The Moral duty to Pray

Many Christians, in the first place among them I myself, have trouble with the regular practice of prayer. Perhaps, though, one can find incentive to pray when one reflects on the fact that prayer is actually a moral duty – to fail to pray is literally an offence against God, yourself, and the human community.

If the Christian story is true then it seems as though man has a moral duty to pray, and to not only avoid the near occasion of sin, but also to put oneself in the near occasion of joy, for example via prayer. Thomas Aquinas has famously said:

No man can live without joy. That is why one deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures.

This is not only true, but it entails that if one does not cultivate a love of Christ by the practices of fasting, prayer, and feeding their faith, then one is already putting oneself in the near occasion of sin. If one is a Christian then one must avoid the near occasion of sin, and that means putting oneself in the near occasion of  true Christian joy principally by cultivating a spirit of prayer. Feeding one’s faith by reading scripture, by fellowship, by catechising and in short by every means at one’s disposal (including the sacraments, especially of Confession and Eucharist) is literally a moral duty if Christianity is true. Moreover, consider the consequences of prayer – when one cultivates true Christian joy one is able to pray undivided, and thus is better disposed to pray for other people, along with being better disposed to pray for oneself for the sake of other people. Prayer not only brings one closer to God, but through realizing sanctity actually brings every other person in contact (or proximate contact) with you closer to God as well. People are, after all, above all converted by beauty, and nothing is more beautiful than sanctity. Prayer itself cultivates patience, wisdom, sobriety of life, and in short all seven of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit (being wisdom, understanding, awe/wonder, right judgement, knowledge, courage, and reverence.) However, having those things makes one more fit to help society in general, and all people in particular. Prayer, then, makes one a better member of society; prayer is literally a social work, and thus praying is a matter of social justice.

I think that in principle even the secular humanist can agree to this logic. She (the secular humanist) may deny that in Christian prayer, or any genuine religious prayer, one really accesses the occasion of grace for themselves as well as for others, but she can/must at least see how prayer of some kind which centers people, and which encourages attitudes and behaviours which foster a culture of peace and well being, can itself be not only morally laudable, but perhaps even be a duty to society. I think reflecting on the social and moral dimension of the practice of prayer is one way to encourage myself and others to turn to God in prayer more often, and make a conscious effort to turn to God always and in everything.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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