Q. If someone is not in the state of grace and he prays to Jesus for help, are his prayers heard or are they of value?
— Doris Dehay
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
When we consider prayer, we must first bear in mind that it is God’s gift. We could not think of praying if God’s grace did not call us to do so. Once God establishes the foundation, the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, prayer becomes “a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort” (No. 2725). The Catechism devotes considerable discussion to prayer (see Nos. 2558-2758), which indicates how very central it is to our Christian life. Two quotes serve to emphasize this: “Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy … it is … utterly impossible for the man who … invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin” (St. John Chrysostom).“Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned” (St. Alphonsus Ligouri).
But what happens to our prayers if we sin? Here we must remember that prayer is God’s gift. We could not ask for God’s mercy if God did not inspire us to do so; it simply would not occur to us. To beg God’s forgiveness is a sign that God is calling us to “our senses” just as he called the Prodigal Son. If such prayers bring us to reconciliation with God, they have immense value.