Question 042

Does this mean that we manipulate God through our charming praise?

God should be loved and praised gratuitously.  What does ‘gratuitous’ mean?’ It means praising him for his own sake, and not for the sake of something else.  For if you were to praise God that he might give you something else, you cease to love God freely.  You would cringe if your wife loved you for your money…

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


Pagan religion and pagan occultism are not dissimilar in that they both seek to discover which precise rituals, incantations, prayers, and works might procure from the gods and the desires of the practitioners.  The difference is that the occult is overt in its practitioners’ attempts to dominate, co-opt, and subjugate the gods.  This is not the case for those that believe and seek after the good things of the True God.  The false gods and demons are bound within creation and they too are also creatures.  Being creatures, there is always something that they do not possess, some scarcity that could be remedied, or are in want of; something that, if procured, might “twist their hand”.  Only the true God possesses all things, both in terms of His perfection as well as His sovereign lordship over all as the Creator of all.  Nothing can twist His hand nor bend His omnipotent will to the will of a creature.  It is foolishness to think that a right faith or a right work or a right prayer can make a debtor of God, to whom already all the fat belongs (cf. Lev 3:16) and who counts it all as but dust on the scales (cf. Isa 40:15).

But God permits Himself to be moved by the prayers of men.  How should this be that the Unmoved Mover might be moved?  Man’s disobedience, by God’s omnipotence, has become a revelation of God’s goodness and mercy to all of creation so that creation might praise Him all the more.  God conditions His response to man’s prayers so that man might learn to trust Him.  The conditions are contained in His command, His covenants, and ultimately the self-revelation that is the Incarnation of the Son, Jesus Christ, who in turn reveals the Father who sends forth the Spirit in response to the Son’s priestly prayer to the Father unto those who are joined with Him in praise.  If man would turn to God in prayer, God will grant to man those good things that He created man to have.  This conditioned action starts with God and ends with God – it is by God’s grace that grace is granted to the one who turns in prayer.  The unmoved mover is moved by Himself in His interactions with His creation; an indication that the inner oeconomia of the Trinity isn’t static but dynamic; the dynamism of eternal outpouring and receiving of charity and praise for it.

Still, man must turn in prayer to ask of God that which He has promised to those who turn.  Man cannot manipulate God for what He has promised but only obey.  But what sweet obedience it is for it is not an obedience of toil but of rest, of leisure.  The pagan fears to misspeak his incantations least he awakens the ire of the gods; those who pray to God await His Spirit’s instructing and leading them in songs of praise.

The pure soul desires not but to receive God; in receiving God and in praising Him for His sake, she receives Him not alone, but with all other good things that He gives to those whom He loves.  This pure soul no longer desires these good things that she, nonetheless, still receives.  Practically, she no longer asks for these good things, but only that God should give that which He pleaseth knowing full well that His will shall be more pleasing and more praiseworthy than anything she might will.


Adoration of the Trinity. Vincente Lapez Y Portana, c. 1791-92.