QUESTION 83: OF PRAYER
We must now consider prayer, under which head there are seventeen points
(1) Whether prayer is an act of the appetitive or of the cognitive power?
(2) Whether it is fitting to pray to God?
(3) Whether prayer is an act of religion?
(4) Whether we ought to pray to God alone?
(5) Whether we ought to ask for something definite when we pray?
(6) Whether we ought to ask for temporal things when we pray?
(7) Whether we ought to pray for others?
(8) Whether we ought to pray for our enemies?
(9) Of the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer;
(10) Whether prayer is proper to the rational creature?
(11) Whether the saints in heaven pray for us?
(12) Whether prayer should be vocal?
(13) Whether attention is requisite in prayer?
(14) Whether prayer should last a long time?
(15) Whether prayer is meritorious? [*Art. 16]
(16) Whether sinners impetrate anything from God by praying? [*Art. 15]
(17) of the different kinds of prayer.
Article 1: Whether prayer is an act of the appetitive power?
Objection 1: It would seem that prayer is an act of the appetitive power. It
belongs to prayer to be heard. Now it is the desire that is heard by God,
according to Ps. 9:38, "The Lord hath heard the desire of the poor."
Therefore prayer is desire. But desire is an act of the appetitive power:
and therefore prayer is also.
Objection 2: Further, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iii): "It is useful to begin
everything with prayer, because thereby we surrender ourselves to God and
unite ourselves to Him." Now union with God is effected by love which
belongs to the appetitive power. Therefore prayer belongs to the
Objection 3: Further, the Philosopher states (De Anima iii, 6) that there are
two operations of the intellective part. Of these the first is "the
understanding of indivisibles," by which operation we apprehend what a
thing is: while the second is "synthesis" and "analysis," whereby we
apprehend that a thing is or is not. To these a third may be added,
namely, "reasoning," whereby we proceed from the known to the unknown.
Now prayer is not reducible to any of these operations. Therefore it is
an operation, not of the intellective, but of the appetitive power.
On the contrary, Isidore says (Etym. x) that "to pray is to speak." Now
speech belongs to the intellect. Therefore prayer is an act, not of the
appetitive, but of the intellective power.
I answer that, According to Cassiodorus [*Comment. in Ps. 38:13] "prayer
[oratio] is spoken reason [oris ratio]." Now the speculative and
practical reason differ in this, that the speculative merely apprehends
its object, whereas the practical reason not only apprehends but causes.
Now one thing is the cause of another in two ways: first perfectly, when
it necessitates its effect, and this happens when the effect is wholly
subject to the power of the cause; secondly imperfectly, by merely
disposing to the effect, for the reason that the effect is not wholly
subject to the power of the cause. Accordingly in this way the reason is
cause of certain things in two ways: first, by imposing necessity; and in
this way it belongs to reason, to command not only the lower powers and
the members of the body, but also human subjects, which indeed is done by
commanding; secondly, by leading up to the effect, and, in a way,
disposing to it, and in this sense the reason asks for something to be
done by things not subject to it, whether they be its equals or its
superiors. Now both of these, namely, to command and to ask or beseech,
imply a certain ordering, seeing that man proposes something to be
effected by something else, wherefore they pertain to the reason to which
it belongs to set in order. For this reason the Philosopher says (Ethic.
i, 13) that the "reason exhorts us to do what is best."
Now in the present instance we are speaking of prayer [*This last
paragraph refers to the Latin word 'oratio' [prayer] which originally
signified a speech, being derived in the first instance from 'os,' 'oris'
(the mouth).] as signifying a beseeching or petition, in which sense
Augustine [*Rabanus, De Univ. vi, 14]: says (De Verb. Dom.) that "prayer
is a petition," and Damascene states (De Fide Orth. iii, 24) that "to
pray is to ask becoming things of God." Accordingly it is evident that
prayer, as we speak of it now, is an act of reason.
Reply to Objection 1: The Lord is said to hear the desire of the poor, either
because desire is the cause of their petition, since a petition is like
the interpreter of a desire, or in order to show how speedily they are
heard, since no sooner do the poor desire something than God hears them
before they put up a prayer, according to the saying of Is. 65:24, "And
it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will hear."
Reply to Objection 2: As stated above (FP, Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article , ad 3),
the will moves the reason to its end: wherefore nothing hinders the act
of reason, under the motion of the will, from tending to an end such as
charity which is union with God. Now prayer tends to God through being
moved by the will of charity, as it were, and this in two ways. First, on
the part of the object of our petition, because when we pray we ought
principally to ask to be united to God, according to Ps. 26:4, "One thing
I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after, that I may dwell in the
house of the Lord all the days of my life." Secondly, on the part of the
petitioner, who ought to approach the person whom he petitions, either
locally, as when he petitions a man, or mentally, as when he petitions
God. Hence Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iii) that "when we call upon God in
our prayers, we unveil our mind in His presence": and in the same sense
Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 24) that "prayer is the raising up of
the mind to God."
Reply to Objection 3: These three acts belong to the speculative reason, but to
the practical reason it belongs in addition to cause something by way of
command or of petition, as stated above.
Article 2: Whether it is becoming to pray?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is unbecoming to pray. Prayer seems to be
necessary in order that we may make our needs known to the person to whom
we pray. But according to Mt. 6:32, "Your Father knoweth that you have
need of all these things." Therefore it is not becoming to pray to God.
Objection 2: Further, by prayer we bend the mind of the person to whom we
pray, so that he may do what is asked of him. But God's mind is
unchangeable and inflexible, according to 1 Kgs. 15:29, "But the
Triumpher in Israel will not spare, and will not be moved to repentance."
Therefore it is not fitting that we should pray to God.
Objection 3: Further, it is more liberal to give to one that asks not, than to
one who asks because, according to Seneca (De Benefic. ii, 1), "nothing
is bought more dearly than what is bought with prayers." But God is
supremely liberal. Therefore it would seem unbecoming to pray to God.
On the contrary, It is written (Lk. 18:1): "We ought always to pray, and
not to faint."
I answer that, Among the ancients there was a threefold error concerning
prayer. Some held that human affairs are not ruled by Divine providence;
whence it would follow that it is useless to pray and to worship God at
all: of these it is written (Malach. 3:14): "You have said: He laboreth
in vain that serveth God." Another opinion held that all things, even in
human affairs, happen of necessity, whether by reason of the
unchangeableness of Divine providence, or through the compelling
influence of the stars, or on account of the connection of causes: and
this opinion also excluded the utility of prayer. There was a third
opinion of those who held that human affairs are indeed ruled by Divine
providence, and that they do not happen of necessity; yet they deemed the
disposition of Divine providence to be changeable, and that it is changed
by prayers and other things pertaining to the worship of God. All these
opinions were disproved in the FP, Question , Articles ,8; FP, Question , Articles ,4;
FP, Question , Article ; FP, Question . Wherefore it behooves us so to account for
the utility of prayer as neither to impose necessity on human affairs
subject to Divine providence, nor to imply changeableness on the part of
the Divine disposition.
In order to throw light on this question we must consider that Divine
providence disposes not only what effects shall take place, but also from
what causes and in what order these effects shall proceed. Now among
other causes human acts are the causes of certain effects. Wherefore it
must be that men do certain actions. not that thereby they may change the
Divine disposition, but that by those actions they may achieve certain
effects according to the order of the Divine disposition: and the same is
to be said of natural causes. And so is it with regard to prayer. For we
pray not that we may change the Divine disposition, but that we may
impetrate that which God has disposed to be fulfilled by our prayers in
other words "that by asking, men may deserve to receive what Almighty God
from eternity has disposed to give," as Gregory says (Dial. i, 8)
Reply to Objection 1: We need to pray to God, not in order to make known to Him
our needs or desires but that we ourselves may be reminded of the
necessity of having recourse to God's help in these matters.
