Found in volume eleven of Spice and Wolf, the novella “The Black Wolf’s Cradle” counts as Isuna Hasekura’s best short work by far. We see Eve Bolan in her early days of being a merchant. Her husband has recently lost both his favor with the crown and his head, and Bolan has lost her noble privileges–even if she has not yet lost her noble sentiments. One line in the story caught my attention: “It’ll will be fine. We don’t need to pray.” This line betrays a misunderstanding of human misery and our utter dependence on God. Indeed, the story bears out that Bolan’s business transaction was not all that it appeared. Prayer would perhaps have inspired her to more caution and prevented the loss of her noble sentiments.
The Good Book tells us to pray without ceasing for good cause. The advice to pray without ceasing reveals that we need God at every moment of our lives. This runs counter to the idea that we only need to pray at times of great moment or suffering. St. Teresa of Avila was once insulted by the devil for praying while on the toilet. St. Teresa responded that what came out out of her mouth was for God and what came out of her other end was for the devil. As for customary points of prayer, mealtimes, waking, and before going to sleep count as apt moments for prayer. Priests and religious used to pray seven times a day (see Psalm 119: 164), but this requirement has been reduced to five. Very busy people, on the other hand, have trouble remembering to say a Pater Noster before collapsing into bed.
What are we to say about those negligent or over-confident people who never or rarely pray? The great English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, had a friend who was sent to an asylum for frequently dropping to his knees to pray at odd times and places–including street corners. Samuel Johnson did not understand why he was committed. For one thing, his malady was harmless; for another, people who did not pray at all were more crazy than his friend. We ourselves are crazy when we think that we can get through a single day without God’s providence! I wonder how many faults and sins God permits us to fall into lest we fall into the fatal arrogance of thinking that we do not need God?
Pride is the root of all sin. No voluntary act so effaces pride as kneeling before God and confessing our weakness, wickedness, and utter dependence upon Him. St. Ignatius of Loyola famously said that we should pray as if everything depended on God and act as if everything depended on us. The next great and important step is to recognize Who deserves the credit for all our successes, joys, and goods.