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TERTULLIAN ON THE PRAYER
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1     God's Spirit and God's Word and God's Reason, the Word of
the Reason and the Reason of the Word, and both of these Spirit,
Jesus Christ our Lord, has marked out for the new disciples of the
new covenant a new plan of prayer. For it was right that in this
case, too, new wine should be stored in new bottles and a new
patch be stitched on to a new garment.1 For everything that was
aforetime has either been transmuted, like circumcision, or supplemented, 
like the rest of the Law, or fulfilled, like prophecy, or
made perfect, like faith itself. The new grace of God has renewed
all things from carnal to spiritual by the subsequent addition of the
Gospel, the fulfiller of all older antiquity: for in it our Lord Jesus
Christ is approved as God's Spirit and God's Word and God's
Reason—Spirit in view of his power, Word in view of his teaching,
Reason in view of his intervention. So therefore the prayer instituted 
by Christ is of three constituents, of word in that it is
clearly spoken, of spirit in that it has great power, of reason in
that it reconciles. John also had taught his disciples to pray.2 But
all John's acts were laid as foundation for Christ, until, he being
increased (as the same John foretold that He must increase but
I must decrease)
,3 the whole work of the forerunner, with the
Spirit too, should pass over to the Lord.4 Consequently it is not
even on record according to what formula John taught them to
pray, because earthly things have given way to heavenly (He that
is from the earth,
he says, speaketh earthly things, and he who is come
from heaven, what things he hath seen, those he speaketh),
5 and 
everything which belongs to the Lord Christ is heavenly, as is also this
science of praying. Let us take note therefore, O blessed ones, of
his heavenly wisdom, in the first place regarding the precept of
praying in secret,6 by which he not only made demands upon

1 Matt. 9. 17; Mark 2. 22; Luke 5. 37.        2 Luke 11 1.
3 John 3. 30.         4 Cf. 2 Kings 2. 15.         5 Cf. John 3. 31, 32.         6 Matt. 6. 6.


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man's faith, that he should trust that the sight and hearing of God
Almighty are present within the house and even in the hidden
chamber, but also asked for faith's self-restraint, that he should offer
his devotion to him alone whom he should believe to have ears
and eyes in every place. As a second <degree of> wisdom, in the
precept that follows let it likewise pertain to faith and to faith's
self-restraint if we suppose we ought not to draw near to the Lord
with an army of words,1 being sure that he provides for his own
even without their asking. Yet that brevity (and let this serve for
a third degree of wisdom) rests upon the foundation of a great
and fruitful interpretation, and in proportion as it is restrained in
wording, so is it copious in meaning. For it embraces not merely
the particular functions of prayer, be it the worship of God or
man's petition, but as it were the whole of the Lord's discourse, the
whole record of his instruction: so that without exaggeration there
is comprised in the prayer an epitome of the entire Gospel.

2     It begins with <our> bearing witness to God, and with a work
of faith, when we say FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN: for we are
at once praying to God and confessing our faith, since this form of
address is a work of faith. It is written, To them that have believed
in him he hath given power to be called sons of God
.2 And for that
matter, the Lord frequently declared that God is to us a father—
nay more, he commanded us not to call anyone father upon earth,
but only him who is ours in heaven.3 And so when we pray in
these terms, we are also keeping <his> commandment. Happy are
they that acknowledge the Father. This it is that Israel is reproached 
with: because the Spirit calls heaven and earth to witness, 
saying, I have begotten sons and they have not acknowledged me.4
But when we say Father we also give God a name: this form of
address involves both affection and authority. Also in <the title>
Father we call upon the Son: for he says, I and the Father are one.5
Even our mother the Church is not omitted, seeing that in 'son'
and 'father' there is a recognition of 'mother': for the name of
both father and son has its actuality from her. Thus under one
generic term we both honour God, along with those that are his,

1 Matt. 6. 7, 8.         2 Cf. John 1. 12.
3 Matt. 23. 9.         4 Cf. Isa. 1. 2.         5 John 10. 30.


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and are mindful of the commandment, and pass censure on those
who have forgotten the Father.

3     The name of God the Father had been revealed to no man. Even
Moses, who had expressly asked concerning it, got his answer, but
by another name.1 To us it has been revealed in the Son. For we
know that the Son is the Father's new name: I am come, he says,
in the Father's name:2 and again, Father, glorify thy name:3 and,
more openly, I have manifested thy name to men.4 That therefore is
the name we ask should be hallowed. Not that it is seemly for
men to wish God well, as though there were another from whom
it were possible to wish him <well>, or as though he were in
difficulties unless we so wish. Of course it is very seemly that God
should be well spoken of at every place and time by every man,
with a view to that remembrance of his benefits that is always due:
and this <clause> does also serve the function of well-speaking.
Yet when is the name of God not holy and hallowed <even> of
itself, seeing he hallows others from within himself, and those
angels that stand around cease not to say to him, Holy, holy, holy?5
Consequently therefore we also, angels-designate6 if such our
merits are found to be, already here are learning <to use> that
heavenly address to God and that service of the glory that is to
be. Thus far as concerns the glory of God. Besides this, as concerns 
our own petition: when we say HALLOWED BE THY
NAME, our petition is for it to be hallowed in us who are in him,
and at the same time also in the rest whom as yet the grace of
God is looking out for, so that we obey this precept besides, of
praying for all, even for our enemies.7 And consequently as, with
indeterminate expression, we say not 'hallowed in us', we do
succeed in saying, 'in all <men>'.

