Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 63 [XXIII.]--The Testimony of the Whole Church in Her Prayers.
And I wish that those who are slow and weak of heart, who cannot, or cannot as yet, understand the Scriptures or the explanations of them, would so hear or not hear our arguments in this question as to consider more carefully their prayers, which the Church has always used and will use, even from its beginnings until this age shall be completed. For of this matter, which I am now compelled not only to mention, but even to protect and defend against these new heretics, the Church has never been silent in its prayers, although in its discourses it has not thought that it need be put forth, as there was no adversary compelling it. For when was not prayer made in the Church for unbelievers and its opponents that they should believe? When has any believer had a friend, a neighbour, a wife, who did not believe, and has not asked on their behalf from the Lord for a mind obedient to the Christian faith? And who has there ever been who has not prayed for himself that he might abide in the Lord? And who has dared, not only with his voice, but even in thought, to blame the priest who invokes the Lord on behalf of believers, if at any time he has said, |Give to them, O Lord, perseverance in Thee to the end!| and has not rather responded, over such a benediction of his, as well with confessing lips as believing heart, |Amen|? Since in the Lord's Prayer itself the believers do not pray for anything else, especially when they say that petition, |Lead us not into temptation,| save that they may persevere in holy obedience. As, therefore, the Church has both been born and grows and has grown in these prayers, so it has been born and grows and has grown in this faith, by which faith it is believed that God's grace is not given according to the merits of the receivers. For, certainly, the Church would not pray that faith should be given to unbelievers, unless it believed that God converts to Himself both the averse and adverse wills of men. Nor would the Church pray that it might persevere in the faith of Christ, not deceived nor overcome by the temptations of the world, unless it believed that the Lord has our heart in His power, in such wise as that the good which we do not hold save by our own will, we nevertheless do not hold except He worketh in us to will also. For if the Church indeed asks these things from Him, but thinks that the same things are given to itself by itself, it makes use of prayers which are not true, but perfunctory, -- which be far from us! For who truly groans, desiring to receive what he prays for from the Lord, if he thinks that he receives it from himself, and not from the Lord?