Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 13 [IX.]--In What Sense the Holy Ghost is Said to Make Intercession for Us.
Do you perhaps also think me ridiculous and like the irrational beasts, because I said, |We know not what we should pray for as we ought|? Perhaps this is not quite so intolerable. For since, in the dictates of a sound and righteous judgment, we prefer our future to our past; and since our prayer must have reference not to what we have been, but what we shall be, it is of course much more injurious not to know what we should pray for, than to be ignorant of the manner of our origin. But recollect whose words I repeated, or read them again for yourself, and reflect whence they come; and do not pelt me with your reproaches, lest the stone you throw should alight on a head you would not wish. For it is the great teacher of the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul himself, who said, |For we know not what we should pray for as we ought.| And he not only taught this lesson by word, but also illustrated it by his example. For, contrary to his own advantage and the promotion of his own salvation, he once in his ignorance prayed that |the thorn in the flesh might depart from him,| which he said had been given to him |lest he should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations which were given him.| But the Lord loved him, and so did not do what he had requested Him to do. Nevertheless, when the apostle said, |We know not what we should pray for as we ought,| he immediately added, |But the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God| -- that is to say, He makes the saints offer intercessions. He, of course, is that Spirit |whom God hath sent into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father;| and |by whom we cry, Abba, Father;| for both expressions are used by the apostle -- both that we have received the Spirit who cries, Abba, Father; and also that it is through Him that we cry, Abba, Father. His object is to explain by these varied statements in what sense he used the word |crying:| he meant causing to cry; so that it is we who cry at His instance and impulse. Let Him therefore teach me this too, whenever He pleases, if He knows it to be expedient for me, that I should know whence I derive my origin as regards my soul. But let me be taught by that Spirit who searches the deep things of God; not by a man who knows nothing of the breath which inflates a bag. However, be it far from me to compare you with brutes because of this piece of ignorance; because it arose not from incurable inability, but from sheer inadvertence.