Family Prayer Ministry Of The Holy Spirit

Renewing Families through Intercession

The treatise On Prayer by Tertullian, priest


Prayer is the spiritual offering

Prayer is the spiritual offering that has replaced the ancient sacrifices. 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, it says, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is spirit, and so he looks for worshipers who are like himself.

We are the true worshipers and the true priests. Praying in spirit we offer prayer to God as a sacrifice. Prayer is an appropriate and an acceptable sacrifice to God. It is the offering he has asked for and the offering he expects.

We must make this offering with our whole heart. We must fatten it on faith, prepare it by truth, keep it unblemished by innocence, spotless by chastity, and we must 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 can God refuse to prayer offered in

spirit and in truth, when he himself asks for such prayer? How many proofs of its efficacy we read about, hear of, and believe!

Of old prayer brought deliverance from fire and beasts and hunger even before it received its pattern from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer! It does not bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or shut the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. The grace it wins does not remove all sense of pain. but it does endow those who suffer with the capacity to endure and the faith to know what the Lord will give those who suffer for the name of God.

In the past prayer caused plagues, routed armies, withheld the blessing of rain. Now the prayer of good people turns aside the anger of God, keeps vigil for their enemies, pleads for their persecutors. If prayer once had the power to call down fire from heaven. is it any wonder that it can call down from heaven the waters of grace? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil: all the power he has given it is for good.

Its only skill is to call people back from the gates of death, give strength to the weak, heal the sick, exorcise the possessed, open prison doors, free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleanses from sin. drives away temptations, stamps out persecu¬tions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travellers safely home, calms the waves, bemuses robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports the faltering, 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 up 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 about the duty of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed. To him be honour and power for ever and ever. Amen.


From the treatise On Prayer by Tertullian, priest
(De oratione, 28-29: CCL 1, 273-274)

This except is from an address to catechumens between 198 and 220 A.D. by Tertullian. He speaks of the interior and exterior discipline of liturgical prayer, which is a spiritual sacrifice of great power and efficacy.

TERTULLLIAN (c. 160-225), a native of Carthage, was born of pagan parents, He gained a reputation at Rome as an expert in law, but after becoming a Christian in 195 he returned to Carthage and became a priest. After Augustine he is the most important and original early Latin theologian. Tertullian has been called the creator of ecclesiastical Latin, because many of the new terms he coined found a permanent place in theological vocabulary. His rigorist views led him to become a Montanist in 207.