Acceptable to Him

From On Prayer (ca. 192)

What God has asked for we learn from the gospel. “The hour will come,” we are told, “when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is spirit,” and this is the kind of worshiper he wants.

We are true worshipers and true priests. We pray in spirit and so offer in spirit the sacrifice of prayer. Prayer is an offering that belongs to God and is acceptable to him. It is the offering he has asked for, the offering he planned as his own. We must dedicate this offering with our whole heart; we must fatten it on faith, tend it by truth, keep it unblemished through innocence and clean through chastity, and crown it with love. We must escort it to the altar of God in a procession of good works to the sound of psalms and hymns. Then it will gain for us all that we ask of God.

What will God deny to a prayer which is offered in spirit and in truth, seeing it is he who demands it? How great is the evidence of its power, as we read, and hear, and believe. Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. It has no special power to avert the experience of suffering. Instead it gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what its suffering for the name of God.

Tertullian (ca. 155-220) was a prolific North African scholar and teacher, the first major Western theologian. He was among the first apologists, writing works vindicating the Christian faith against pagan misunderstandings, as well as treatises about discipleship and criticisms of the Gnostic movement. In his later years, he became a supporter of the rigorist Montanist sect. His On Prayer is one of the first significant texts of Christian ascetical theology.


Online Archives