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TERTULLIAN'S TREATISES

CONCERNING PRAYER

JESUS CHRIST our Lord, God's Spirit,1 God's Word and God's Reason,2 Word of Reason and Reason of Word and Spirit of both, fixed for the new disciples of the new covenant a new form of prayer. For it was meet that in this sphere also new wine should be stored in new wine skins, and that a new patch should be sewn on a new garment. For everything that had been in the past, was either changed, as for example, Circumcision, or completed, as the rest of the Law, or fulfilled, like prophecy, or brought to perfection, as faith itself. All things were renewed from their carnal state and became spiritual by the new grace of God, which added the gospel to fulfil all that had been in the past. In it our Lord Jesus Christ was proved to be at once the Spirit of God, the Word of God and the Reason of God : the Spirit, by the power He had; the Word, by His teaching; and the Reason, by His coming. 3 So, therefore, prayer as established by Christ consisted of |20 three elements: the word, by which it is uttered; the spirit, in which alone lies its power; and the reason, by which it is taught. "John," too, "had taught" 4  his disciples to pray, but all John's work was a preparation for Christ, 5 until when He (Christ) had increased—even as the same John prophesied that He must increase, 6 while he himself must decrease—all the work of the earlier servant must pass along with his spirit itself to his Master. The reason, too, why there is no surviving record of the words in which John taught his followers to pray, is this, that the earthly yielded to the heavenly. "He that is of the earth," 7 He said, "speaketh earthly things, and He that is here from heaven, speaketh those things that He hath seen." And what is there belonging to the Lord Christ that is not from heaven—this training in prayer included? Let us consider therefore, blessed ones, His heavenly wisdom, particularly that touching the precept to pray in secret,8 in which He both exacted man's faith, his trust that both the sight and the hearing of the all-powerful God are present within the house and even in a secret place, and also longed for the obedience of faith, so that man should offer his worship to Him alone, who he was confident sees and hears everywhere. The second wisdom set forth in the second precept would have a like connexion with faith and the obedience of faith, if we did not think a volume of words necessary for our approach to the Lord, who we are certain looks to the good of His own without any action of ours. And yet this brevity, because it conduces to the attainment of the third degree of wisdom, is supported by the substance of a great and blessed interpretation, and is as comprehensive in thought as it is succinct in language. For it includes not only the special duties of prayer, namely the worship of God or the petition of |21  man, but almost the whole of the Lord's teaching, all the recollection of His training, so that really in the prayer there is contained an epitome of the whole Gospel.

2.     It begins with witness to God and the reward of faith, when we say: FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN.9 For we are both praying to God and setting forth our faith, the reward of which is the right to call Him by this name. It is written: "To them that have believed in Him, He hath given the power to be called sons of God." 10 And yet the Lord frequently declared God to be our Father,11 and even commanded that we were to call none Father on earth save Him whom we have in heaven.12 Therefore in worshipping Him thus we are also obeying a command. Happy they who recognise their Father! It is the failure to do this that is cast in the teeth of Israel, a failure to which the Spirit calls heaven and earth to witness, saying, "I have begotten sons, and they have not recognised me."13 And in calling Him Father, we name Him God also. This name indicates at once His regard for us and His power. Also, in calling on the Father, we are calling upon the Son, for He says: "I and the Father are one."14 Nor is the Mother,15 the Church, overlooked either, since in "son" and "father" "mother" is implied,16 from whom the names both of father and of son derive their meaning. In one way, therefore, or in one word we at once honour God in company with His own 17 and remember the commands and stigmatise those that have forgotten the Father.

3.     The name of God the Father had been revealed to no one. Even he who had asked about it—I mean |22 Moses—had really been told a different name. It has been revealed to us in the Son.18 But who, then, is the Son? It is a new name of the Father. "I have come," said He, "in the name of the Father"; and again, "Father, glorify Thy name"; and more clearly, "I manifested Thy name unto men." We ask, therefore, that it should be kept holy, not because it is becoming that men should pray for God's good, as if there were also another power for whose good we could pray Him, or as if He would be in trouble if we did not pray for Him. It is, of course, most fitting that God should be blessed everywhere and always for the remembrance of His benefits—a remembrance due at all times from every man. This, too, takes the place of blessing. But when is God's name not holy and hallowed in itself, seeing that its power makes all others holy? Before His presence the surrounding angels never cease to say: "Holy, holy, holy."19 So, therefore, we too, candidates for the position of angel, if we earn it, even in this world can fully learn that heavenly word with which to address God, and the duty pertaining to our future state of glory. So far concerning God's glory. Again, as regards our petition, when we say: HALLOWED BE THY NAME,20 we ask that it should be made holy in us, who are in Him, and at the same time in all others, on whom the grace of God is still waiting, that we may obey this precept also, by praying for all, even for our enemies.21 And therefore, by curtailing our utterance and by refraining from saying "let it be hallowed in us," we mean "in all." 22

