St Augustine of AfricaIn most cases prayer consists more in groaning than in speaking, in tears rather than in words.

But…words are necessary, that by them we may be assisted in considering and observing what we ask, not as means by which we expect that God is to be either informed or moved to compliance.

When, therefore, we say: “Hallowed be Thy name,” we admonish ourselves to desire that His name, which is always holy, may be also among men esteemed holy, that is to say, not despised; which is an advantage not to God, but to men.

When we say: “Thy kingdom come,” which shall certainly come whether we wish it or not, we do by these words stir up our own desires for that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may be found worthy to reign in it.

When we say: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we pray for ourselves that He would give us the grace of obedience, that His will may be done by us in the same way as it is done in heavenly places by His angels.

When we say: “Give us this day our daily bread,” the word “this day” signifies for the present time, in which we ask either for that competency of temporal blessings which I have spoken of before (“bread” being used to designate the whole of those blessings, because of its constituting so important a part of them),

or the sacrament of believers, which is in this present time necessary, but necessary in order to obtain the felicity not of the present time, but of eternity.

When we say: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” we remind ourselves both what we should ask, and what we should do in order that we may be worthy to receive what we ask.

When we say: “Lead us not into temptation,” we admonish ourselves to seek that we may not, through being deprived of God’s help, be either ensnared to consent or compelled to yield to temptation.

When we say: “Deliver us from evil,” we admonish ourselves to consider that we are not yet enjoying that good estate in which we shall experience no evil.

And this petition, which stands last in the Lord’s Prayer, is so comprehensive that a Christian, in whatsoever affliction he be placed, may in using it give utterance to his groans and find vent for his tears – may begin with this petition, go on with it, and with it conclude his prayer.

For it was necessary that by the use of these words the things which they signify should be kept before our memory.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, X, 20 – XI, 21 @ Crossroads Initiative.

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