I was watching a program on EWTN. The priest was talking about the Sacrament of Penance. He said, “Penance gives power to prayer.” I didn’t hear the explanation because I was unable to finish watching the program. What would be your opinion to this phrase?
Honestly, this question is a difficult one to answer without a fuller context. For, when reading the phrase “penance gives power to prayer,” I wonder if he was speaking strictly of the sacrament or if he was referring to the practice of “doing penances.” Thus, I will try to say something about both of these understandings.
How the sacrament of penance gives power to prayer might be simply because sacraments confer divine grace (God’s life). Whenever we receive God’s grace, our disposition toward God is increased, and we are drawn into a deeper communion with him. By our being closer to him, our prayer, by nature, would be that much more meaningful and effective. As for the sacrament of penance, as that sacrament by which we are forgiven of sins and strengthened against sin, our prayer is made more powerful in the sense that our prayer becomes more deeply rooted in the disposition to turn away from sin, through the grace of the sacrament. Through this disposition to avoid sin, our prayers would be purer and more perfectly united to God’s will (rather than our own, which often can result in sin). Therefore, to say that penance gives power to prayer seems to mean that by going to confession regularly, our prayer will reflect the graces of being freed from sin and more fully able to live in accord with God’s will—not wanting for our own will.
As for “doing penances,” giving power to prayer, such a reality is absolutely true. For, anytime we deny ourselves of something or when we willingly accept our suffering, we are imitating the very way of Jesus Christ, who lived in complete union with his Father’s will. The accepting of trials and the denying ourselves of worldly pleasure is to make an act that says that we will depend upon God. (If you need proof of this, read a biography of any of the saints, and you will see that this reality of penance is very much part of their desire for holiness and their living of God’s will). Even prayer itself is offered out of our desire to rely upon God. After all, prayer is an expression of our need for God, and penances increase our desire for God in our life. So, to do penance in our life will give great power to prayer, as both are ways that lead us to entrust ourselves completely to his care.