4.     In accordance with this form we add: THY WILL BE DONE IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH,23 not because any one is opposing the doing of God's will, and we are praying that He may see His will triumph, but we ask |23 that His will may be done in all. For by a figurative interpretation as flesh and spirit, we are "earth" and "heaven." And yet even if the petition is to be understood in its plain sense, nevertheless it has the same meaning, that in us God's will may be done on earth, and that, of course, it may be done in heaven also. What else does God will but that we should walk according to His training? We ask, therefore, that He supply us with the nature and power of His will, that we may be safe both in heaven and on earth, because the chief purpose of His will is the salvation of those whom He has adopted. There is also that will of God which the Lord carried out in preaching, working and enduring. For if He Himself declared 24 that He was doing not His own will, but His Father's, without doubt His deeds were in accordance with His Father's will. These we are now incited to regard as patterns, that we may both preach and work and endure even to death. Such an ideal we cannot attain independently of the will of God. Likewise when we say, "Thy will be done,"25 even in that petition we are praying for our own benefit, because there is no evil in God's will, in spite of the fact that each man is rewarded according to his merits. By the use of this phrase we give ourselves a timely warning that may help us to endure. Even the Lord, when in view of His impending passion He was fain to show the weakness of the flesh even in His own flesh, said: "Father, let this cup pass from me," and then remembering, added: "but let not My will, but Thine be done."26 He Himself was the will and power of the Father, and yet to show the endurance that became Him, He delivered Himself to the Father's will. |24 

5.     THY KINGDOM COME 27 is also closely bound up with the petition: "Thy will be done."28 It means in us, of course. For when does God not reign, "in whose hand is the heart of all kings"? 29 But whatever we pray for for ourselves, we assign to Him, and we attribute to Him what we expect from Him. Therefore if the reality of the Lord's Kingdom is bound up with God's will and our expectation, how is it that certain persons seek it in some period of the present world's history, whereas the Kingdom of God, for the coming of which we pray, looks to the end of the world? We are eager to enter into our Kingdom: we do not want to serve too long. Even if the request for the coming of the Kingdom had not been prescribed in the prayer, we would of our own accord have proffered that petition in our haste to embrace our hope. The souls of the martyrs under the altar call aloud to the Lord in their displeasure: "How long wilt Thou not avenge our blood, O Lord, on the inhabitants of the earth?" 30 Of course their avenging is settled to take place at the end of the world. Nay, rather, the speedy coming of Thy Kingdom, O Lord, means to the Christians answered prayer, to the heathen disgrace, to the angels rapture: for its sake we are tormented; nay, rather, for its sake we pray.

6.     But how finely the Divine wisdom has arranged the order of the prayer, in making room, after heavenly things—that is, after the name of God, the will of God and the Kingdom of God—for a petition for earthly needs also! For the Lord had also given the command: "Seek first the Kingdom, and then these things also will be added unto you."31 And yet we ought rather to understand GIVE US OUR DAILY BREAD THIS DAY 32 in a spiritual sense. For "our bread" is Christ, because |25 Christ is life and the bread of life: "I am," He says, "the bread of life,"33 and a little earlier: "bread is the word of the living God, that descendeth from heaven";34 and further, because His body is also deemed to be in the bread: 35 "This is My body."36 Therefore in asking daily bread we ask to live perpetually in Christ and undivided from His body. But because this phrase is admitted in a carnal sense, it cannot be realised without the piety that belongs to spiritual instruction as well. For He commands that bread be sought, which is all the faithful need; "for after all other things do the heathen seek."37 It is this He insists on by examples and also discusses in parables, when He says: "Does a father take away the bread from his children and hand it over to dogs?"38 Also: "Does he give a stone to his son when he asks for bread?"39 He shows, you see, what sons expect from a father. But the man who knocked at the door "in the night" also called for bread.40 Christ, further, was quite right to add: "Give us this day,"41 seeing He had said beforehand:42 "Ponder not about the morrow, what ye shall eat."43 In conformity with this teaching He added the parable of the man who planned an enlargement of his "granaries" for his increasing crops, and periods of long freedom from care, but died on that very "night." 44