Reply to Objection 2: As stated above, our motive in praying is, not Divine
disposition, we may change the Divine disposition, but that, by our
prayers, we may obtain what God has appointed.
Reply to Objection 3: God bestows many things on us out of His liberality, even
without our asking for them: but that He wishes to bestow certain things
on us at our asking, is for the sake of our good, namely, that we may
acquire confidence in having recourse to God, and that we may recognize
in Him the Author of our goods. Hence Chrysostom says [*Implicitly [Hom.
ii, de Orat.: Hom. xxx in Genes. ]; Cf. Caten. Aur. on Lk. 18]: "Think
what happiness is granted thee, what honor bestowed on thee, when thou
conversest with God in prayer, when thou talkest with Christ, when thou
askest what thou wilt, whatever thou desirest."
Article 3: Whether prayer is an act of religion?
Objection 1: It would seem that prayer is not an act of religion. Since religion is a part of justice, it resides in the will as in its subject. But prayer belongs to the intellective part, as stated above (Article ). Therefore prayer seems to be an act, not of religion, but of the gift of understanding whereby the mind ascends to God.
Objection 2: Further, the act of "latria" falls under a necessity of precept.
But prayer does not seem to come under a necessity of precept, but to
come from the mere will, since it is nothing else than a petition for
what we will. Therefore prayer seemingly is not an act of religion.
Objection 3: Further, it seems to belong to religion that one "offers worship
end ceremonial rites to the Godhead" [*Cicero, Rhet. ii, 53]. But prayer
seems not to offer anything to God, but to. ask to obtain something from
Him. Therefore prayer is not an act of religion.
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 140:2): "Let my prayer be directed
as incense in Thy sight": and a gloss on the passage says that "it was to
signify this that under the old Law incense was said to be offered for a
sweet smell to the Lord." Now this belongs to religion. Therefore prayer
is an act of religion.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Articles ,4), it belongs properly to
religion to show honor to God, wherefore all those things through which
reverence is shown to God, belong to religion. Now man shows reverence to
God by means of prayer, in so far as he subjects himself to Him, and by
praying confesses that he needs Him as the Author of his goods. Hence it
is evident that prayer is properly an act of religion.
Reply to Objection 1: The will moves the other powers of the soul to its end, as
stated above (Question , Article , ad 1), and therefore religion, which is in the
will, directs the acts of the other powers to the reverence of God. Now
among the other powers of the soul the intellect is the highest, and the
nearest to the will; and consequently after devotion which belongs to the
will, prayer which belongs to the intellective part is the chief of the
acts of religion, since by it religion directs man's intellect to God.
Reply to Objection 2: It is a matter of precept not only that we should ask for
what we desire, but also that we should desire aright. But to desire
comes under a precept of charity, whereas to ask comes under a precept of
religion, which precept is expressed in Mt. 7:7, where it is said: "Ask
and ye shall receive" [*Vulg.: 'Ask and it shall be given you.'].
Reply to Objection 3: By praying man surrenders his mind to God, since he
subjects it to Him with reverence and, so to speak, presents it to Him,
as appears from the words of Dionysius quoted above (Article , Objection ).
Wherefore just as the human mind excels exterior things, whether bodily
members, or those external things that are employed for God's service, so
too, prayer surpasses other acts of religion.
Article 4: Whether we ought to pray to God alone?
Objection 1: It would seem that we ought to pray to God alone. Prayer is an
act of religion, as stated above (Article ). But God alone is to be worshiped
by religion. Therefore we should pray to God alone.
Objection 2: Further, it is useless to pray to one who is ignorant of the
prayer. But it belongs to God alone to know one's prayer, both because
frequently prayer is uttered by an interior act which God alone knows,
rather than by words, according to the saying of the Apostle (1 Cor. 14:15), "I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the
understanding": and again because, as Augustine says (De Cura pro mortuis
xiii) the "dead, even the saints, know not what the living, even their
own children, are doing." Therefore we ought to pray to God alone.
Objection 3: Further, if we pray to any of the saints, this is only because
they are united to God. Now some yet living in this world, or even some
who are in Purgatory, are closely united to God by grace, and yet we do
not pray to them. Therefore neither should we pray to the saints who are
On the contrary, It is written (Job 5:1), "Call . . . if there be any
that will answer thee, and turn to some of the saints."
I answer that, Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: first, as to
be fulfilled by him, secondly, as to be obtained through him. In the
first way we offer prayer to God alone, since all our prayers ought to be
directed to the acquisition of grace and glory, which God alone gives,
according to Ps. 83:12, "The Lord will give grace and glory." But in the
second way we pray to the saints, whether angels or men, not that God may
through them know our petitions, but that our prayers may be effective
through their prayers and merits. Hence it is written (Apoc. 8:4) that
"the smoke of the incense," namely "the prayers of the saints ascended up
before God." This is also clear from the very style employed by the
Church in praying: since we beseech the Blessed Trinity "to have mercy on
us," while we ask any of the saints "to pray for us."
Reply to Objection 1: To Him alone do we offer religious worship when praying,
from Whom we seek to obtain what we pray for, because by so doing we
confess that He is the Author of our goods: but not to those whom we call
upon as our advocates in God's presence.
Reply to Objection 2: The dead, if we consider their natural condition, do not
know what takes place in this world, especially the interior movements of
the heart. Nevertheless, according to Gregory (Moral. xii, 21), whatever
it is fitting the blessed should know about what happens to us, even as
regards the interior movements of the heart, is made known to them in the
Word: and it is most becoming to their exalted position that they should
know the petitions we make to them by word or thought; and consequently
the petitions which we raise to them are known to them through Divine
Reply to Objection 3: Those who are in this world or in Purgatory, do not yet
enjoy the vision of the Word, so as to be able to know what we think or
say. Wherefore we do not seek their assistance by praying to them, but
ask it of the living by speaking to them.
Article 5: Whether we ought to ask for something definite when we pray?
Objection 1: It would seem that we ought not to ask for anything definite when
we pray to God. According to Damascene (De Fide Orth. iii, 24), "to pray
is to ask becoming things of God"; wherefore it is useless to pray for
what is inexpedient, according to James 4:3, "You ask, and receive not:
because you ask amiss." Now according to Rm. 8:26, "we know not what we
should pray for as we ought." Therefore we ought not to ask for anything
definite when we pray.
Objection 2: Further, those who ask another person for something definite
strive to incline his will to do what they wish themselves. But we ought
not to endeavor to make God will what we will; on the contrary, we ought
to strive to will what He wills, according to a gloss on Ps. 32:1,
"Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just." Therefore we ought not to ask God for
anything definite when we pray.
Objection 3: Further, evil things are not to be sought from God; and as to
good things, God Himself invites us to take them. Now it is useless to
ask a person to give you what he invites you to take. Therefore we ought
not to ask God for anything definite in our prayers.
On the contrary, our Lord (Mt. 6 and Lk. 11) taught His disciples to ask
definitely for those things which are contained in the petitions of the
I answer that, According to Valerius Maximus [*Fact. et Dict. Memor.
vii, 2], "Socrates deemed that we should ask the immortal gods for
nothing else but that they should grant us good things, because they at
any rate know what is good for each one whereas when we pray we
frequently ask for what it had been better for us not to obtain." This
opinion is true to a certain extent, as to those things which may have an
evil result, and which man may use ill or well, such as "riches, by
which," as stated by the same authority (Fact. et Dict. Memor. vii, 2),
"many have come to an evil end; honors, which have ruined many; power, of
which we frequently witness the unhappy results; splendid marriages,
which sometimes bring about the total wreck of a family." Nevertheless
there are certain goods which man cannot ill use, because they cannot
have an evil result. Such are those which are the object of beatitude and
whereby we merit it: and these the saints seek absolutely when they pray,
as in Ps. 79:4, "Show us Thy face, and we shall be saved," and again in
Ps. 118:35, "Lead me into the path of Thy commandments."