4     After this model we subjoin, THY WILL BE DONE IN HEAVEN
AND IN EARTH. Not that someone is opposing the will of God
being done, and that we are praying on his behalf that his will
may prosper: but we ask for his will to be done in all <men>. For
by the figurative interpretation of flesh and spirit heaven and earth

1 Ex. 3. 14, 15.          2 John 5. 43.          3 John 12. 28.
4 John 17. 6.          5 Isa. 6. 3 ; Rev. 4. 8.
6 Cf. Matt. 22. 30; Luke 20. 36.          7 cf. Matt. 5. 44.


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means us. Although even if it is to be understood literally, yet is
the meaning of the petition the same, that in us the will of God may
be done in earth—so that it may be possible, of course, for it also
to be done in heaven. For what is more God's will than that we
should walk according to his instructions ? We ask then for him to
supply us with the substance and effect of his will, that we may
be saved both in heaven and in earth: because the sum-total of his
will is the salvation of those he has made his children. There is
also that will of God which the Lord administered by preaching
and working <miracles> and suffering: for as he himself declared
that he was doing not his own will but the Father's,1 doubtless
the things he was doing were the Father's will—things to which
as examples we are now challenged, that we should both preach
and work and suffer, even unto death. And for us to be able to
fulfil these, there is need of God's will. Also, in saying Thy will
be done,
we wish well for ourselves on this ground also, that there
is no evil in God's will, even if according to each man's merits
something of the other sort is being inflicted. In fact, by saying
this we forewarn ourselves with a view to endurance: for when it
had now become our Lord's will by the suffering of the passion
to display in his own flesh the infirmity of flesh, he said, Father,
remove this cup,
and, recollecting himself, except that not my will
but thine be done
.2 He himself was the will and the power of the
Father, and yet, so as to exemplify the endurance that was due,
he surrendered himself to the Father's will.

5     Also, THY KINGDOM COME has the same pertinence as Thy
will be done—
in us, of course. For when is God not the King,
seeing that in his hand is the heart of all kings ?3 But whatever it is
we choose for ourselves we express with reference to him, and
reckon to his account that which we look for from him. And so,
if the open manifestation of the Lord's kingdom pertains to
God's will and to our expectation, how do certain persons ask
for what they call a prolongation for the world, when the
kingdom of God, which we pray may come, is directed towards
the consummation of the world? Our desire is to reign the

1 John 6. 37-39.
2 Matt. 26. 39; Mark 14. 36; Luke 22. 42.           3 Cf. Prov. 21. 1.


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sooner and to be no longer slaves. Even if there were nothing
laid down in the prayer about asking for the coming of the
Kingdom, we should of our own initiative have uttered that
sentiment while hastening towards the embracing of our hope.1
The souls of the martyrs beneath the altar cry to the Lord in
reproach, How long, O Lord, dost thou not avenge our blood on
the inhabitants of the earth
?2 For indeed their vengeance is set in
motion at the end of the world. Yea, let thy kingdom come,
O Lord, as speedily as may be, the hope of Christians, the confounding 
of the gentiles, the joy of angels, that for the sake of
which we suffer affliction, yea rather, that for the sake of which
we pray.

6     But how gracefully has divine wisdom drawn up the order of
the prayer, that after heavenly things, that is, after God's name,
God's will, and God's kingdom, it should make place for petition
for earthly necessities too: for the Lord had also stated the
principle, Seek ye. first the kingdom and then even these things will
be added to you
.3 And yet we prefer the spiritual understanding of
GIVE us TO-DAY OUR DAILY BREAD. For Christ is our bread,
because Christ is life and bread is life: I am, he says, the bread of
life:
and a little earlier, The bread is the word of the living God which
hath come down from heaven:
4 and again because his body is
authoritatively ranked as bread—This is my body.5 And so by
asking for daily bread we request continuance in Christ and
inseparableness from his body. But even in that this expression has
a carnal acceptation, it can with all reverence be made to belong
also to spiritual discipline. For it is bread he enjoins us to ask for,
which thing alone is what the faithful need: for after the other
things do the gentiles seek. In this sense also he enforces it by
examples and rehearses it in parables when he says, Does the
Father take away the bread from his sons and hand it to the dogs?
6
also, When his son asks for bread, does he hand him a stone?7for
he is showing what it is that sons look for from their father.

