Saturday, 24 August 2013
REPOST: The Grace to Pray
I wish to write a short clarification about a matter that annoys me terribly that I have heard or read recently a few times. I would be unwilling to attribute this grave error to heresy, but simply as laxity in theology or lack of due diligence in speech and word.
Too often people will state that God would grant man grace if he were to will it, or that you should pray and God will then come and assist you. The first part is erroneous and the second is ambiguous.
No man can will or do anything truly good without the grace enabling him to carry it out, which as the term 'grace' signifies, is freely given without any consideration of our merits. The divine will is not forced into acting because we have done something worthy of reward independent of His vital assistance. As Saint Augustine states in the Perseverance of the Saints, such a case would be not be 'grace', but the due bestowal of a reward for a work.
Saint Thomas elaborates on this matter in considering the meritorious nature of true 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....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, He would not urge us to ask, unless He were willing to give; and Chrysostom (Thomas attributes this text to him, not found in his corpus currently) says: He never refuses to grant our prayers since in His loving-kindness He urged us not to faint in praying. 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.'' II-II Q83, A16.
In addition as Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange at pains to emphasis in his wonderful work, 'Providence', states, the principle of merit is not itself merited. Sanctifying grace is normally infused at Baptism, where we are plunged into the death of Christ and made a new creation, both of which we have no natural right to. All is of grace and mercy.
''Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us.'' (I John 4:19)