Here’s some nourishment for your soul.
In my reading for Wintercon, I stumbled across this majestic passage from the ancient Latin theologian Tertullian. It is an impassioned celebration of the power of Christian prayer and its purpose for good – a power and benevolence which, Tertullian so eloquently proclaims, outstrip even Old Testament prayer.
The language is tricky in places, so I recommend reading it a few times over. Enjoy!
Tertullian, On Prayer XXIX
For what has God, who exacts it, ever denied to prayer coming from “spirit and truth?” How mighty specimens of its efficacy do we read, and hear, and believe!
Old-world prayer, indeed, used to free from fires, and from beasts, and from famine; and yet it had not (then) received its form from Christ. But how far more amply operative is Christian prayer! It does not station the angel of dew in mid-fires, nor muzzle lions, nor transfer to the hungry the rustics’ bread; it has no delegated grace to avert any sense of suffering; but it supplies the suffering, and the feeling, and the grieving, with endurance: it amplifies grace by virtue, that faith may know what she obtains from the Lord, understanding what—for God’s name’s sake—she suffers.
Furthermore in days gone by prayer used to call down plagues, scatter the armies of foes, withhold the wholesome influences of the showers. Now, however, the prayer of righteousness averts all God’s anger, keeps watch on behalf of personal enemies, makes supplication on behalf of persecutors. Is it wonder if it knows how to extort the rains of heaven—(prayer) which was once able to procure its fires?
Prayer is alone that which vanquishes God. But Christ has willed that it be operative for no evil: He had conferred on it all its virtue in the cause of good. And so it knows nothing save how to recall the souls of the departed from the very path of death, to transform the weak, to restore the sick, to purge the possessed, to open prison-bars, to loose the bonds of the innocent. Likewise it washes away faults, repels temptations, extinguishes persecutions, consoles the faint-spirited, cheers the high-spirited, escorts travellers, appeases waves, makes robbers stand aghast, nourishes the poor, governs the rich, upraises the fallen, arrests the falling, confirms the standing.
Prayer is the wall of faith: her arms and missiles against the foe who keeps watch over us on all sides. And so let us never march out unarmed. By day, let us remember the outpost; by night, the vigil. Under the arms of prayer let us guard the standard of our Emperor; let us await in prayer the angel’s trumpet.
The angels, likewise, all pray; every creature prays; cattle and wild beasts pray and bend their knees; and when they issue from their layers and lairs, they look up heavenward with no idle mouth, making their breath vibrate after their own manner. Nay, the birds too, rising out of the nest, upraise themselves heavenward, and, instead of hands, expand the cross of their wings, and say somewhat to seem like prayer.
What more then, touching the office of prayer? Even the Lord Himself prayed; to whom be honour and virtue unto the ages of the ages!