Questions about Prayer: Augustine’s Answers

This is an interesting and helpful read: St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Cliff Ermatinger. I recently read Augustine’s Confessions again and took special note of his prayers. Then I read Augustine’s letter to Proba (Letter CXX in NPNF 1.1). To make a longer story short, I’ve been thinking a lot about Augustine’s discussions and views on prayer. That led me to the book Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer. Yes, it is written by a Roman Catholic theologian so some of the comments on Augustine’s prayers and spirituality have a Catholic bent. I certainly didn’t agree with all of Ermatinger’s comments. But for the most part the book is a good Q/A way to learn some of Augustine’s thoughts on prayer. Ermatinger did a nice job of often letting Augustine speak for himself.

Here are some examples (I put Augustine’s words in “quotes”):

Q. 34. Christ says, ‘Watch and pray, that you may not fall into temptation.’ What is the relation between prayer and temptation? “In order for faith not to fail, the Lord said, ‘watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation….’ What is to enter into temptation but to fail in faith? Temptation advances as faith lets up. And temptation yields as faith advances… The Lord said, ‘watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation,’ whereby we touch faith, lest it weaken and die. In the same place in the Gospel he said, ‘this night Satan has sifted you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith not fail.’ He who fights prays, and would not he who is in danger pray?

Q. 48. Who should pray for mercy? “Everyone has need of remission of sins.” “The righteous also should pray to obtain the remission of sins.” “The saint can pray only because God has forgiven him his sins….”

Q. 74. But when prayer is understood in its narrow sense, how long should it last? How long should I prolong my prayer? “It is neither illicit nor unprofitable to pray at length, if your time allows for it without conflicting your obligations and duty-bound work – even in the doing of these things, as I have already said, we should exercise holy desire, which is praying without ceasing.”

Again, although I disagree with the Roman Catholic aspect of this book, it is an interesting book that helps the reader get some understanding of Augustine’s views and quotes on Christian prayer: St Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Cliff Ermatinger.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015