Reply to Objection 1: Although man cannot by himself know what he ought to pray
for, "the Spirit," as stated in the same passage, "helpeth our
infirmity," since by inspiring us with holy desires, He makes us ask for
what is right. Hence our Lord said (Jn. 4:24) that true adorers "must
adore . . . in spirit and in truth."
Reply to Objection 2: When in our prayers we ask for things concerning our salvation, we conform our will to God's, of Whom it is written (1 Tim. 2:4) that "He will have all men to be saved."
Reply to Objection 3: God so invites us to take good things, that we may approach
to them not by the steps of the body, but by pious desires and devout
Article 6: Whether man ought to ask God for temporal things when he prays?
Objection 1: It would seem that man ought not to ask God for temporal things
when he prays. We seek what we ask for in prayer. But we should not seek
for temporal things, for it is written (Mt. 6:33): "Seek ye . . . first
the kingdom of God, and His justice: and all these things shall be added
unto you," that is to say, temporal things, which, says He, we are not to
seek, but they will be added to what we seek. Therefore temporal things
are not to be asked of God in prayer.
Objection 2: Further, no one asks save for that which he is solicitous about.
Now we ought not to have solicitude for temporal things, according to the
saying of Mt. 6:25, "Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall
eat." Therefore we ought not to ask for temporal things when we pray.
Objection 3: Further, by prayer our mind should be raised up to God. But by
asking for temporal things, it descends to things beneath it, against the
saying of the Apostle (2 Cor. 4:18), "While we look not at the things
which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things
which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are
eternal." Therefore man ought not to ask God for temporal things when he
Objection 4: Further, man ought not to ask of God other than good and useful
things. But sometimes temporal things, when we have them, are harmful,
not only in a spiritual sense, but also in a material sense. Therefore we
should not ask God for them in our prayers.
On the contrary, It is written (Prov. 30:8): "Give me only the
necessaries of life."
I answer that, As Augustine says (ad Probam, de orando Deum, Ep. cxxx,
12): "It is lawful to pray for what it is lawful to desire." Now it is
lawful to desire temporal things, not indeed principally, by placing our
end therein, but as helps whereby we are assisted in tending towards
beatitude, in so far, to wit, as they are the means of supporting the
life of the body, and are of service to us as instruments in performing
acts of virtue, as also the Philosopher states (Ethic. i, 8). Augustine
too says the same to Proba (ad Probam, de orando Deum, Ep. cxxx, 6,7)
when he states that "it is not unbecoming for anyone to desire enough for
a livelihood, and no more; for this sufficiency is desired, not for its
own sake, but for the welfare of the body, or that we should desire to be
clothed in a way befitting one's station, so as not to be out of keeping
with those among whom we have to live. Accordingly we ought to pray that
we may keep these things if we have them, and if we have them not, that
we may gain possession of them."
Reply to Objection 1: We should seek temporal things not in the first but in the
second place. Hence Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 16): "When
He says that this" (i.e. the kingdom of God) "is to be sought first, He
implies that the other" (i.e. temporal goods) "is to be sought
afterwards, not in time but in importance, this as being our good, the
other as our need."
Reply to Objection 3: When our mind is intent on temporal things in order that it
may rest in them, it remains immersed therein; but when it is intent on
them in relation to the acquisition of beatitude, it is not lowered by
them, but raises them to a higher level.
Reply to Objection 4: From the very fact that we ask for temporal things not as
the principal object of our petition, but as subordinate to something
else, we ask God for them in the sense that they may be granted to us in
so far as they are expedient for salvation.
Article 7: Whether we ought to pray for others?
Objection 1: It would seem that we ought not to pray for others. In praying we
ought to conform to the pattern given by our Lord. Now in the Lord's
Prayer we make petitions for ourselves, not for others; thus we say:
"Give us this day our daily bread," etc. Therefore we should not pray for
Objection 2: Further, prayer is offered that it may be heard. Now one of the
conditions required for prayer that it may be heard is that one pray for
oneself, wherefore Augustine in commenting on Jn. 16:23, "If you ask the
Father anything in My name He will give it you," says (Tract. cii):
"Everyone is heard when he prays for himself, not when he prays for all;
wherefore He does not say simply 'He will give it,' but 'He will give it
you. '" Therefore it would seem that we ought not to pray for others, but
only for ourselves.
Objection 3: Further, we are forbidden to pray for others, if they are wicked,
according to Jer. 7:16, "Therefore do not then pray for this people . .
. and do not withstand Me, for I will not hear thee." On the other hand
we are not bound to pray for the good, since they are heard when they
pray for themselves. Therefore it would seem that we ought not to pray
On the contrary, It is written (James 5:16): "Pray one for another, that
you may be saved."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), when we pray we ought to ask for
what we ought to desire. Now we ought to desire good things not only for
ourselves, but also for others: for this is essential to the love which
we owe to our neighbor, as stated above (Question , Articles ,12; Question , Article ; Question , Article ). Therefore charity requires us to pray for others. Hence
Chrysostom says (Hom. xiv in Matth.) [*Opus Imperfectum, falsely ascribed
to St. John Chrysostom]: "Necessity binds us to pray for ourselves,
fraternal charity urges us to pray for others: and the prayer that
fraternal charity proffers is sweeter to God than that which is the
outcome of necessity."
Reply to Objection 1: As Cyprian says (De orat. Dom.), "We say 'Our Father' and
not 'My Father,' 'Give us' and not 'Give me,' because the Master of unity
did not wish us to pray privately, that is for ourselves alone, for He
wished each one to pray for all, even as He Himself bore all in one."
Reply to Objection 2: It is a condition of prayer that one pray for oneself: not
as though it were necessary in order that prayer be meritorious, but as
being necessary in order that prayer may not fail in its effect of
impetration. For it sometimes happens that we pray for another with piety
and perseverance, and ask for things relating to his salvation, and yet
it is not granted on account of some obstacle on the part of the person
we are praying for, according to Jer. 15:1, "If Moses and Samuel shall
stand before Me, My soul is not towards this people." And yet the prayer
will be meritorious for the person who prays thus out of charity,
according to Ps. 34:13, "My prayer shall be turned into my bosom, i.e.
though it profit them not, I am not deprived of my reward," as the gloss
Reply to Objection 3: We ought to pray even for sinners, that they may be
converted, and for the just that they may persevere and advance in
holiness. Yet those who pray are heard not for all sinners but for some:
since they are heard for the predestined, but not for those who are
foreknown to death; even as the correction whereby we correct the
brethren, has an effect in the predestined but not in the reprobate,
according to Eccles. 7:14, "No man can correct whom God hath despised."
Hence it is written (1 Jn. 5:16): "He that knoweth his brother to sin a
sin which is not to death, let him ask, and life shall be given to him,
who sinneth not to death." Now just as the benefit of correction must not
be refused to any man so long as he lives here below, because we cannot
distinguish the predestined from the reprobate, as Augustine says (De
Correp. et Grat. xv), so too no man should be denied the help of prayer.
We ought also to pray for the just for three reasons: First, because the
prayers of a multitude are more easily heard, wherefore a gloss on Rm.
15:30, "Help me in your prayers," says: "The Apostle rightly tells the
lesser brethren to pray for him, for many lesser ones, if they be united
together in one mind, become great, and it is impossible for the prayers
of a multitude not to obtain" that which is possible to be obtained by
prayer. Secondly, that many may thank God for the graces conferred on the
just, which graces conduce to the profit of many, according to the
Apostle (2 Cor. 1:11). Thirdly, that the more perfect may not wax proud,
seeing that they find that they need the prayers of the less perfect.
Article 8: Whether we ought to pray for our enemies?
Objection 1: It would seem that we ought not to pray for our enemies.