1 Cf. Heb. 11. 13.           2 Rev. 6. 10.
3 Matt. 6. 33; Luke 12. 31.           4 John 6. 48; cf. ibid. 33, 51.
5 Matt. 26. 26; Mark 14. 22; Luke 22. 19; 1 Cor. 11 24.
6 Matt. 15. 26; Mark 7. 27.           7 Matt. 7. 9; Luke 11. 11


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Moreover that midnight knocker was knocking for bread.1 Also
with good reason he has added, Give us to-day, seeing he had
already said, Take no thought for tomorrow, what ye shall eat.2 And
to that theme he also applied the parable of the man who, when
the fruits were abundant, thought of extending his barns, and
of periods of long unconcern, though he was to die that very
night.3

7     It is with good reason that having taken note of God's
generosity we also beseech his clemency. For what will food
profit us if by it we are simply being accounted as a bull for the
sacrifice?4 The Lord knew that he alone was without wrong:5
and so he teaches us to ask for OUR DEBTS TO BE FORGIVEN us.
A request for pardon is a confession <of wrong>, seeing that he
who asks for pardon admits the wrong done. So also penitence
is shown to be acceptable to God, because he prefers it to the
death of the sinner.6 Now debt in the scriptures is a metaphor for
wrong-doing, in that wrong-doing no less owes a debt to judgement 
and is avenged by it, and does not escape the justice of
restitution, unless restitution be remitted, as his lord forgave that
servant his debt7—for this the example of the whole parable has
in view. For the fact that the same servant, set free by his lord,
does not likewise spare his debtoi, and, being on that account
reported before his lord, is delivered to the tormentor until the
last farthing be paid (meaning the very smallest wrong), fits in
with this, that we profess that WE ALSO FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS. 
And moreover in another place, in accordance with this
clause of the prayer, he says, Forgive and it shall be forgiven you.8
Also when Peter had asked whether he must forgive his brother
seven times, Yea, he said, seventy times seven,9 so as to recast the
Law in better form, because in Genesis vengeance was reckoned
in the case of Cain seven times, but of Lamech seventy times
seven.10

8 For the completion of this short and convenient prayer, so that

1 Luke 11 5.            2 Matt. 6. 34.            3 Luke 12. 16-21.
4 Cf. Ps. 44. 22; Rom. 8. 36.            5 Cf. John 8. 46.
6 Cf. Ezek. 8. 23, 32.            7 Matt. 18. 23-36.
8 Luke 6. 37.            9 Matt. 18. 21.            10 Gen. 4. 24.


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our supplication might be not only for the forgiveness but also
for the total removal of wrong-doings, he added LEAD US NOT
INTO TEMPTATION—that is, suffer us not to be led, of course
by the one who does tempt. For God forbid that the Lord should
be supposed to tempt,1 as though he were either ignorant of each
man's faith or desirous of overthrowing it. Both weakness and
malice belong to the devil. For even Abraham he had commanded 
to make a sacrifice of his son2 not for the sake of testing
his faith but of approving it, so that by him he might set an example 
for his own precept by which he was afterwards to command 
that no man should hold his children dearer than God.3
He himself, being tempted of the devil, showed who is the patron
and artificer of temptation. This passage he confirms in the
words that come later, saying, Pray that ye be not tempted:4
actually they were tempted, in forsaking the Lord because they
had given themselves to sleep in preference to prayer. So the
conclusion <of the prayer> corresponds, interpreting the meaning
of Bring us not into temptation: for this is, BUT REMOVE US FROM
THE EVIL.

9     How many edicts of prophets, gospels, and apostles, how many
discourses, parables, examples, and precepts of the Lord, are
touched upon in the brevities of a few short words, how many
duties are summed up all at once—in Father the honour of God,
in name <our> witness to the faith, in will the sacrifice of obedience, 
in kingdom the commemoration of <our> hope, in bread
the petition for life, in the prayer for pardon the confession of
debts, in the request for safeguard wariness against temptations.
And what wonder? God alone was competent to teach us how he
wished to be prayed to. As therefore by him the sanctity of the
prayer was ordained, as it did, at the very time when it was being
brought forth of the divine lips, receive life from his Spirit, <so>
by its own special right it ascends into heaven, commending to
the Father the things the Son has taught.

10     Yet since the Lord, the foreseer of human necessities,5 says
in a different context, after the delivery of his instruction on

1 Cf. Jas. 1. 13.             2 Gen. 22. 1.             3 Matt. 10. 37.
4 Matt. 26. 41; Mark 14. 38; Luke 22. 46.             5 Matt. 6. 8.


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prayer, Ask and ye shall receive,1 and as there are things to be asked
for according to each man's circumstances, we have the right,
after rehearsing the prescribed and regular prayer as a foundation,
to make from other sources a superstructure of petitions for
additional desires: yet with mindfulness of the precepts, lest
we be as far from the ears of God as we are from the precepts.

