Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By Simon Tugwell | Go to book overview

Commentary on the Sentences
Book 4, distinction 15, question 4
There are seven questions to be asked about prayer:
1. What is prayer?
2. How should we pray?
3. The kinds of prayer.
4. What should be asked for in prayer?
5. To whom can we pray?
6. To whom is praying properly attributed?
7. The effectiveness of prayer.

I. What is prayer?
a. Prayer appears to be an act of the affective part of us:
1. Augustine defines prayer as "a devout affection of the mind, turned toward God." 1.
2. Hugh of St. Victor says that prayer is "a kind of devotion arising from compunction." 2. But devotion is a matter of affection, therefore prayer must be too.
3. The only difference between giving an order and praying is that one involves our relationship to someone superior to us, whereas the other involves our relationship to someone inferior : we give orders to our inferiors, but we entreat our superiors. But the will gives orders to our other powers.
____________________
1.
This "definition" of prayer is derived from the pseudo-Augustinian compilation De Spiritu et Anima 50 (PL 40:816), whose source here is Hugh of St. Victor, De Virtute Orandi 1 (PL 176:979AB), but Thomas is unlikely to be quoting it directly from De Spiritu et Anima. The exact form in which he cites it is already found in Peraldus, Summa de Virtutibus III 5.7.2, and in Albert, De Bono 3.2.6 (Col. XXVIII p. 147:35-6), III Sent. d.9 a.8 (B 28 p. 178). Albert had already realized that De Spir. et Anim. was not by Augustine, and it is unlikely that he was aware that this was the source of "Augustine's" definition of prayer (cf. Hiedl, art. cit. p. 116), which had evidently become part of the tradition independently of its source (cf. Petrus Cantor, Verbum Abbreviatum 124, PL 205:318B; Alan of Lille, Expos. super Orationem Dominicam 4; Alexander of Hales, IV Sent. d.31, ed. cit. pp. 494-5; William of Auvergne, Rbetorica Divina 1).
2.
Paraphrased from De Virtute Orandi 1 (PL 176:979AB).

-363-

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