According to Rm. 15:4, "what things soever were written, were written for
our learning." Now Holy Writ contains many imprecations against enemies;
thus it is written (Ps. 6:11): "Let all my enemies be ashamed and be . .
. troubled, let them be ashamed and be troubled very speedily [*Vulg.:
'Let them be turned back and be ashamed.']." Therefore we too should pray
against rather than for our enemies.
Objection 2: Further, to be revenged on one's enemies is harmful to them. But
holy men seek vengeance of their enemies according to Apoc. 6:10, "How
long . . . dost Thou not . . . revenge our blood on them that dwell on
earth?" Wherefore they rejoice in being revenged on their enemies,
according to Ps. 57:11, "The just shall rejoice when he shall see the
revenge." Therefore we should not pray for our enemies, but against them.
Objection 3: Further, man's deed should not be contrary to his prayer. Now
sometimes men lawfully attack their enemies, else all wars would be
unlawful, which is opposed to what we have said above (Question , Article ).
Therefore we should not pray for our enemies.
On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 5:44): "Pray for them that persecute
and calumniate you."
I answer that, To pray for another is an act of charity, as stated above
(Article ). Wherefore we are bound to pray for our enemies in the same manner
as we are bound to love them. Now it was explained above in the treatise
on charity (Question , Articles ,9), how we are bound to love our enemies,
namely, that we must love in them their nature, not their sin. and that
to love our enemies in general is a matter of precept, while to love them
in the individual is not a matter of precept, except in the preparedness
of the mind, so that a man must be prepared to love his enemy even in the
individual and to help him in a case of necessity, or if his enemy should
beg his forgiveness. But to love one's enemies absolutely in the
individual, and to assist them, is an act of perfection.
In like manner it is a matter of obligation that we should not exclude
our enemies from the general prayers which we offer up for others: but it
is a matter of perfection, and not of obligation, to pray for them
individually, except in certain special cases.
Reply to Objection 1: The imprecations contained in Holy Writ may be understood
in four ways. First, according to the custom of the prophets "to foretell
the future under the veil of an imprecation," as Augustine states [*De
Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 21]. Secondly, in the sense that certain temporal
evils are sometimes inflicted by God on the wicked for their correction.
Thirdly, because they are understood to be pronounced, not against the
men themselves, but against the kingdom of sin, with the purpose, to wit,
of destroying sin by the correction of men. Fourthly, by way of
conformity of our will to the Divine justice with regard to the damnation
of those who are obstinate in sin.
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine states in the same book (De Serm. Dom. in
Monte i, 22), "the martyrs' vengeance is the overthrow of the kingdom of
sin, because they suffered so much while it reigned": or as he says again
(Questions. Vet. et Nov. Test. lxviii), "their prayer for vengeance is expressed
not in words but in their minds, even as the blood of Abel cried from the
earth." They rejoice in vengeance not for its own sake, but for the sake
of Divine justice.
Reply to Objection 3: It is lawful to attack one's enemies, that they may be
restrained from sin: and this is for their own good and for the good of
others. Consequently it is even lawful in praying to ask that temporal
evils be inflicted on our enemies in order that they may mend their ways.
Thus prayer and deed will not be contrary to one another.
Article 9: Whether the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer are fittingly assigned?
Objection 1: It would seem that the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer are
not fittingly assigned. It is useless to ask for that to be hallowed
which is always holy. But the name of God is always holy, according to
Lk. 1:49, "Holy is His name." Again, His kingdom is everlasting,
according to Ps. 144:13, "Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages." Again,
God's will is always fulfilled, according to Isa 46:10, "All My will
shall be done." Therefore it is useless to ask for "the name of God to be
hallowed," for "His kingdom to come," and for "His will to be done."
Objection 2: Further, one must withdraw from evil before attaining good.
Therefore it seems unfitting for the petitions relating to the attainment
of good to be set forth before those relating to the removal of evil.
Objection 3: Further, one asks for a thing that it may be given to one. Now
the chief gift of God is the Holy Ghost, and those gifts that we receive
through Him. Therefore the petitions seem to be unfittingly assigned,
since they do not correspond to the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Objection 4: Further, according to Luke, only five petitions are mentioned in
the Lord's Prayer, as appears from the eleventh chapter. Therefore it was
superfluous for Matthew to mention seven.
Objection 5: Further, it seems useless to seek to win the benevolence of one
who forestalls us by his benevolence. Now God forestalls us by His
benevolence, since "He first hath loved us" ( 1 Jn. 4:19). Therefore it
is useless to preface the petitions with the words our "Father Who art in
heaven," which seem to indicate a desire to win God's benevolence.
On the contrary, The authority of Christ, who composed this prayer,
I answer that, The Lord's Prayer is most perfect, because, as Augustine
says (ad Probam Ep. cxxx, 12), "if we pray rightly and fittingly, we can
say nothing else but what is contained in this prayer of our Lord." For
since prayer interprets our desires, as it were, before God, then alone
is it right to ask for something in our prayers when it is right that we
should desire it. Now in the Lord's Prayer not only do we ask for all
that we may rightly desire, but also in the order wherein we ought to
desire them, so that this prayer not only teaches us to ask, but also
directs all our affections. Thus it is evident that the first thing to be
the object of our desire is the end, and afterwards whatever is directed
to the end. Now our end is God towards Whom our affections tend in two
ways: first, by our willing the glory of God, secondly, by willing to
enjoy His glory. The first belongs to the love whereby we love God in
Himself, while the second belongs to the love whereby we love ourselves
in God. Wherefore the first petition is expressed thus: "Hallowed be Thy
name," and the second thus: "Thy kingdom come," by which we ask to come
to the glory of His kingdom.
To this same end a thing directs us in two ways: in one way, by its very
nature, in another way, accidentally. Of its very nature the good which
is useful for an end directs us to that end. Now a thing is useful in two
ways to that end which is beatitude: in one way, directly and
principally, according to the merit whereby we merit beatitude by obeying
God, and in this respect we ask: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in
heaven"; in another way instrumentally, and as it were helping us to
merit, and in this respect we say: "Give us this day our daily bread,"
whether we understand this of the sacramental Bread, the daily use of
which is profitable to man, and in which all the other sacraments are
contained, or of the bread of the body, so that it denotes all
sufficiency of food, as Augustine says (ad Probam, Ep. cxxx, 11), since
the Eucharist is the chief sacrament, and bread is the chief food: thus
in the Gospel of Matthew we read, "supersubstantial," i.e. "principal,"
as Jerome expounds it.
We are directed to beatitude accidentally by the removal of obstacles.
Now there are three obstacles to our attainment of beatitude. First,
there is sin, which directly excludes a man from the kingdom, according
to 1 Cor. 6:9,10, "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, etc., shall
possess the kingdom of God"; and to this refer the words, "Forgive us our
trespasses." Secondly, there is temptation which hinders us from keeping
God's will, and to this we refer when we say: "And lead us not into
temptation," whereby we do not ask not to be tempted, but not to be
conquered by temptation, which is to be led into temptation. Thirdly,
there is the present penal state which is a kind of obstacle to a
sufficiency of life, and to this we refer in the words, "Deliver us from
Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 5), when we
say, "Hallowed be Thy name, we do not mean that God's name is not holy,
but we ask that men may treat it as a holy thing," and this pertains to
the diffusion of God's glory among men. When we say, "Thy kingdom come,
we do not imply that God is not reigning now," but "we excite in
ourselves the desire for that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that
we may reign therein," as Augustine says (ad Probam, Ep. cxxx, 11). The
words, "Thy will be done rightly signify, 'May Thy commandments be
obeyed' on earth as in heaven, i.e. by men as well as by angels" (De
Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 6). Hence these three petitions will be perfectly
fulfilled in the life to come; while the other four, according to
Augustine (Enchiridion cxv), belong to the needs of the present life
Reply to Objection 2: Since prayer is the interpreter of desire, the order of the
petitions corresponds with the order, not of execution, but of desire or
intention, where the end precedes the things that are directed to the
end, and attainment of good precedes removal of evil.
