05 October 2009

Why we pray for all and not so much ourselves

This from St. Ambrose on the effect of praying for all people.

"Above all, you must pray for the whole people: that is, for the whole body, for every part of your mother the Church, whose distinguishing feature is mutual love. If you ask for something for yourself then you will be praying for yourself only – and you must remember that more grace comes to one who prays for others than to any ordinary sinner. If each person prays for all people, then all people are effectively praying for each.
In conclusion, if you ask for something for yourself alone, you will be the only one asking for it; but if you ask for benefits for all, all in their turn will be asking for them for you. For you are in fact one of the “all.” Thus it is a great reward, as each person’s prayers acquire the weight of the prayers of everyone. There is nothing presumptuous about thinking like this: on the contrary, it is a sign of greater humility and more abundant fruitfulness."

This ties in with the rational behind reciting the liturgy: we, in effect, begin to learn to sympathetically voice the concerns of others, taking their very words into our mouths. We become them; we escape the narrowness of me.