Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By St. Thomas Aquinas; Albert the Great et al. | Go to book overview

Summa Contra Gentiles III
chapters 95-96

The immutability of divine providence
does not mean that prayer is unprofitable.

We must also consider that the immutability of providence does not mean that prayer is unprofitable, any more than it means that there is no room for contingency within the domain of providence. Prayer is not made to God in order to get the eternal plan of providence changed, because this is impossible; its purpose is that people should obtain what they desire from God. It is appropriate that God should assent to the pious desires of rational creatures; not as if our desires moved the immovable God, but it is a consequence of his own goodness that he brings about what they desire in a suitable way. All things naturally desire the good, as has been shown above; 1. and it belongs to the excellence of God's goodness to distribute being and well-being to everything in an ordered way. It follows that, in line with his own goodness, he fulfils the pious desires which are unfolded in prayer. 2.

Again. It belongs to a mover to bring that which is moved to its destination, so it is by one and the same nature that a thing is moved toward its destination and that it arrives there and that it then rests there. Now every desire is a kind of movement toward the good, and there could be nothing like this in things unless it came from God, who is good by virtue of his own essence, and who is the very source of goodness; every mover moves things toward something like itself. 3. So it belongs to God, in his goodness, to bring to a fitting outcome the fitting desires which are expressed in prayers.

____________________
1.
Contra Gentiles III 3.
2.
It is an aspect of God's goodness that he does not just produce random phenomena; he produces an ordered cosmos, in which things are linked to each other by causal connections. The connection between prayer and the obtaining of what is prayed for is an instance of this more general pattern.
3.
Any influence from A to B is in principle designed to make B, in some way or another, more like A. Obviously the effect of heat is to make things hot, but the same principle

-425-

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