Reply to Objection 3: Augustine (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 11) adapts the seven
petitions to the gifts and beatitudes. He says: "If it is fear God
whereby blessed are the poor in spirit, let us ask that God's name be
hallowed among men with a chaste fear. If it is piety whereby blessed are
the meek, let us ask that His kingdom may come, so that we become meek
and no longer resist Him. If it is knowledge whereby blessed are they
that mourn, let us pray that His will be done, for thus we shall mourn no
more. If it is fortitude whereby blessed ere they that hunger, let us
pray that our daily bread be given to us. If it is counsel whereby
blessed are the merciful, let us forgive the trespasses of others that
our own may be forgiven. If it is understanding whereby blessed are the
pure in heart, let us pray lest we have a double heart by seeking after
worldly things which ere the occasion of our temptations. If it is wisdom
whereby blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children
of God, let us pray to be delivered from evil: for if we be delivered we
shall by that very fact become the free children of God."
Reply to Objection 4: According to Augustine (Enchiridion cxvi), "Luke included
not seven but five petitions in the Lord's Prayer, for by omitting it,
he shows that the third petition is a kind of repetition of the two that
precede, and thus helps us to understand it"; because, to wit, the will
of God tends chiefly to this---that we come to the knowledge of His
holiness and to reign together with Him. Again the last petition
mentioned by Matthew, "Deliver us from evil," is omitted by Luke, so that
each one may know himself to be delivered from evil if he be not led into
Reply to Objection 5: Prayer is offered up to God, not that we may bend Him, but
that we may excite in ourselves the confidence to ask: which confidence
is excited in us chiefly by the consideration of His charity in our
regard, whereby he wills our good---wherefore we say: "Our Father"; and
of His excellence, whereby He is able to fulfil it---wherefore we say:
"Who art in heaven."
Article 10: Whether prayer is proper to the rational creature?
Objection 1: It would seem that prayer is not proper to the rational creature.
Asking and receiving apparently belong to the same subject. But receiving
is becoming also to uncreated Persons, viz. the Son and Holy Ghost.
Therefore it is competent to them to pray: for the Son said (Jn. 14:16):
"I will ask My [Vulg.: 'the'] Father," and the Apostle says of the Holy
Ghost (Rm. 8:26): "The Spirit . . . asketh for us."
Objection 2: Angels are above rational creatures, since they are intellectual
substances. Now prayer is becoming to the angels, wherefore we read in
the Ps. 96:7: "Adore Him, all you His angels." Therefore prayer is not
proper to the rational creature.
Objection 3: Further, the same subject is fitted to pray as is fitted to call
upon God, since this consists chiefly in prayer. But dumb animals are
fitted to call upon God, according to Ps. 146:9, "Who giveth to beasts
their food and to the young ravens that call upon Him." Therefore prayer
is not proper to the rational creatures.
On the contrary, Prayer is an act of reason, as stated above (Article ). But
the rational creature is so called from his reason. Therefore prayer is
proper to the rational creature.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ) prayer is an act of reason, and
consists in beseeching a superior; just as command is an act of reason,
whereby an inferior is directed to something. Accordingly prayer is
properly competent to one to whom it is competent to have reason, and a
superior whom he may beseech. Now nothing is above the Divine Persons;
and dumb animals are devoid of reason. Therefore prayer is unbecoming
both the Divine Persons and dumb animals, and it is proper to the
Reply to Objection 1: Receiving belongs to the Divine Persons in respect of their
nature, whereas prayer belongs to one who receives through grace. The Son
is said to ask or pray in respect of His assumed, i.e. His human, nature
and not in respect of His Godhead: and the Holy Ghost is said to ask,
because He makes us ask.
Reply to Objection 2: As stated in the FP, Question , Article , intellect and reason are
not distinct powers in us: but they differ as the perfect from the
imperfect. Hence intellectual creatures which are the angels are distinct
from rational creatures, and sometimes are included under them. In this
sense prayer is said to be proper to the rational creature.
Reply to Objection 3: The young ravens are said to call upon God, on account of
the natural desire whereby all things, each in its own way, desire to
attain the Divine goodness. Thus too dumb animals are said to obey God,
on account of the natural instinct whereby they are moved by God.
Article 11: Whether the saints in heaven pray for us?
Objection 1: It would seem that the saints in heaven do not pray for us. A
man's action is more meritorious for himself than for others. But the
saints in heaven do not merit for themselves, neither do they pray for
themselves, since they are already established in the term. Neither
therefore do they pray for us.
Objection 2: Further, the saints conform their will to God perfectly, so that
they will only what God wills. Now what God wills is always fulfilled.
Therefore it would be useless for the saints to pray for us.
Objection 3: Further, just as the saints in heaven are above, so are those in
Purgatory, for they can no longer sin. Now those in Purgatory do not pray
for us, on the contrary we pray for them. Therefore neither do the saints
in heaven pray for us.
Objection 4: Further, if the saints in heaven pray for us, the prayers of the
higher saints would be more efficacious; and so we ought not to implore
the help of the lower saints' prayers but only of those of the higher
Objection 5: Further, the soul of Peter is not Peter. If therefore the souls
of the saints pray for us, so long as they are separated from their
bodies, we ought not to call upon Saint Peter, but on his soul, to pray
for us: yet the Church does the contrary. The saints therefore do not
pray for us, at least before the resurrection.
On the contrary, It is written (2 Macc. 15:14): "This is . . . he that
prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the
prophet of God."
I answer that, As Jerome says (Cont. Vigilant. 6), the error of
Vigilantius consisted in saying that "while we live, we can pray one for
another; but that after we are dead, none of our prayers for others can
be heard, seeing that not even the martyrs' prayers are granted when they
pray for their blood to be avenged." But this is absolutely false,
because, since prayers offered for others proceed from charity, as stated
above (Articles ,8), the greater the charity of the saints in heaven, the
more they pray for wayfarers, since the latter can be helped by prayers:
and the more closely they are united to God, the more are their prayers
efficacious: for the Divine order is such that lower beings receive an
overflow of the excellence of the higher, even as the air receives the
brightness of the sun. Wherefore it is said of Christ (Heb. 7:25): "Going
to God by His own power . . . to make intercession for us" [*Vulg.: 'He
is able to save for ever them that come to God by Him, always living to
make intercession for us.']. Hence Jerome says (Cont. Vigilant. 6): "If
the apostles and martyrs while yet in the body and having to be
solicitous for themselves, can pray for others, how much more now that
they have the crown of victory and triumph."
Reply to Objection 1: The saints in heaven, since they are blessed, have no lack
of bliss, save that of the body's glory, and for this they pray. But they
pray for us who lack the ultimate perfection of bliss: and their prayers
are efficacious in impetrating through their previous merits and through
Reply to Objection 2: The saints impetrate what ever God wishes to take place
through their prayers: and they pray for that which they deem will be
granted through their prayers according to God's will.
Reply to Objection 3: Those who are in Purgatory though they are above us on
account of their impeccability, yet they are below us as to the pains
which they suffer: and in this respect they are not in a condition to
pray, but rather in a condition that requires us to pray for them.
Reply to Objection 4: It is God's will that inferior beings should be helped by
all those that are above them, wherefore we ought to pray not only to the
higher but also to the lower saints; else we should have to implore the
mercy of God alone. Nevertheless it happens sometime that prayers
addressed to a saint of lower degree are more efficacious, either because
he is implored with greater devotion, or because God wishes to make known
Reply to Objection 5: It is because the saints while living merited to pray for
us, that we invoke them under the names by which they were known in this
life, and by which they are better known to us: and also in order to
indicate our belief in the resurrection, according to the saying of Ex.
