Fr. Hunolt may not be a saint, but I have always found his sermons edifying, and provoking of thought, only in the rarest cases thinking a part may be incorrect on some point or another. And so for your discernment and food for thought...
Excerpts from Fr. Hunolt's Sermons Adapted to All Sundays -- The Seven Deadly Sins
The first part of the sermon:
ON FALSE AND USELESS PRAYER.
Many pray; but they do not wish to receive what they pray for. That is a false and useless prayer, which offends God, instead of honoring Him. Preached on the fifth Sunday after Easter.
Petite, et accipietis. -- John xvi. 24.
"Ask, and you shall receive."
There we have a clear promise on the part of the God of infinite truth, who must necessarily keep His promise: "Ask, and you shall receive." And yet there is nothing more common than to hear men complaining that their prayers seem to be of no avail. What is the cause of that, my dear brethren? I am firmly convinced that if ever our hearts and desires are in contradiction with the words we utter, they are so very often when we pray to God; for, we are not always in earnest in our prayers nor do we really wish to be heard; in fact, we desire the very contrary of what we ask for. This is the case especially when we ask for heavenly graces and spiritual blessings, which ought to be the chief object of our prayers. Without wasting any more precious time on the introduction, I begin at once, and I say
Plan of Discourse.
Many pray but they do not wish to receive what they pray for. That is a false and useless prayer, which offends God, instead of honoring Him. Such is the whole subject.
That we may correct this fault, which makes our prayers fruitless, nay, even culpable, we humbly beg Thy grace, O God through the intercession of Mary and the holy angels guardian.
The nature of prayer consists, properly, in the desire of obtaining what we ask for; because asking is but an outward sign of our inward desire. And this was the first condition that our Lord required from the sick and infirm whom He healed.
"Wilt thou be made whole?" He asked the infirm man in the Gospel of St. John who had no one to put him in the pond at Bethsaida. "What will ye that I do to you?" He said to the two blind men by the roadside, when they cried out to Him to have mercy on them. If he had seen that those people were not in earnest in their prayers for health and sight, and that they would have preferred money instead, He would certainly not have healed them.
In the same way, whenever the Holy Scripture says that God hears the prayers of men, it generally adds that men must cry to God beforehand; "In my trouble I cried to the Lord, and He heard me" as the Prophet David says. . . To cry to God in prayer, says St. Bernard, is nothing else but to pray with a great desire and wish to be heard; the greater this desire, the more piercing the cry that resounds in the ears of the Almighty; but when this desire is wanting, the prayer is not heard.
And that is perfectly just; for who would force His gifts and graces on one who is unwilling to receive them, and who sets, no store by them?
To ask, and not to desire what one asks for, is prays, not to pray, but to deceive and lie; conduct which merits, not grace and favor, but anger and punishment. Such is the complaint that Jesus Christ makes, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, of those hypocrites, who pray to Him with the lips, while their hearts and desires are in utter contradiction with their words: "Hypocrites, well hath Isaias prophesied of you, saying: This people honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."
Now, my dear brethren, I maintain the opinion I expressed in the beginning, that, namely, if ever our hearts and wills in contradiction with the words we utter, that is frequently and ask for especially the case in our prayers to God; we are not in earnest with them, nor do we really wish to be heard. What do you think of it yourselves? A beggar comes to the door and begs most piteously for a piece of bread for God's sake; the maid servant comes and shows him several pieces that have been put aside for the poor; there, she says, take whichever of them you please. But the beggar will not put himself to the trouble of stretching out his hand for it; nay, if a piece is given him he throws it away at once; he is actually afraid of being forced to take another piece, and still he does not cease to cry out for a bit of bread for God s sake! Is he in earnest with his begging? No; he is a foolish man; he does not know his own mind; he asks for a thing that he does not wish to get; a man like that must be turned away, even with blows. Now, that is the way in which many Christians pray, when they ask for spiritual blessings that concern the salvation of their souls. The mouth speaks and begs, but the hands remain idle, and will not stretch themselves out to seize what is asked for. Outwardly they appear to sigh with longing for it, inwardly, they are filled with anxiety lest their prayer should be granted. The beautiful words they read in their prayer-books express a great desire for good; but in reality the good is rejected and quite the contrary is accepted. See for yourselves whether it is not so.
I will content myself with proposing for your consideration that most excellent of prayers, which, at the same time is the single most common; it is the most excellent, because it comes from the lips of Christ Himself, it was made by Him, and He has recommended it to us, and it contains brief petitions for all that we can expect or ask for in any kind of prayer, that concerns our eternal salvation: it is the most common prayer, because it is recited daily several times by great and small, young and old, learned and ignorant, nay, a Catholic would make a scruple of omitting that prayer for only one day. That prayer is the Our Father, of which Christ says: "Thus, therefore, shall you pray: Our Father who art in Heaven."
Let us see now, whether there is a single petition in it, in which the lips and the heart, the words and the will are always in perfect accord.
"Hallowed be Thy name;" such is the first petition; and its meaning is this; We wish and desire, Lord, with our whole hearts, that Thy holy name be always praised, honored, glorified, and blessed by all the creatures in the world, in a manner befitting Thy infinite Majesty and Sanctity; that Thy glory be every day increased by us and all belonging to us, and by all Thy creatures; that Thou be always known and loved by all men, above all things.
Now I ask all who say that prayer: are you really in earnest?
Are you in earnest, if you use irreverently and disrespectfully the Most Holy Name of Jesus, at which every knee must bend in Heaven and in hell; if you utter it in astonishment, or in jest? And you, who by your inveterate and horrible habit of cursing, pay more honor to the name of the devil, than to the name of God, and by your bad example teach your children and servants to use a language fit for demons? You who so often speak of God and His saints in contemptuous, profane, or blasphemous terms? You, who are ashamed to pay due respect to God in His church by outward modesty, humility and a humble posture of body? You, who do not like to be thought pious by others, and who therefore are often more influenced by human respect, than by a desire for God's honor? You, who are so jealous of your own honor, that, for the sake of it, you often transgress the law of God? You, who give others the occasion of sin by scandalous behavior, dress, manners, or language, and thus keep them away from God? You, who introduce dangerous abuses that are contrary to the holy Christian law, and spread them, approve of them, or do not prevent them, as far as your position allows? Are you in earnest, I ask, in your prayer that the name of God be hallowed, and His glory increased by all men? Or do you think that you are going the right way about blessing His name? Meanwhile, all these people say every day, "Hallowed be Thy name;" but they do not take the least trouble to amend their own conduct.
Away with such beggars as those! Either they do not know what they are asking for, or they do not want it.