Whether Predestination can be Furthered by the Prayers of the Devout
We proceed to the eighth article thus:
1. It seems that predestination cannot be furthered by the prayers of the devout. Nothing that is eternal can be preceded by anything that is temporal. Consequently nothing that is temporal can help to bring about anything that is eternal. Now predestination is eternal. The prayers of the devout cannot then help anyone to be predestined, since they are temporal. Hence predestination cannot be furthered by the prayers of the devout.
2. Again, counsel is needed only if knowledge is lacking, and help is needed only if strength is lacking. But God predestines without either counsel or help. As it is said in Rom.11:34: |For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?| Hence predestination is not furthered by the prayers of the devout.
3. Again, anything which can be furthered can also be hindered. But predestination cannot be hindered by anyone. Neither therefore can it be furthered by anyone.
On the other hand: it is said in Gen.25:21: |And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: . . . Rebekah his wife conceived.| Thus was born Jacob, and he was predestined. But he would not have been predestined had he not been born. Thus predestination is furthered by the prayers of the devout.
I answer: there have been various errors concerning this question. Some, having in mind the certainty of predestination, have said that prayers are superfluous, and that anything else which we may do to ensure eternal salvation is equally so, because the predestined will attain eternal salvation and the rejected will not, whether such things are done or not. But all the warnings of sacred Scripture which exhort us to prayer and to other good works are against this opinion. Others have said that divine predestination is altered by prayers. Such is said to have been the belief of the Egyptians, who thought that the divine dispensation could be thwarted by means of prayers and sacrifices, and called it Fate. But the authority of sacred Scripture is against this also. It is said in I Sam.15:29: |the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent,| and in Rom.11:29: |the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.|
In contrast, we must say that there are two things to be considered in predestination. We must distinguish the divine preordination from its effect. The divine preordination cannot in any wise be furthered by the prayers of the devout, since their prayers cannot cause anyone to be predestined. But the effect of predestination may be furthered by their prayers, and by other good works also. The reason for this is that predestination is part of providence. Providence does not suppress secondary causes, but achieves its effects through subordinating their operation to itself. God provides effects in nature by ordaining natural causes to produce them, without which they would not be produced. He predestines the salvation of a man in the same way, subordinating to the ordinance of predestination everything which can help him towards salvation, whether it be his own prayers, or the prayers of another, or good works of any other kind, while his salvation would not be attained without them. Those who are predestined must therefore be diligent in good works and in prayer, since the effect of predestination is thereby fulfilled with certainty. For this reason it is said in II Peter 1:10: |Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.|
On the first point: this reasoning proves only that the preordination of predestination is not furthered by the prayers of the devout.
On the second point: there are two ways in which one may be helped by another. One may receive strength from another, as do the weak when they are helped. God does not receive strength from anyone, this being the meaning of the words |who hath known the mind of the Lord?| But one is also said to be helped by another when one achieves one's purpose by means of another, as does a master by means of his servant. God is helped in this way by ourselves, when we carry out what he has ordained. As it is said in I Cor.3:9: |ye are God's husbandry.| But this is not due to any lack of power in God. It is due to his use of secondary causes for the sake of preserving the beauty of the order of things, and for the sake of conferring the dignity of causality even upon creatures.
On the third point: as we said in Q.19, Art.6, secondary causes cannot evade the ordinance of the first and universal cause. They implement it. Predestination can therefore be furthered by creatures, but cannot be hindered by them.