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Origen on Prayer
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CHAPTER VI

ANSWER TO OBJECTIONS: HE WHO PRAYS PRAYS NOT ALONE

So far, I have said that, even on the supposition that nothing else is going to follow our prayer, we receive the best of gains when we have come to perceive the right way to pray and when we achieve it. But it is certain that he who thus prays, having previously cast aside all discontent with Providence, will, if intent to mark the inworking of the Hearer, in the very act hear the response “Here am I.”

The above condition is expressed in the words “If you withdraw your bonds and protests and murmuring utterance,” for he that is content with what comes to pass becomes free from every bond, and does not protest against God for ordaining what He wills for our discipline, and does not even in the secrecy of his thoughts murmur inaudibly; for they who murmur thus, not daring to abuse Providence roundly for what occurs with voice and soul but desiring as it were to escape the observation even of the Lord of All in their discontent, are like bad domestics who rail, but not openly, against their masters’ orders.

And I think the same thing is meant in the passage in Job: “In all these ocurrences Job sinned not with his lips in the sight of God”; and it is just this that the saying in Deuteronomy enjoins must not happen, when it says: “Take heed lest a secret utterance be ever in your heart to break the law, saying the seventh year draws nigh” and so on. So then he who prays thus, becomes, as already so greatly benefited, more fit to mingle with the Spirit of the Lord that fills the whole world and fills all the earth and the heaven and says by the prophet: “‘Do not I fill the heaven and the earth?’ says the Lord.”

And further, through the aforementioned purification as well as through prayer, he will enjoy the good office of the Word of God, who is standing in the midst even of those who do not know Him and who fails the prayer of none, to pray to the Father along with Him for whom He mediates. For the Son of God is high priest of our offerings and our pleader with the Father. He prays for those who pray, and pleads along with those who plead. He will not, however, consent to pray, as for his intimates, on behalf of those who do not with some constancy pray through Him, nor will he be Pleader with the Father, as for men already His own, on behalf of those who do not obey His teaching to the effect that they ought at all times to pray and not lose heart.

For it says, “He spoke a parable to the end that they ought at all times to pray and not lose heart. ‘There was a certain judge in a certain city,’” and so on; and earlier he said unto them, “Who of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight and shall say to him:

Friend, lend me three loaves since a friend of mine has come to me after a journey and I have naught to set before him”; and a little later, “I tell you, even though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, he will yet because of his being unabashed get up and give him as many as he wants.” And who that believes the guileless lips of Jesus can but be stirred to unhesitating prayer when He says, “Ask and it shall be given you for everyone that asks receives,” since the kind Father gives to those who have received the spirit of adoption from the Father, the living bread when we ask Him, not the stone which the adversary would have become food for Jesus and His disciples, and since The Father gives the good gift in rain from heaven to those that ask him.

But these pray along with those who genuinely pray—not only the high priest but also the angels who “rejoice in heaven over one repenting sinner more than over ninety-nine righteous that need not repentance,” and also the souls of the saints already at rest. Two instances make this plain. The first is where Raphael offers their service to God for Tobit and Sarah. After both had prayed, the scripture says, “The prayer of both was heard before the presence of the great Raphael and he was sent to heal them both,” and Raphael himself, when explaining his angelic commission at God’s command to help them, says:

“Even now when you prayed, and Sarah your daughter-in-law, I brought the memorial of your prayer before the Holy One,” and shortly after, “I am Raphael, one of the Seven angels who present the prayers of saints and enter in before the glory of the Holy One. Thus, according to Raphael’s account at least, prayer with fasting and almsgiving and righteousness is a good thing.

The second instance is in the Books of the Maccabees where Jeremiah appears in exceeding “white haired glory” so that a wondrous and most majestic authority was about him, and stretches forth his right hand and delivers to Judas a golden sword, and there witnesses to him another saint already at rest saying, “This is he who prays much for the people and the sacred city, God’s prophet Jeremiah.” For it is absurd when knowledge, though manifested to the worthy through a mirror and in a riddle for the present, is then revealed face to face not to think that the like is true of all other excellences as well, that they who prepare in this life beforehand are made strictly perfect then.

Now one of these excellences in the strictest sense according to the divine word is love for one’s neighbor, and this accordingly we are compelled to think of as possessed in a far higher degree by saints already at rest than by those who are in human weakness and wrestle on along with the weaker. It is not only here that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it and if one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it” in the experience of those who love their brethren, for it beseems the love also of those who are beyond the present life to say “I have anxiety for all the churches:

Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble and I do not burn?” Especially when Christ avows that according as such one of the saints may be weak, He is weak in like manner, and in prison and naked and a stranger and hungry and athirst. For who that reads the gospel is ignorant that Christ, in taking on himself whatever befalls believers, counts their sufferings His own?

And if angels of God came to Jesus and ministered to Him, and if we are not to think of the ministry of the angels to Jesus as having been limited to the brief space of His bodily sojourn among men while He was still in the midst of believers not as one that reclined at table but as one that ministered, how many angels, I wonder, must now be ministering to Jesus when He would “bring together the Children of Israel one by one” and gather them from the dispersion, saving those who fear God and call upon Him, and must be cooperating more than the apostles in the increase and enlargement of the church! Thus in John certain angels are spoken of in the Apocalypse as actually presiding over the churches.

Not in vain do angels of God ascend and descend unto the Son of Man, beheld of eyes that have been enlightened with the light of knowledge. In the very season of prayer, accordingly, being reminded by the suppliant of his needs, they satisfy them as they have ability by virtue of their general commission. To further the acceptance of our view we may make use of some such image as the following in support of this argument.

Suppose that a righteously minded physician is at the side of a sick man praying for health, with knowledge of the right mode of treatment for the disease about which the man is offering prayer. It is manifest that he will be moved to heal the suppliant, surmising, it may well be not idly, that God has had this very action in mind in answer to the prayer of the suppliant for release from the disease. Or suppose that a man of considerable means, who is generous, hears the prayer of a poor man offering intercession to God for his wants. It is plain that he, too, will fulfil the objects of the poor man’s prayer, becoming a minister of the fatherly counsel of Him who at the season of the prayer had brought together him who was to pray and him who was able to supply and by virtue of the rightness of his principles, incapable of overlooking one who has made that particular request.

As therefore we are not to believe that these events are fortuitous, when they take place because He who has numbered all the hairs of the head of saints, has aptly brought together at the season of the prayer the hearer who is to be minister of His benefaction to the suppliant and the man who has made his request in faith; so we may surmise that the presence of the angels who exercise oversight and ministry for God is sometimes brought into conjunction with a particular suppliant in order that they may join in breathing his petitions.

Nay more, beholding ever the face of the Father in heaven and looking on the Godhead of our Creator, the angel of each man, even of “little ones” within the church, both prays with us, and acts with us where possible, for the objects of our prayer.

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