces. But a good prayer purely and simply never goes unheeded; it is heeded.
Could there be a risk of asking something that God does not want?
For example, when Saint Paul asked that angel to be taken away from him, was there not a risk?
How did Saint Paul ask? He asked mindful that God might not grant it if it were not for his own sanctification. And thus we understand how the prayers of the faithful have to be, how the faithful should trust in their prayers, and what that confidence means.
That confidence has a root, a reason for being, but it naturally supposes a very upright interior sense, which we must ask from God. It also supposes, naturally, a good spiritual orientation, because even so, a person easily makes mistakes in this matter.
(Taken from comments of Prof. Plinio on the book of Saint Alphonsus, Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation. These comments have not been reviewed by the author.)