3:6, "I am the God of Abraham," etc.
Article 12: Whether prayer should be vocal?
Objection 1: It would seem that prayer ought not to be vocal. As stated above
(Article ), prayer is addressed chiefly to God. Now God knows the language of
the heart. Therefore it is useless to employ vocal prayer.
Objection 2: Further, prayer should lift man's mind to God, as stated above
(Article , ad 2). But words, like other sensible objects, prevent man from
ascending to God by contemplation. Therefore we should not use words in
Objection 3: Further, prayer should be offered to God in secret, according to
Mt. 6:6, "But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and
having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret." But prayer loses its
secrecy by being expressed vocally. Therefore prayer should not be vocal.
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 141:2): "I cried to the Lord with my
voice, with my voice I made supplication to the Lord."
I answer that, Prayer is twofold, common and individual. Common prayer
is that which is offered to God by the ministers of the Church
representing the body of the faithful: wherefore such like prayer should
come to the knowledge of the whole people for whom it is offered: and
this would not be possible unless it were vocal prayer. Therefore it is
reasonably ordained that the ministers of the Church should say these
prayers even in a loud voice, so that they may come to the knowledge of
On the other hand individual prayer is that which is offered by any
single person, whether he pray for himself or for others; and it is not
essential to such a prayer as this that it be vocal. And yet the voice is
employed in such like prayers for three reasons. First, in order to
excite interior devotion, whereby the mind of the person praying is
raised to God, because by means of external signs, whether of words or of
deeds, the human mind is moved as regards apprehension, and consequently
also as regards the affections. Hence Augustine says (ad Probam. Ep.
cxxx, 9) that "by means of words and other signs we arouse ourselves more
effectively to an increase of holy desires." Hence then alone should we
use words and such like signs when they help to excite the mind
internally. But if they distract or in any way impede the mind we should
abstain from them; and this happens chiefly to those whose mind is
sufficiently prepared for devotion without having recourse to those
signs. Wherefore the Psalmist (Ps. 26:8) said: "My heart hath said to
Thee: 'My face hath sought Thee,'" and we read of Anna (1 Kgs. 1:13) that
"she spoke in her heart." Secondly, the voice is used in praying as
though to pay a debt, so that man may serve God with all that he has from
God, that is to say, not only with his mind, but also with his body: and
this applies to prayer considered especially as satisfactory. Hence it is
written (Osee 14:3): "Take away all iniquity, and receive the good: and
we will render the calves of our lips." Thirdly, we have recourse to
vocal prayer, through a certain overflow from the soul into the body,
through excess of feeling, according to Ps. 15:9, "My heart hath been
glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced."
Reply to Objection 1: Vocal prayer is employed, not in order to tell God
something He does not know, but in order to lift up the mind of the
person praying or of other persons to God.
Reply to Objection 2: Words about other matters distract the mind and hinder the
devotion of those who pray: but words signifying some object of devotion
lift up the mind, especially one that is less devout.
Reply to Objection 3: As Chrysostom says [*Hom. xiii in the Opus Imperfectum
falsely ascribed to St. John Chrysostom], "Our Lord forbids one to pray
in presence of others in order that one may be seen by others. Hence when
you pray, do nothing strange to draw men's attention, either by shouting
so as to be heard by others, or by openly striking the heart, or
extending the hands, so as to be seen by many. And yet, "according to
Augustine (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 3), "it is not wrong to be seen by
men, but to do this or that in order to be seen by men."
Article 13: Whether attention is a necessary condition of prayer?
Objection 1: It would seem that attention is a necessary condition of prayer.
It is written (Jn. 4:24): "God is a spirit, and they that adore Him must
adore Him in spirit and in truth." But prayer is not in spirit unless it
be attentive. Therefore attention is a necessary condition of prayer.
Objection 2: Further, prayer is "the ascent of the mind to God" [*Damascene,
De Fide Orth. iii, 24]. But the mind does not ascend to God if the prayer
is inattentive. Therefore attention is a necessary condition of prayer.
Objection 3: Further, it is a necessary condition of prayer that it should be
altogether sinless. Now if a man allows his mind to wander while praying
he is not free of sin, for he seems to make light of God; even as if he
were to speak to another man without attending to what he was saying.
Hence Basil says [*De Constit. Monach. i] that the "Divine assistance is
to be implored, not lightly, nor with a mind wandering hither and
thither: because he that prays thus not only will not obtain what he
asks, nay rather will he provoke God to anger." Therefore it would seem a
necessary condition of prayer that it should be attentive.
On the contrary, Even holy men sometimes suffer from a wandering of the
mind when they pray, according to Ps. 39:13, "My heart hath forsaken me."
I answer that, This question applies chiefly to vocal prayer.
Accordingly we must observe that a thing is necessary in two ways. First,
a thing is necessary because thereby the end is better obtained: and thus
attention is absolutely necessary for prayer. Secondly, a thing is said
to be necessary when without it something cannot obtain its effect. Now
the effect of prayer is threefold. The first is an effect which is common
to all acts quickened by charity, and this is merit. In order to realize
this effect, it is not necessary that prayer should be attentive
throughout; because the force of the original intention with which one
sets about praying renders the whole prayer meritorious, as is the case
with other meritorious acts. The second effect of prayer is proper
thereto, and consists in impetration: and again the original intention,
to which God looks chiefly, suffices to obtain this effect. But if the
original intention is lacking, prayer lacks both merit and impetration:
because, as Gregory [*Hugh St. Victor, Expos. in Reg. S. Aug. iii] says,
"God hears not the prayer of those who pay no attention to their prayer."
The third effect of prayer is that which it produces at once; this is the
spiritual refreshment of the mind, and for this effect attention is a
necessary condition: wherefore it is written (1 Cor. 14:14): "If I pray
in a tongue . . . my understanding is without fruit."
It must be observed, however, that there are three kinds of attention
that can be brought to vocal prayer: one which attends to the words, lest
we say them wrong, another which attends to the sense of the words, and a
third, which attends to the end of prayer, namely, God, and to the thing
we are praying for. That last kind of attention is most necessary, and
even idiots are capable of it. Moreover this attention, whereby the mind
is fixed on God, is sometimes so strong that the mind forgets all other
things, as Hugh of St. Victor states [*De Modo Orandi ii].
Reply to Objection 1: To pray in spirit and in truth is to set about praying
through the instigation of the Spirit, even though afterwards the mind
wander through weakness.
Reply to Objection 2: The human mind is unable to remain aloft for long on
account of the weakness of nature, because human weakness weighs down the
soul to the level of inferior things: and hence it is that when, while
praying, the mind ascends to God by contemplation, of a sudden it wanders
off through weakness.
Reply to Objection 3: Purposely to allow one's mind to wander in prayer is sinful
and hinders the prayer from having fruit. It is against this that
Augustine says in his Rule (Ep. ccxi): "When you pray God with psalms and
hymns, let your mind attend to that which your lips pronounce." But to
wander in mind unintentionally does not deprive prayer of its fruit.
Hence Basil says (De Constit. Monach. i): "If you are so truly weakened
by sin that you are unable to pray attentively, strive as much as you can
to curb yourself, and God will pardon you, seeing that you are unable to
stand in His presence in a becoming manner, not through negligence but
Article 14: Whether prayer should last a long time?
Objection 1: It would seem that prayer should not be continual. It is written
(Mt. 6:7): "When you are praying, speak not much." Now one who prays a
long time needs to speak much, especially if his be vocal prayer.
Therefore prayer should not last a long time.
Objection 2: Further, prayer expresses the desire. Now a desire is all the
holier according as it is centered on one thing, according to Ps. 26:4,
"One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after." Therefore
the shorter prayer is, the more is it acceptable to God.