11     Mindfulness of the precepts paves for prayers the way to
heaven: and the chief of them is that we go not up to the altar of
God before we cancel whatever of discord or offence we have
contracted with the brethren.2 For how can one without peace
draw nigh to the peace of God, or to the remission of debts with
the retention of them? How shall one propitiate the Father
while angry against the brother, when from the beginning onwards 
all anger is forbidden us ?3 For Joseph also, when sending
his brethren to fetch their father, said, And see that ye become not
angry on the way.
4 His advice was meant for us (for elsewhere our
people's doctrine has the name of 'way')5 that when in the way of
prayer we should not journey towards the Father in anger.
Consequently the Lord, in an evident expansion of the Law,
equates anger against one's brother with homicide:6 not even
with an evil word does he suffer it to be given effect. Even if one
has to be angry, not beyond sunset, as the apostle gives warning :7
but how rash it is either to pass a day without prayer while you
delay to give satisfaction to your brother, or to waste your prayer
by persisting in anger.

12     And not from anger only, but from all and every perturbation 
of mind, ought the intensity of prayer to be free, being sent
forth from such a spirit as is that Spirit to whom it is sent forth.
For a defiled spirit can receive no recognition from holy Spirit—
nor sad from glad, nor fettered from free. No man opens his
door to an opponent, no man lets in anyone but his like.

13     Moreover what sense is there in addressing oneself to prayer
with washen hands but a dirty spirit?8—especially as the hands
themselves stand in need of spiritual cleanliness, so as to be lifted

1 John 16. 24.             2 Matt. 5. 23, 24.             3 Matt. 5. 22.
4 Gen. 45. 24.             5 Acts 9. 2; 19. 9, 23.             6 Matt. 5. 22, 23.
7 Eph. 4. 26.             8 Matt. 15. 1-20; Mark 7. 1-23.


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up pure of fraud, murder, violence, sorcery, idolatry, and the
other defilements which, conceived in the spirit, are brought to
effect by the agency of the hands. This is the true cleanliness, not
that which certain persons are superstitiously careful of, rinsing
their hands at every prayer, even when they have just come from
a bath of the whole body. When I asked rather searching questions, 
and demanded the reason, I found it to be a recollection of
Pilate, <because> he rinsed his hands on delivering up the Lord.1
We worship the Lord, we do not deliver him up: in fact we ought
to set ourselves against the example of the man who delivered
him up, and for that reason not rinse our hands, unless we wash
them for some defilement of human conversation for conscience'
sake. For the rest, hands are clean enough which, along with the
whole body, we have once for all washed in Christ.

14     Though Israel wash every day, in all his members, yet is he
never clean.2 His hands at all events are always unclean, crusted
over for ever with the blood of the prophets and of the Lord
himself: and therefore being, through consciousness of their
fathers' guilt, criminals by inheritance,3 they dare not lift them
up to the Lord, lest some Isaiah cry out,4 lest Christ be horrified.
We however not only lift them up,5 but also spread them out,
and, modulating them by the Lord's passion, in our prayers also
express our faith in Christ.

15     But since we have touched upon one matter of empty
observation, we shall not count it irksome to censure the rest of
the practices which may with good reason be stigmatized as
vain, seeing that the doing of them has the authority of no precept
of the Lord or of the apostles. For things of this kind are reckoned
not to religion but to superstition, matters of affectation and constraint, 
of officious rather than reasonable service,6 and certainly
to be suppressed (if for no other reason) because they put us on
a level with the gentiles—as it is the practice of some to pray with
their coats off, for so do the nations approach their idols. But
surely if this were a right thing to do, the apostles, who give
instruction concerning demeanour during prayer, would have

1 Matt. 27. 24.             2 Isa. 1. 15, 16.             3 Matt. 23. 31; Acts 7. 51, 52.
4 Isa. 1. 15.             5 1 Tim. 2. 8.             6 Rom. 12. 1.


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included it—unless any think that Paul left his coat behind with
Carpus during prayer.1 God, I suppose, would not hear men with
their coats on: though he did hear and answer the three saints in
the Babylonian king's furnace, when they prayed in their hosen
and their hats.2

16     Also, that some have a custom of sitting down at the sealing
of the prayer, I do not clearly see the reason, except one which
children approve of. For consider: if that Hermas, whose writing
is entitled The Shepherd or something of the sort, had not sat
down upon his bed when he had finished his prayer, but had done
you know what, should we claim that that also must be made an
observance ? Surely not. For even as it is it is stated without any
afterthought, When I had prayed and had sat down on the bed,3 for
the order of the narrative, not with the import of an instruction.
Otherwise one will have to pray nowhere except where there is
a bed: in fact anyone will act contrary to scripture who sits in the
chair or on the bench. Moreover, since the gentiles do likewise,
sitting down after worshipping their puppets, for that reason
alone a practice calls for reproof among us which is used in the
presence of idols. Added to that is the charge of disrespect besides, 
which even the gentiles might understand if they had any
feeling. If in fact it is disrespectful to sit down in the presence
and in spite of the presence of one whom you highly respect and
esteem, how much more is this act most irreligious in the presence
of the living God, while the angel of prayer is still standing
by4—unless we are remonstrating with God because the prayer has
made us tired.

