Excerpted from a very, very old book, with its cover missing, The Faith That Never Dies or The Priest of God in the Catholic Home. Highly recommended.........this advice is solid.
We must pray; it is the command of God; it is the clearly expressed will of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The man who prays saves his soul; he who does not pray lives without God, is no Christian, and will assuredly be lost.
But it is not enough to pray; we must pray with faith and perseverance. Sometimes men will begin to pray; but being fully persuaded that divine things are governed by the same law as human things, they immediately desire to find their answer to their prayer close within their reach. Seeing no result, they imagine that their prayer is useless, and thus fall into a state of discouragement. They do not know that prayer is an act of faith, and requires before all things that men should believe in its power, even when they perceive no immediate effects. How many earnest prayers, fully heard by God, have produced fruits for a very long time, and sometimes not until after centuries! At the last judgment, this mystery will be revealed to us, and we shall then see the marvelous effects that have been worked by Christian prayer.
Think of the prayer of Saint Stephen, when he was being stoned. This prayer wrought the conversion of Saint Paul, who was yet a Jew, and who took charge of the garments of his persecutors. Now imagine all the good that was done by Saint Paul, who converted whole nations by preaching the Christian religion throughout the world, and by instructing the faithful. And yet, may not all the good of which St. Paul was the author, and which still is developing century after century, be clearly traced back to St. Stephen, who by his prayer changed the persecutor into an Apostle? Thus, your prayers may perhaps be asked for the conversion of some young man who is living a very wild and reckless life. For this end, you pray with all your heart, recite several chaplets, visit some sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin, and make one or two good communions; after a certain length of time, very often without your knowledge, and even after your death, this young man returns to God, gives himself up to good works, cares for the poor, goes still further and becomes a priest or a missionary, converts a great number of souls, and during the course of a long life does an immense amount of good.
And is not all this the fruit of your prayer, that prayer which you were never able to see any effects, and which you were perhaps tempted to think of as useless? It is to you and to your prayers, that this young man owes his conversion, and you will share his reward. How great the loss, if you had not prayed, or if you had prayed badly!
Mothers of families, you have asked of God, in all your daily prayers, the gift of perseverance for your sons and daughters in the paths of holiness. Now, looking down the stream of time, behold them grown up and married, becoming in their turn the fathers and mothers of families, then bringing up their children in the right and Christian way; children who shall, later on, become themselves the centers of Christian homes, and thus ever on in endless succession. Mark the power of your prayer which reaches into numerous generations. Sometimes God appears to refuse what we ask of Him. Patience! The day will surely come in which we shall reap the hidden fruits of every holy effort, fruits of great sanctification for ourselves, for the long-continued prayer, apparently so barren, shall have caused us to persevere and to advance in holiness; and then, on the other hand, who can tell from how many sins, from how many occasions of falling, we may have saved the object of our prayers, though a perverse will may still form an obstacle in the path of complete conversion?
When we ask for our neighbor temporal good, health, or riches, or deliverance from some great calamity, there is yet one other striking reflection to be made. This sickness, this life of poverty, this grief, is precisely the means made use of by God to save the soul of him for whom you pray. Then is it not necessary for his true good, which is known to God far better than to you, that you should not obtain what you ask? Will your prayers therefore be lost? Far from it: they are, first for yourself, and then for your neighbor, an abundant source of graces far superior to those temporal blessings for which you have asked.
We might easily multiply examples, but the little we have said will suffice, I hope, to reanimate your faith in prayer. Pray with confidence; pray with deep human sympathy, and do not forget the counsel we have given when you lift your heart in prayer to God.