St Augustine of AfricaGod’s gifts are very great, but we are small and straitened in our capacity of receiving.

Wherefore it is said to us: “Be ye enlarged, not bearing the yoke along with unbelievers.”

For, in proportion to the simplicity of our faith, the firmness of our hope, and the ardour of our desire, will we more largely receive of that which is immensely great;

which “eye hath not seen,” for it is not colour; which “the ear hath not heard,” for it is not sound; and which hath not ascended into the heart of man, for the heart of man must ascend to it.

When we cherish uninterrupted desire along with the exercise of faith and hope and charity, we “pray always.”

But at certain stated hours and seasons we also use words in prayer to God:

that by these signs of things we may admonish ourselves,

and may acquaint ourselves with the measure of progress which we have made in this desire,

and may more warmly excite ourselves to obtain an increase of its strength.

For the effect following upon prayer will be excellent in proportion to the fervour of the desire which precedes its utterance.

And therefore, what else is intended by the words of the apostle: “pray without ceasing” than “desire without intermission, from Him who alone can give it, a happy life, which no life can be but that which is eternal”?

This, therefore, let us desire continually from the Lord our God; and thus let us pray continually.

But at certain hours we recall our minds from other cares and business, in which desire itself somehow is cooled down, to the business of prayer.

We admonish ourselves by the words of our prayer to fix attention upon that which we desire, lest what had begun to lose heat become altogether cold, and be finally extinguished, if the flame be not more frequently fanned.

When the same apostle says “let your requests be made known unto God,” this is not to be understood as if thereby they become known to God, who certainly knew them before they were uttered.

Rather, it should be understood in this sense: that they are to be made known to ourselves in the presence of God by patient waiting upon Him, not in the presence of men by ostentatious worship.

Or perhaps our requests may be made known also to the angels that are in the presence of God, that these beings may in some way present them to God, and consult Him concerning them.

Perhaps they bring to us, either manifestly or secretly, that which, hearkening to His commandment, they may have learned to be His will, and which must be fulfilled by them.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, VIII,17 – IX, 18 @ Crossroads Initiative.

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