Reflection on Prayer by Tertullian

Today’s Office of Readings includes a treatise written by Tertullian, an ancient Church writer, which beautifully describes prayer. I want to translate a segment of it from the Italian text I use.

Therefore [prayer’s] single task is to call back souls from the dead, to sustain the weak, to cure the sick, to free those possessed by demons, to open the gates of prisons, to release the chains of the innocent; prayer washes away sin, repels temptation, extinguishes persecutions, comforts the fearful, encourages those of generous heart, guides the pilgrim, calms the storm, stops the evildoer, sustains the poor, softens the hearts of the rich, raises up the fallen, strengthens the weak, supports the strong.

“Even angels pray, every creature prays. Animals domestic and wild pray and bend the knee. Leaving their stalls or dens, the look to the heavens, not with closed mouths, but filling in their own way the heavens with their shouts. Even the birds, when they awaken, rise to the heavens and in place of hands they open their wings in the form of a cross and chirp something that resembles a prayer.

“But there is one fact that shows more than any other the need to pray. It is this: the the Lord himself prayed.

“To him be honor and power now and forever. Amen.”

I think we at times forget that even the animals of the earth pray in a certain sense. Prayer is at its root adoration of God. Each of God’s creatures was created to give Him honor. Yes, even the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and all the wild and tame animals praise God in their own ways.

How much more praiseworthy is the prayer of a man or woman who prays in spirit and truth, as the Gospel says.

The power of prayer…. if only we open ourselves to the presence of God who lives within us.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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