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4 PRINCIPLES ON PRAYER FROM SAINT AUGUSTINE

We pray at meals. We pray for sick people. We pray for the country. A little bit. Here and there. Augustine is right. We'll never really pray until ... We'll let Tim Keller whet your appetite. Then go to the full article.

The first rule is completely counterintuitive. Augustine wrote that before anyone can turn to the question of what to pray and how to pray it, he or she must first be a particular kind of person. What kind is that? He writes: "You must account yourself 'desolate' in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be." He argues that no matter how great your earthly circumstances, they cannot bring us the peace, happiness, and consolation found in Christ. The scales must fall from our eyes. If we don't see that truth, all our prayers will go wrong.

 

4 PRINCIPLES ON PRAYER FROM SAINT AUGUSTINE

by Tim Keller for the Gospel Coalition blog

Anicia Faltonia Proba, who died in AD 432, was a Christian Roman noblewoman. She had the distinction of knowing both Augustine, the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Christian history, as well as John Chrysostom, its greatest preacher. We have two letters of Augustine to Proba, and the first (Letter 130) is the only single, substantial treatment on the subject of prayer that Augustine ever wrote.

red_moon_frameI had the chance to read the letter recently and was impressed with its common sense and some of its unusual insights. Proba wrote Augustine because she was afraid she wasn't praying as she should. Augustine responded with several principles or rules for prayer.

The first rule is completely counterintuitive. Augustine wrote that before anyone can turn to the question of what to pray and how to pray it, he or she must first be a particular kind of person. What kind is that? He writes: "You must account yourself 'desolate' in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be." He argues that no matter how great your earthly circumstances, they cannot bring us the peace, happiness, and consolation found in Christ. The scales must fall from our eyes. If we don't see that truth, all our prayers will go wrong.

Second, Augustine says, you can begin to pray. And what should you pray for? With a bit of a smile (I think) he answers you should pray for what everyone else prays for: "Pray for a happy life." But, of course, what will bring you a happy life?

 

Read the rest of the article on the Gospel Coalition blog here.