17     Moreover we shall the rather commend our prayers to God
by worshipping with restraint and humility, not even lifting the
hands too high but raising them temperately and meetly, not even
holding up our eyes in presumption. For that Publican, who
prayed with humility and dejection not of prayer only but of
countenance, went away justified rather than the insolent
Pharisee.5 Even the tones of our voice need to be subdued—or

1 2 Tim. 4. 13.             2 Dan. 3. 21.
3 Herm. Vis. 5.
4 Cf. Tobit 12. 12; Luke 1. 11; Rev. 8. 3, 4.             5 Luke 18. 14.


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else what lungs are called for if we are heard in proportion to the
noise. But God is a hearer, as he is a discerner, not of the voice
but of the heart.1 The demon of the Pythian oracle says, Dumb do
I understand him, and while he speaks not I hearken:
do God's ears
wait for a noise? How then had Jonah's prayer power to climb up
to heaven from the bottom of the belly of the whale through the
entrails of that great monster, from the very depths through all
that mass of waters ?2 What profit will these win who are praying
too articulately, except that they are shouting down the people
next them? Nay but, by divulging their own petitions what less
are they doing than if they were praying at street corners?3

18     Still another custom has become prevalent: when they are
keeping a fast, after joining in the prayer along with the brethren,
they withhold the kiss of peace, which is the seal of the prayer.
But what better time is there for peace to be exchanged with the
brethren, than when the prayer has ascended with the additional
commendation of the good work, so that those also who have
broken their fast may partake of the benefit of our good work by
transferring a share of their own peace to the brother <who remains 
fasting>? What prayer is unmutilated when divorced from
the holy kiss? Whom does the peace hinder in the performance
of his duty to the Lord? What sort of sacrifice is that from which
one retires without the peace? Whatever the reason may be, it
cannot be more important than the observance of the precept by
which we are commanded to conceal our fasts :4 for it is at once
evident that we are fasting, if we abstain from the kiss. Moreover
even if there is some reason, you can (for the sake of not transgressing 
this precept) defer the peace at home, it may be, among those
who cannot be wholly ignorant of your fast: but anywhere else,
where you are in a position to hide your good work, your duty
is to keep in mind the precept. By this means you will do justice
to the rules in public and to the custom at home. Thus also on the
day of the Passover, on which there is a general and as it were
official obligation of fasting, we rightly omit the kiss, taking no
heed to keep hidden a thing we are doing in the company of all.

1 Heb. 4. 12.             2 Jonah 2.
3 Matt. 6. 5.             4 Matt. 6. 16-18.


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19     Similarly also concerning the station days: a number of
people think they ought not to participate in the prayers of the
sacrifices, because the station, they allege, has to be broken by
the reception of the Lord's body. Does then the Eucharist cancel
a devout service to God? or does it rather bind us closer to God?
Will not your station be more ceremonious if you have also stood
at God's altar? By your accepting the Lord's body and reserving
it both things are safe, your partaking of the sacrifice and your
performance of your duty. If 'station' has received its name from
military precedent (for we are also God's militia),1 evidently
neither joy nor sorrow occurring to a camp releases the soldiers
from guard-duty: for joy will administer discipline with a better
will, sorrow with greater concern.

20     But on the subject of clothing, that of females at least, the
variety of usage has caused me, a man of especially little standing,
presumptuously, after the holy apostle,2 to write a treatise—
except that there is no presumption if my treatment is in keeping
with the apostle. In fact concerning moderation of toilet and
adornment there is the evident authority also of Peter, who with
the same voice, because with the same Spirit, as Paul, restrains
both the vain glory of apparel and the pride of gold and the
seductive elaboration of the hair.3

21     But an observance which is general throughout the churches
—as though it were uncertain, discussion of it is necessary—
whether virgins are bound to wear the veil or not. Those who
grant virgins immunity of head seem to take their stand on the
fact that the apostle has signified not that virgins specifically but
that women must wear the veil4—not the sex, so as to say' females',
but the rank of the sex, saying 'women'. For if he had specified
the sex by saying 'females', he would have been laying down
a general rule concerning any and every woman; but when he
specifies one rank of the sex he excludes the other by abstaining
from mentioning it. For it was possible, they say, for him either
to have mentioned virgins also specifically, or briefly in generic
terms 'females'.

1 2 Tim. 2. 3.             2 1 Cor. 11 3-16.
3 1 Pet. 3. 1-6.             4 1 Cor. 11 3-16.