Objection 3: Further, it seems to be wrong to transgress the limits fixed by
God, especially in matters concerning Divine worship, according to Ex.
19:21: "Charge the people, lest they should have a mind to pass the
limits to see the Lord, and a very great multitude of them should
perish." But God has fixed for us the limits of prayer by instituting the
Lord's Prayer (Mt. 6). Therefore it is not right to prolong our prayer
beyond its limits.
Objection 4: On the contrary, It would seem that we ought to pray continually.
For our Lord said (Lk. 18:1): "We ought always to pray, and not to
faint": and it is written (1 Thess. 5:17): "Pray without ceasing."
I answer that, We may speak about prayer in two ways: first, by
considering it in itself; secondly, by considering it in its cause. The
not cause of prayer is the desire of charity, from which prayer ought to
arise: and this desire ought to be in us continually, either actually or
virtually, for the virtue of this desire remains in whatever we do out of
charity; and we ought to "do all things to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). From this point of view prayer ought to be continual: wherefore
Augustine says (ad Probam, Ep. cxxx, 9): "Faith, hope and charity are by
themselves a prayer of continual longing." But prayer, considered in
itself, cannot be continual, because we have to be busy about other
works, and, as Augustine says (ad Probam. Ep. cxxx, 9), "we pray to God
with our lips at certain intervals and seasons, in order to admonish
ourselves by means of such like signs, to take note of the amount of our
progress in that desire, and to arouse ourselves more eagerly to an
increase thereof." Now the quantity of a thing should be commensurate
with its end, for instance the quantity of the dose should be
commensurate with health. And so it is becoming that prayer should last
long enough to arouse the fervor of the interior desire: and when it
exceeds this measure, so that it cannot be continued any longer without
causing weariness, it should be discontinued. Wherefore Augustine says
(ad Probam. Ep. cxxx): "It is said that the brethren in Egypt make
frequent but very short prayers, rapid ejaculations, as it were, lest
that vigilant and erect attention which is so necessary in prayer slacken
and languish, through the strain being prolonged. By so doing they make
it sufficiently clear not only that this attention must not be forced if
we are unable to keep it up, but also that if we are able to continue, it
should not be broken off too soon." And just as we must judge of this in
private prayers by considering the attention of the person praying, so
too, in public prayers we must judge of it by considering the devotion of
Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine says (ad Probam. Ep. cxxx), "to pray with many
words is not the same as to pray long; to speak long is one thing, to be
devout long is another. For it is written that our Lord passed the whole
night in prayer, and that He 'prayed the longer' in order to set us an
example." Further on he says: "When praying say little, yet pray much so
long as your attention is fervent. For to say much in prayer is to
discuss your need in too many words: whereas to pray much is to knock at
the door of Him we pray, by the continuous and devout clamor of the
heart. Indeed this business is frequently done with groans rather than
with words, with tears rather than with speech."
Reply to Objection 2: Length of prayer consists, not in praying for many things,
but in the affections persisting in the desire of one thing.
Reply to Objection 3: Our Lord instituted this prayer, not that we might use no
other words when we pray, but that in our prayers we might have none but
these things in view, no matter how we express them or think of them.
Reply to Objection 4: One may pray continually, either through having a continual
desire, as stated above; or through praying at certain fixed times,
though interruptedly; or by reason of the effect, whether in the person
who prays---because he remains more devout even after praying, or in some
other person---as when by his kindness a man incites another to pray for
him, even after he himself has ceased praying.
Article 15: Whether prayer is meritorious?
Objection 1: It would seem that prayer is not meritorious. All merit proceeds
from grace. But prayer precedes grace, since even grace is obtained by
means of prayer according to Lk. 11:13, "(How much more) will your Father
from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask Him!" Therefore prayer
is not a meritorious act.
Objection 2: Further, if prayer merits anything, this would seem to be chiefly
that which is besought in prayer. Yet it does not always merit this,
because even the saints' prayers are frequently not heard; thus Paul was
not heard when he besought the sting of the flesh to be removed from him.
Therefore prayer is not a meritorious act.
Objection 3: Further, prayer is based chiefly on faith, according to James
1:6, "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." Now faith is not
sufficient for merit, as instanced in those who have lifeless faith.
Therefore prayer is not a meritorious act.
On the contrary, A gloss on the words of Ps. 34:13, "My prayer shall be
turned into my bosom," explains them as meaning, "if my prayer does not
profit them, yet shall not I be deprived of my reward." Now reward is not
due save to merit. Therefore prayer is meritorious.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ) prayer, besides causing spiritual
consolation at the time of praying, has a twofold efficacy in respect of
a future effect, namely, efficacy in meriting and efficacy in
impetrating. Now prayer, like any other virtuous act, is efficacious in
meriting, because it proceeds from charity as its root, the proper object
of which is the eternal good that we merit to enjoy. Yet prayer proceeds
from charity through the medium of religion, of which prayer is an act,
as stated above (Article ), and with the concurrence of other virtues
requisite for the goodness of prayer, viz. humility and faith. For the
offering of prayer itself to God belongs to religion, while the desire
for the thing. that we pray to be accomplished belongs to charity. Faith
is necessary in reference to God to Whom we pray; that is, we need to
believe that we can obtain from Him what we seek. Humility is necessary
on the part of the person praying, because he recognizes his neediness.
Devotion too is necessary: but this belongs to religion, for it is its
first act and a necessary condition of all its secondary acts, as stated
above (Question , Articles ,2).
As to its efficacy in impetrating, prayer derives this from the grace of
God to Whom we pray, and Who instigates us to pray. Wherefore Augustine
says (De Verb. Dom., Serm. cv, 1): "He would not urge us to ask, unless
He were willing to give"; and Chrysostom [*Cf. Catena Aurea of St. Thomas
on Lk. 18. The words as quoted are not to be found in the words of
Chrysostom] says: "He never refuses to grant our prayers, since in His
loving-kindness He urged us not to faint in praying."
Reply to Objection 1: Neither prayer nor any other virtuous act is meritorious
without sanctifying grace. And yet even that prayer which impetrates
sanctifying grace proceeds from some grace, as from a gratuitous gift,
since the very act of praying is "a gift of God," as Augustine states (De
Reply to Objection 2: Sometimes the merit of prayer regards chiefly something
distinct from the object of one's petition. For the chief object of merit
is beatitude, whereas the direct object of the petition of prayer extends
sometimes to certain other things, as stated above (Articles ,7). Accordingly
if this other thing that we ask for ourselves be not useful for our
beatitude, we do not merit it; and sometimes by asking for and desiring
such things we lose merit for instance if we ask of God the
accomplishment of some sin, which would be an impious prayer. And
sometimes it is not necessary for salvation, nor yet manifestly contrary
thereto; and then although he who prays may merit eternal life by
praying, yet he does not merit to obtain what he asks for. Hence
Augustine says (Liber. Sentent. Prosperi sent. ccxii): "He who faithfully
prays God for the necessaries of this life, is both mercifully heard, and
mercifully not heard. For the physician knows better than the sick man
what is good for the disease." For this reason, too, Paul was not heard
when he prayed for the removal of the sting in his flesh, because this
was not expedient. If, however, we pray for something that is useful for
our beatitude, through being conducive to salvation, we merit it not only
by praying, but also by doing other good deeds: therefore without any
doubt we receive what we ask for, yet when we ought to receive it: "since
certain things are not denied us, but are deferred that they may be
granted at a suitable time," according to Augustine (Tract. cii in
Joan.): and again this may be hindered if we persevere not in asking for
it. Wherefore Basil says (De Constit. Monast. i): "The reason why
sometimes thou hast asked and not received, is because thou hast asked
amiss, either inconsistently, or lightly, or because thou hast asked for
what was not good for thee, or because thou hast ceased asking." Since,
however, a man cannot condignly merit eternal life for another, as stated
above (FS, Question , Article ), it follows that sometimes one cannot condignly
merit for another things that pertain to eternal life. For this reason we
are not always heard when we pray for others, as stated above (Article , ad 2,3). Hence it is that four conditions are laid down; namely, to
ask---"for ourselves---things necessary for
salvation---piously---perseveringly"; when all these four concur, we
always obtain what we ask for.
