Question 024.  

Do we really have to pray for God’s grace? Can’t we make it on our own?

Give to me what you command of me, and demand of me whatever you want… When the Lord tells us “convert to me and I will convert to you”, what else is he saying than: ‘do what I command you’?  And when we say to the Lord: ‘turn to us, Lord, and we will turn to you,’ what else are we saying than: ‘give us what we need to accomplish what you command’?  (for) the law was therefore given, in order that grace might be sought [through prayer]; grace was given, in order that the law might be fulfilled.

from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger.


What precisely does it mean to “make it on our own”?  It might be taken as to exist independently from God.  This is impossible, for all is dependent upon God; to be brought into existence, to remain in existence, to exist in the future.  It might be taken to return to God by oneself.  This is likewise impossible, for though we, through our own power turned from Him in sin, we do not have the power to turn towards Him; one cannot forgive oneself.  It might be taken as to abide in God by our own power.  This is nonsensical, for God is not ours to command nor might we take what is His by force.

The core of what is asked for in prayer is, in man seeing that the attempt to do his own will has only led to ruination and estrangement from God, to simply do the will of God; for in doing so man achieves his purpose, hopes after what is longed for in faith, and arrives at through charity – union with God.  How does man do the will of God?  By asking to know what God commands and then by the asking of the ability to do it.  The asking is through prayer.  But first is the hearing which enkindles the asking.  God speaks to man by giving him the facilities to hear His Word, the desire to receive His Word, and the very Word itself uttered forth from the Father so that man, who has been so prepared, so receives, so hears.  The receiving is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is given that which is commanded might be accomplished.  

This is grace through faith which worketh in charity.  It begins in God, proceeds through God, and ends in God.  So the one who is to pray begins, prays, and receives that which is asked by through and for God; that the Father’s will be done in the order of creation, on earth as it is in heaven; for the individual, in the exterior actions of man and within his own heart.


Christ, the Apothecary of the Soul, Medieval Manuscript