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Archive for August 6th, 2007

Aquinas on the efficacy of prayer

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 6, 2007

Note: these are excerpts  rather than a continuous quote.  You can go here for the Summa’s teaching in full.
Three objections have been raised against prayer. Some say that divine providence does not control human affairs: from which it follows that prayer is vain, as, indeed, is all worship. Others have said that all things, even human affairs, are brought about of necessity, or by the immutability of the divine providence, or by the necessity of the stars, or from a connection of causes: and according to these, also, praying is of no avail. Others, again, have said that human affairs are subject to divine providence, and they do not come to pass through necessity, but at the same time, the disposition of divine providence is liable to change, and that by prayers, and other acts associated with divine worship, the disposition of divine providence is changed…

And, therefore, it is necessary so to determine the use of prayer that neither shall we impose necessity on human affairs subject to divine providence, and neither shall we reckon the divine ordinance to be changeable.

To make this evident we must remember that by divine providence is directed not only which effects shall have being, but also from what causes, and in what order they shall proceed. Amongst other causes must be reckoned human acts. Whence it behooves man to perform certain things, not that by them they may change the divine ordinance, but that, by their acts, they may bring about certain effects according to the divine plan; and the same is true in natural causes. Similarly, with prayer: we do not pray in order to change the divine scheme, but to ask those things which God has decreed to be brought bout by prayer, that, namely, “Men by their petitions may deserve to receive what Almighty God, before all time, determined to grant them” (St Gregory).

Prayer is not necessary in our that God may know our needs and desires, but that we may remember that in these things we need recourse to divine help.

As Maximus Valerius says: “Socrates thought that nothing should be sought from the immortal gods save that they might bestow good things: for they indeed know what is to each ones profit; but we seek by our prayers mostly what it would have been better had we not asked.” And this opinion is to a certain extent true, with respect to those things which may turn out badly, or which we may well or evilly use…

But there are certain good things which man cannot turn to evil use. Such are the things that tend to our perfection, or by which we earn it: and these indeed the saints sought in prayer absolutely, according to that of the Psalm: “Show us thy face and we are safe,” and again, “Lead me in the way of thy law.”

God calls us to good things in such a manner that not by our bodily steps, but by holy desire and devout prayer we may come to him.

Posted by Dim Bulb. Check out my other site: Catholic Bookworm

Posted in Quotes, St Thomas Aquinas | Leave a Comment »

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