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22     Those who grant this concession are bound to reconsider the
quality of the term in question—what is 'woman' from the very
first pages of the sacred records ? They will find it is the name of
the sex, not a rank of the sex, inasmuch as before Eve had
knowledge of her husband God named her 'woman' and 
'female'.1 . . . Thus the term 'woman', by which Eve, while still
unwedded, was already <described>, that term was made common
also to the virgin. And no wonder if the apostle, led as he was
by the same Spirit by which, like the whole of divine scripture,
so also that <book of> Genesis was compiled, has used the same
expression, writing 'woman',3 so that, by the precedent of Eve
who was unwedded, it should apply also to the virgin. Further
<considerations> are indeed to the same effect. For by the very
fact of his not specifying virgins, as he has done in another place
where he is teaching about <their> marrying,3 he makes it clear
enough that the statement refers to every woman and the whole
sex, and that no distinction is made between 'woman' and the
virgin whom he altogether abstains from specifying. For one
who in another place, where in fact the difference demands it,
remembers to make the distinction (for he does make a distinction,
designating both species under their proper terms), in places
where he makes no distinction wishes no difference to be understood, 
seeing he does not specify them both. Also, in the Greek
language, in which the apostle wrote, it is more usual to call them
'women' than 'females', that is, gynaîkes than theleîai. As
therefore for the name of the sex that term is in common use which
is by interpretation equivalent to 'female', he specified the sex
when he said gyné: and in the sex the virgin also is alluded to.
Moreover his pronouncement is clear: Every woman, he says,
praying or prophesying with her head uncovered is dishonouring her
head
.4 What is 'every woman' if not 'of every age, of every rank,
of every condition' ? When he says 'every' he includes the whole
of <the class> 'woman'—so too of 'man' who must not have his
head covered: for to the same effect he says 'every man'.5 As then
in the male sex, under the designation 'man', even the young boy

1 Gen. 1. 27; 2. 23.             2 1 Cor. 11 5.
3 1 Cor. 7. 25.             4 1 Cor. 11 6.             5 1 Cor. 11 4.


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is forbidden to be covered, so in the female sex under the designation 
'woman' even the virgin is commanded to be veiled.
Equally in either sex let the lower age follow the rule imposed on
the higher: or else let male virgins be covered if female virgins
are not covered, since neither are these specifically <said to be>
under obligation: let the boy be something different from the
man, if the virgin is something different from the woman. You
object that he says they ought to be veiled because of the angels,1
because the angels revolted from God for the sake of the daughters
of men.2 Will anyone then claim that only women, that is married
ones who have now outlived their virginity, are an object of
concupiscence—unless perchance it is impossible for virgins to be
exceeding fair and to find admirers ? Rather let us consider whether
it was not virgins alone that they lusted after, since the scripture
says 'the daughters of men': for it could have specified 'the
wives of men', or even 'females' without distinction. Also the
statement, And they took them as wives for themselves, agrees with
this, because those of course are taken for wives who are free to
marry: concerning such as were not free it would have used
a different expression. Now women are free either by widowhood 
or by virginity: and thus, by calling the sex in general terms
'daughters', it has combined the species under the genus. Also
when he says that nature itself teaches that females ought to use
the veil,3 by having assigned to women their hair for a covering
and an adornment, is not the same covering and the same decoration 
of the head attributed to virgins as well? If it is shameful
for a woman to be shaven,4 no less so is it for a virgin. In the case
of those therefore who are accounted of one and the same condi-
tion as regards their head, one and the same discipline of the head
is demanded—not stopping short even of those virgins whom
childhood makes immune: for from the first she has the name of
female. Further, this also is Israel's practice. But even if it were
not, our law, being expanded and supplemented, might, when it
puts the veil upon virgins as well, maintain its right to make
<this> addition. Though, as things are, the age which is ignorant
of its own sex should be excused, let it have this as the privilege

1 1 Cor. 11. 10.             2 Gen. 6. 2.             3 1 Cor. 11. 14.             4 1 Cor. 11 6.


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of innocency: for both Eve and Adam, when knowledge came
their way, at once covered that which they had become aware of.1
Certainly in those in whom childhood has now passed away, as
their years involve the functions of nature, so ought they to
involve those of discipline: for both in body and in obligations
they are carried forward to women. None is a virgin from the
time she is capable of marriage, for in her her years have already
married their own husband, namely time. 'But such and such
a one has vowed herself to God.' Yet from that time on she both
alters the style of her hair and changes her whole attire to a
woman's. Let her then claim to be, and display herself as, in every
respect a virgin :2 that which for God's sake she keeps hidden, let
her keep fully in the shade. It is to our advantage to commend to
the cognizance of God alone that which God's grace performs, lest
we receive from man the recompense we hope for from God.3
Why do you expose in the presence of God that which you keep
hidden in the presence of men ? Are you to be more modest in
the street than in church? If it is the grace of God, and you have
received it, Why, he says, dost thou glory as though thou hadst not
received it?
4 Why do you pass judgement on other women by the
displaying of yourself? Is it that by your glorying you are inviting 
other women to that which is good? Nay rather, you
yourself run the danger of losing it if you glory <in it>, and you
drive others towards the same perils. That which is taken up
through affectation of glory is easily stricken down. Wear the
veil, O virgin, since you are a virgin: it is your duty to be shamefaced. 
Since you are a virgin, avoid the glances of many eyes: let
no one gaze at your face: let no one be aware of your pretence.
It is a good pretence of being married, if you veil your head: nay
rather, it appears that it is no pretence, for you are married—to
Christ.5 To him you have surrendered your body: act according
to your husband's instruction: if he commands other men's
brides to be veiled, surely much more his own. 'But each single