Reply to Objection 3: Prayer depends chiefly on faith, not for its efficacy in
meriting, because thus it depends chiefly on charity, but for its
efficacy in impetrating, because it is through faith that man comes to
know of God's omnipotence and mercy, which are the source whence prayer
impetrates what it asks for.
Article 16: Whether sinners impetrate anything from God by their prayers?
Objection 1: It would seem that sinners impetrate nothing from God by their
prayers. It is written (Jn. 9:31): "We know that God doth not hear
sinners"; and this agrees with the saying of Prov. 28:9, "He that turneth
away his ears from hearing the law, his prayer shall be an abomination."
Now an abominable prayer impetrates nothing from God. Therefore sinners
impetrate nothing from God.
Objection 2: Further, the just impetrate from God what they merit, as stated
above (Article , ad 2). But sinners cannot merit anything since they lack
grace and charity which is the "power of godliness," according to a gloss
on 2 Tim. 3:5, "Having an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the
power thereof." and so their prayer is impious, and yet piety it required
in order that prayer may be impetrative, as stated above (Article , ad 2).
Therefore sinners impetrate nothing by their prayers.
Objection 3: Further, Chrysostom [*Hom. xiv in the Opus Imperfectum falsely ascribed to St. John Chrysostom] says: "The Father is unwilling to hear the prayer which the Son has not inspired." Now in the prayer inspired by Christ we say: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us": and sinners do not fulfil this. Therefore either they lie in saying this, and so are unworthy to be heard, or, if they do not say it, they are not heard, because they do not observe the form of prayer instituted by Christ.
On the contrary, Augustine says (Tract. xliv, super Joan.): "If God were
not to hear sinners, the publican would have vainly said: Lord, be
merciful to me a sinner"; and Chrysostom [*Hom. xviii of the same Opus
Imperfectum] says: "Everyone that asketh shall receive, that is to say
whether he be righteous or sinful."
I answer that, In the sinner, two things are to be considered: his
nature which God loves, and the sin which He hates. Accordingly when a
sinner prays for something as sinner, i.e. in accordance with a sinful
desire, God hears him not through mercy but sometimes through vengeance
when He allows the sinner to fall yet deeper into sin. For "God refuses
in mercy what He grants in anger," as Augustine declares (Tract. lxxiii
in Joan.). On the other hand God hears the sinner's prayer if it proceed
from a good natural desire, not out of justice, because the sinner does
not merit to be heard, but out of pure mercy [*Cf. Article , ad 1], provided
however he fulfil the four conditions given above, namely, that he
beseech for himself things necessary for salvation, piously and
Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine states (Tract. xliv super Joan.), these words
were spoken by the blind man before being anointed, i.e. perfectly
enlightened, and consequently lack authority. And yet there is truth in
the saying if it refers to a sinner as such, in which sense also the
sinner's prayer is said to be an abomination.
Reply to Objection 2: There can be no godliness in the sinner's prayer as though
his prayer were quickened by a habit of virtue: and yet his prayer may be
godly in so far as he asks for something pertaining to godliness. Even so
a man who has not the habit of justice is able to will something just, as
stated above (Question , Article ). And though his prayer is not meritorious, it
can be impetrative, because merit depends on justice, whereas impetration
rests on grace.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Article , ad 1) the Lord's Prayer is
pronounced in the common person of the whole Church: and so if anyone say
the Lord's Prayer while unwilling to forgive his neighbor's trespasses,
he lies not, although his words do not apply to him personally: for they
are true as referred to the person of the Church, from which he is
excluded by merit, and consequently he is deprived of the fruit of his
prayer. Sometimes, however, a sinner is prepared to forgive those who
have trespassed against him, wherefore his prayers are heard, according
to Ecclus. 28:2, "Forgive thy neighbor if he hath hurt thee, and then
shall thy sins be forgiven to thee when thou prayest."
Article 17: Whether the parts of prayer are fittingly described as supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings?
Objection 1: It would seem that the parts of prayer are unfittingly described
as supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.
Supplication would seem to be a kind of adjuration. Yet, according to
Origen (Super Matth. Tract. xxxv), "a man who wishes to live according to
the gospel need not adjure another, for if it be unlawful to swear, it is
also unlawful to adjure." Therefore supplication is unfittingly reckoned
a part of prayer.
Objection 2: Further, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. iii, 24), "to pray
is to ask becoming things of God." Therefore it is unfitting to
distinguish "prayers" from "intercessions."
Objection 3: Further, thanksgivings regard the past, while the others regard
the future. But the past precedes the future. Therefore thanksgivings are
unfittingly placed after the others.
On the contrary, suffices the authority of the Apostle (1 Tim. 2:1).
I answer that, Three conditions are requisite for prayer. First, that
the person who prays should approach God Whom he prays: this is signified
in the word "prayer," because prayer is "the raising up of one's mind to
God." The second is that there should be a petition, and this is
signified in the word "intercession." In this case sometimes one asks for
something definite, and then some say it is "intercession" properly so
called, or we may ask for some thing indefinitely, for instance to be
helped by God, or we may simply indicate a fact, as in Jn. 11:3, "Behold,
he whom Thou lovest is sick," and then they call it "insinuation." The
third condition is the reason for impetrating what we ask for: and this
either on the part of God, or on the part of the person who asks. The
reason of impetration on the part of God is His sanctity, on account of
which we ask to be heard, according to Dan. 9:17,18, "For Thy own sake,
incline, O God, Thy ear"; and to this pertains "supplication"
[obsecratio] which means a pleading through sacred things, as when we
say, "Through Thy nativity, deliver us, O Lord." The reason for
impetration on the part of the person who asks is "thanksgiving"; since
"through giving thanks for benefits received we merit to receive yet
greater benefits," as we say in the collect [*Ember Friday in September
and Postcommunion of the common of a Confessor Bishop]. Hence a gloss on
1 Tim. 2:1 says that "in the Mass, the consecration is preceded by
supplication," in which certain sacred things are called to mind; that
"prayers are in the consecration itself," in which especially the mind
should be raised up to God; and that "intercessions are in the petitions
that follow, and thanksgivings at the end."
We may notice these four things in several of the Church's collects.
Thus in the collect of Trinity Sunday the words, "Almighty eternal God"
belong to the offering up of prayer to God; the words, "Who hast given to
Thy servants," etc. belong to thanksgiving; the words, "grant, we beseech
Thee," belong to intercession; and the words at the end, "Through Our
Lord," etc. belong to supplication.
In the "Conferences of the Fathers" (ix, cap. 11, seqq.) we read:
"Supplication is bewailing one's sins; prayer is vowing something to God;
intercession is praying for others; thanksgiving is offered by the mind
to God in ineffable ecstasy." The first explanation, however, is the
Reply to Objection 1: "Supplication" is an adjuration not for the purpose of
compelling, for this is forbidden, but in order to implore mercy.
Reply to Objection 2: "Prayer" in the general sense includes all the things
mentioned here; but when distinguished from the others it denotes
properly the ascent to God.
Reply to Objection 3: Among things that are diverse the past precedes the future;
but the one and same thing is future before it is past. Hence
thanksgiving for other benefits precedes intercession: but one and the
same benefit is first sought, and finally, when it has been received, we
give thanks for it. Intercession is preceded by prayer whereby we
approach Him of Whom we ask: and prayer is preceded by supplication,
whereby through the consideration of God's goodness we dare approach Him.