Prayer Turns Aside the Whole Anger of God

From the treatise On Prayer by Tertullian, priest

The spiritual offering of prayer

Prayer is the offering in spirit that has done away with the sacrifices of old. What good do I receive from the multiplicity of your sacrifices? asks God. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, and I do not want the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls and goats. Who has asked for these from your hands?

What God has asked for we learn from the Gospel. The hour will come, he says, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is a spirit, and so he looks for worshipers who are like himself.

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.

Since God asks for prayer offered in spirit and in truth, how can he deny anything to this kind of prayer? 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. No longer does it remove all sense of pain by the grace it wins for others. But 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 it is suffering for the name of God.

In the past prayer was able to bring down punishment, rout armies, withhold the blessing of rain. Now, however, the prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God, keeps vigil for its enemies, pleads for persecutors. Is it any wonder that it can call down water from heaven when it could obtain fire from heaven as well? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil, and has given it all power over good.

Its only art is to call back the souls of the dead from the very journey into death, to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells, to free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

All the angels pray. Every creature prays. Cattle and wild beasts pray and bend the knee. As they come from their barns and caves they look out to heaven and call out, lifting up their spirit in their own fashion. The birds too rise and lift themselves up to heaven: they open out their wings, instead of hands, in the form of a cross, and give voice to what seems to be a prayer.

What more need be said on the duty of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed. To him be honor and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Jesus Takes Revenge

In today’s reading, Jer 11:18-20, Jeremiah wants revenge.  He sees himself as a trusting lamb led to slaughter; although he knew he was in danger, he did not realize that his enemies were hatching plots against him.  Jeremiah wants vengeance and he wants to be there to witness it in spades.

“Let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause!”

In today’s homily, Monsignor, asks, “How does Jesus take vengeance on His enemies?”  Monsignor answers,  “He dies for them!”

Christians imitate Jesus. Scripture directs us in dealing with our enemies:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:43-44
If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink;
For live coals you will heap on his head, and the LORD will vindicate you. Proverbs 25:22

We are all in the same boat, we are all sinners, enemies of  God, so long as we persist in Sin.  Jesus, for his part, dies for us. He has prayed for his enemies, “Father, forgive them!” He has fed them, “Take and eat!” He has satisfied their thirst, “Take and drink!”

Jesus appeals to the heart of men.  We can turn away.  We can experience, with Jesus, rejection.  In all these circumstances Jesus says pray.  That prayer is powerful, whether it is prayer of praise, worship, thanksgiving, adoration, or petition.

If we could only see it with Heaven’s eyes as John did as he records in the Book of Revelation:

“And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Rev 5:8

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.”Rev 7:14

What is this washing of their robes, if it is not the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  If it were referring to Baptism, they would not be doing the washing, whereas in Reconciliation we have an active role.

Jesus wants what’s best for each of us. He wants enemies (sinners) to feel the hot coals of  prayer heaped upon them.  To see ourselves as Jesus sees us when we sin can be distressing. Such a moment, though wrenching, is a moment of grace. Jesus desires a response of the heart that sends the sick and sorrowful to show themselves to the priest for healing and forgiveness.

Our revenge is to be like our Christ. Our revenge is to die to ourselves with our Christ.  Our revenge is to see the enemies of Christ come forth from the confessional with tears of joy and thanksgiving in all humility; no longer enemies but as brothers.

What will it take? Prayer.  All are called, moment by moment, while we live, “Repent and believe the Good News!” Mk 1:15

Morning – A Time for Prayer

Psalm 143: 8-11

In the morning let me know your love
For I put my trust in you.
Make me know the way I should walk;
To you I lift up my soul.

Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies;
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will
For you, O Lord, are my God.
Let your good spirit guide me
In ways that are level and smooth.

For you name’s sake, Lord, save my like;
In your justice save my soul from distress.