1 Gen. 3. 7.
2 The manuscript and the editors read 'virgin': but it seems more likely
that 'woman' is the correct reading.
3 Cf. Matt. 6. 2, 5, 16.             4 1 Cor. 4. 7.             5 Cf. 2 Cor. 11. 2.


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<bishop> thinks the practice instituted by his predecessor ought
not to be disturbed.' Many there are who enslave to other men's
customs their own prudence and its steadfastness. Certainly it
would not be right, to avoid their being compelled to wear the
veil, to forbid those to take vows who are not in a position to
deny that they are virgins, being content, whatever their repute
may be, to stand entirely on the confidence of their conscience in
the sight of God. But with regard to those who are betrothed to
husbands, I am in a position firmly, beyond the range of my
insignificance, to declare and attest that they must be veiled from
the day on which they first bashfully experience a man's contact
by kiss and hand-clasp: for in these everything is already married—
their years through maturity, their body through their years,
their spirit through conscience, their modesty through the experience 
of the kiss, their hope through expectation, their mind
through consent. And Rebecca is a good enough example for us,
for she, on her future husband being no more than pointed out
to her, put her veil on as being married <to him> by <merely>
knowing who he was.1

23     Also in the matter of bending the knee the prayer experiences
variety of observance by <the action of> a certain few who on
Saturday abstain from kneeling. As this dissension is even now on
trial before the churches, the Lord will give his grace, that they
may either yield, or else establish their judgement without offence
to others. We however, as we have received <the custom>, on
the day of the Lord's resurrection alone have the duty of abstaining 
not only from that but from every attitude and practice
of solicitude, even putting off business so as to give no place to the
devil. The like also in the period of Pentecost, <a festival>
distinguished by the same established order of exultation. But on
ordinary days who would hesitate to prostrate himself to God, at
least at the first prayer with which we enter on daylight? On
fasts moreover, and stations, no prayer is to be performed without
kneeling and the rest of the attitudes of humility: for <then> we
do not only pray, but also make supplication and satisfaction to
God our Lord.

1 Gen. 24. 65.


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24     Concerning the times of prayer no rules at all have been laid
down, except of course to pray at every time and place.1 Yet
how 'at every place', when we are forbidden to pray at street
corners?2 In every place, he means, which propriety or even
necessity suggests. For that is not accounted contrary to the
precept which was done by the apostles who prayed and sang to
God in prison in the hearing of the guards,3 or by Paul who in the
ship made eucharist in the presence of all.4

25     But concerning time, we shall not find superfluous the
observance from extraneous sources of certain hours also—
I mean those common ones which mark the periods of the day, the
third, sixth, and ninth, which you may find in the Scriptures were
in established use. The first <gift of the> Holy Spirit was poured out
upon the assembled disciples at the third hour.5 On the day on
which Peter experienced the vision of everything common in that
vessel it was at the sixth hour that he had gone to the housetop to
pray.6 He also, along with John, was going up to the Temple at
the ninth hour when he restored the palsied man to soundness.7
And although these are simple statements, without any precept
of observance, yet let this be good enough to set up a sort of
presumption such as may both enforce a behest to pray and may
as it were by a law drag us from business for a space for such an
occupation, so that (as we read also was the practice of Daniel,8
arising evidently from Israel's discipline) we may worship not
less than at least thrice a day, being the debtors of three, the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in addition of course to our
statutory prayers which without any behest are due at the coming
in of daylight and night. Also it is seemly for the faithful not to
take food or go to the bath without first interposing a prayer: for
the refreshment and sustenance of the spirit ought to be given
precedence over those of the flesh, because heavenly things
have precedence over earthly.

26     Let not a brother who has entered your house depart without
a prayer (You have seen a brother, it says, you have seen your Lord),

1 Eph. 6. 18; 1 Tim. 2. 8.             2 Matt. 6. 5.
3 Acts 16. 25.             4 Acts 27. 35.             5 Acts 2. 15.
6 Acts 10.9.             7 Acts 3.1.             8 Dan. 6. 10. 


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especially a stranger, lest perchance he be an angel.1 And yourself, 
when received as guest by the brethren, give not earthly
refreshment precedence over heavenly: for your faith will
inevitably come under judgement. Or how shall you, according
to the precept, say Peace be to this house,2 unless you also bring
peace to those in the house and receive it as a gift from them?

