Question 036.

What relation does charity have to prayer?

Whoever has brotherly charity, and his heart withstands the interrogation of a just examination of conscience, discovering nothing but the true root of charity from which good fruits come, by this man has confidence in God and shall indeed receive from him whatever he asks, because he keeps his commandments.

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


When one prays, what is it that one asks for? One prays in the hope of receiving those good things of God that He has promised. The chief of these good things is Himself – that the distance between oneself and God be brought to an end, and that the individual might dwell with God forever. This dwelling with God forever is the bond of charity, for God is charity and it is by charity that He causes the unmediated bond between Himself and the individual. Dwelling in Eternal Charity is the fruit of prayer.

How should this fruit come about, other than by charity? God, in His mercy, has said Do this and not that and I shall remit your sins, sunder the distance between us, and have you dwell with Me forever giving you all My good things, and My very Self. These are God’s commands, backed by His promises, the fulfillment, the fruit, of which is charity. So if an individual should pray to receive God’s promises, he should receive them because he has done what God has commanded of him. If the individual does what God commands, rather than what one wants, is this not because he desires, loves, those things which God promises more than those things not of God? In the act of praying, which itself is a command of God, does the individual not give himself to God in charity preferring God’s good things over that which one can procure himself and preferring God over his own self? So too then is the flowering of the fruit also charity.

But how might an individual keep the commandments of God? If the commandments were wholly within the natural power of the individual to do them, God will not have needed to command them to be done. But God does so command, and if He so commands, then being good, He must also give the ability to keep His commands, to-wit the flower must be pollinated by charity. Yet, it is still the flower that fruits, the individual who acts. How then is the flower feed other than through the sap of charity that flows from the heart of the individual? The commandments of God are to love God and then to love one’s neighbor as God has loved oneself. Towards God, one reciprocates charity by charity. Towards one neighbor, one acts as God acted, by giving charity and oneself for the neighbor so that the neighbor might too have God eternally.

The sap that feeds the flower that fruits comes from the roots that take in nutrients which becomes the sap that feeds the flower that fruits. In the individual, he hears God’s commands because God prepares the individual to ask what God commands, to hear the command, and to carry out the command by the giving of His grace, of His charity. The individual asks, hears, and carries out, not on his own accord but on the accord of God’s charity, so that he might receive that which is asked for; charity. If one prayers through charity, by the promptings of charity, to receive charity, then one will indeed receive that which God has promised precisely because that which has been promised is already present yet unfruited.


Jesus Christ the Living Vine