27     The more conscientious in prayer are accustomed to append
to their prayers Alleluia and such manner of psalms, so that those
who are present may respond with the endings of them. And it is
certainly an excellent custom to present, like a rich oblation,3
a prayer fattened with all that conduces to setting forth the dignity
and honour of God.

28     For this is the spiritual oblation4 which has wiped out the
ancient sacrifices. To what purpose, he says, is the multitude of your
sacrifices unto me? I am full of whole burnt offerings of rams: and the
fat of lambs and the blood of bulls and he-goats I will not. For who hath
sought after these things at your hands?
5 What things then God has
asked for, the Gospel teaches: The hour will come, he says, when
the true worshippers shall worship the Father in the Spirit and the Truth.
For God is Spirit and therefore seeks after worshippers of this sort.6
We are the true worshippers and the true priests, who, praying in
the Spirit,7 in the Spirit offer a sacrifice of prayer8 as an oblation
which is God's own and is well pleasing <to him>, that in fact
which he has sought after,9 which he has provided for himself.10
This, devoted from the whole heart, fatted by faith, prepared by
the truth, unmutilated in innocency, pure in chastity, garlanded
with charity, it is our duty to bring to the altar of God, along with
a procession of good works, to the accompaniment of psalms and
hymns,11 as that which will obtain for us from God all that we
ask for.

29     For what will God deny to a prayer which proceeds from the
Spirit and the Truth, seeing it is he who demands this?12 We read

1 Cf. Heb. 13. 2.             2 Luke 10. 5; cf. Matt. 10. 12.
3 Cf. Ps. 141. 2.             4 1 Pet. 2. 5.             5 Isa. 1. 11, 12.
6 John 4. 23, 24.             7 1 Cor. 14. 15.             8 Heb. 13. 15, 16.
9 Deut. 10. 12; Mic. 6. 8.             10 Gen. 22. 8, 13; cf. Heb. 10. 5.
11 Eph. 5. 19; Col. 3. 16.             12 John 4. 24.


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and hear and believe how great are the evidences of its efficacy.
The old prayer, no doubt, brought deliverance from fire and
wild beasts and hunger, while yet it had not received its pattern
from Christ: then how much more fully operative is the Christian
prayer! It does not establish the angel of the dew in the midst of
the fire,1 nor block the mouths of lions,2 nor transfer to the
hungry the peasants' dinner.3 It turns away by delegated grace no
perception of suffering, yet it arms with endurance those who do
suffer and perceive and grieve. It makes grace multiply in power,
so that faith may know what it obtains from the Lord, while it
understands what for God's name's sake it is suffering. Moreover,
of old time prayer induced plagues,4 put to flight the hosts of the
enemy,5 withheld the benefits of rain:6 now however the prayer of
righteousness turns aside the whole wrath of God, keeps watch
on behalf of foes, makes supplication for persecutors. Is it
surprising that it knows how to squeeze out the waters of heaven,
seeing it did have power even to ask for fire and obtain it?7
Prayer alone it is that conquers God. But it was Christ's wish for
it to work no evil:8 he has conferred upon it all power concerning
good. And so its only knowledge is how to call back the souls
of the deceased from the very highway of death,9 to straighten
the feeble,10 to heal the sick,11 to cleanse the devil-possessed,12 to
open the bars of the prison,13 to loose the bands of the innocent.14
It also absolves sins, drives back temptations, quenches persecutions, 
strengthens the weak-hearted, delights the high-minded,
brings home wayfarers, soothes the waves, astounds robbers,
feeds the poor, rules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports the
unstable, upholds them that stand. Prayer is the bulwark of faith,
our defensive and offensive armour against the enemy who is
watching us from every side. So let us never proceed unarmed:
by day let us remember the station, by night the vigil. Beneath
the armour of prayer let us guard our Emperor's standard: let us

1 Dan. 3. 49, 50. LXX. Thdt.             2 Dan. 6. 22; cf. Heb. 11 33.
3 Bel and Dragon 33.             4 2 Kings 6. 18.             5 Heb. 11. 34.
6 Jas. 5. 17.             7 2 Kings 1. 10 etc.             8 Luke 9. 54-56.
9 Acts 9. 36-41.             10 Acts 3. 7.             11 Acts 9. 32.
12 Acts 16. 18.             13 Acts 12. 10.             14 Acts 16. 26.


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pray while waiting for the angel's trumpet. Even the angels
pray, all of them. The whole creation prays. Cattle and wild
beasts pray, and bend their knees, and in coming forth from their
stalls and lairs look up to heaven, their mouth not idle, making
the spirit move in their own fashion. Moreover the birds now
arising are lifting themselves up to heaven and instead of hands are
spreading out the cross of their wings, while saying something
which may be supposed to be a prayer. What more then of the
obligation of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed: to him be
honour and power for ever and ever.


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Ernest Evans(ed), Tertullian's Tract on the Prayer. © S.P.C.K. 1953.  Reproduced by permission of SPCK.

Edited and translated by Canon Ernest Evans, 1953.  Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2002.   


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