7. It followed that, having noted the generosity of God, we should beg for His mercy also. For what good |26 will nourishment do, if we are allotted to Him exactly as a bull is to sacrifice?45 The Lord knew that He alone was "without sin." 46 He teaches us, therefore, to ask that "our debts be forgiven us."47 Confession is the asking of indulgence, because he who asks indulgence, is confessing sin. So, also, penitence is shown to be acceptable to God, because "He wishes it more than the death of the sinner."48 "Debt," moreover, is in the Scriptures a figure for sin, because, like debt, sin is due to be judged and a demand is made on it, and it does not escape just exaction, unless exaction be remitted; even as the master "forgave" that slave "the debt."49 For that is the lesson running through the whole parable. The fact, too, that the same slave, though freed by his master, does not in like manner spare his own debtor,50 and for that reason is brought before his master, and "handed over to the torturer" "to pay the last penny"51— by which is meant punishment for even a slight sin52— that fact is connected with our promise also to forgive our debtors. Already in another place, in accordance with this style of prayer, he says: "Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you";53 and when Peter asked "whether a brother was to be forgiven seven times,"54 He said: "Nay, rather seventy times seven,"55 that He might remodel and improve the law by which in Genesis 56 "vengeance over Cain" was reckoned "seven times, but over Lamech seventy times seven." 57

8.     To the fullness of so comprehensive a prayer He made the addition, that we might make entreaty not only for the forgiveness of sins, but also for their entire |27 removal: LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION;58 in other words, "Do not allow us to be deceived, of course by 'him who tempts.'"59 But away with the idea that the Lord should be thought to tempt,60 as if He either did not know each man's faith or was eager to dethrone it. Weakness and evil nature belong to the devil. For even the command to Abraham about the sacrificing of his son 61 was made not to try his faith, but to approve it, that in Abraham the Lord might furnish an example for the carrying out of the command, which He was afterwards to issue, that none should look upon his dear ones with greater love than upon his God.62 He Himself, when tempted by the devil, pointed out the ruler and author of temptation.63 This clause He enforces by later words, saying: "Pray that ye be not tempted."64 They were so tempted in abandoning their Lord, because they had given themselves up to sleep rather than to prayer.65 Therefore the clause brings the answer, explaining what is meant by: "Lead us not into temptation."66 For this is what it means: BUT DRAW US AWAY FROM THE EVIL ONE.67

9.     How many commands of prophets, gospels, apostles, how many words of the Lord, parables, illustrations, precepts are alluded to in abbreviated form in very few words! How many duties are fully set forth all at once Respect to God in the Father, witness to faith in His name, offering of obedience in the will, mention of hope in the Kingdom, desire for life in bread, confession of debts in prayer for forgiveness, anxiety about temptations in the request for protection! What wonder? God alone could teach how He wished prayer to be addressed to Him. The ritual of prayer, therefore, having been settled by Himself and inspired by its own special law from His own spirit even at the very time when it was |28 coming forth from the divine lips, ascends to Heaven, recommending to the Father what the Son taught.

10.     Since, however, the Lord who has regard to human needs, says separately, after communicating the set form of prayer: "Ask, and ye shall receive,"68 and since there are things to be asked in view of the circumstances of each individual, they that approach have the right, after dispatching first the regular and standard prayer by way of a foundation, to build on it outside petitions embodying their desires, always remembering, however, the prescribed requests.

11.     Lest we should be as far away from the ears of God as we are from His precepts, the recollection of the precepts paves the way to heaven for our prayers; the chief of these precepts is that we should not ascend to God's altar until we make an end of any disagreement or misdemeanour of which we have been guilty towards our brethren.69 For what sort of behaviour is it to approach the peace of God without peace in one's heart! to ask the forgiveness of debts while we withhold forgiveness ourselves!70 how will he who is angry with his brother appease his Father, seeing that all wrath has from the beginning been forbidden us? Even Joseph, when giving his brothers permission to go and fetch their father, said: "And do not fall into anger by the way."71 He certainly warned us at that time—for elsewhere our rule of life is named "The Way"72—not to proceed to the Father in company with anger, when we are on.the way of prayer. Then the Lord, manifestly enlarging the law, puts wrath against one's brother into the same category as murder.73 He does not permit injury to be requited even in word:74 even if we must |29  get into a passion, our anger is not to be maintained beyond sunset, as the Apostle warns us.75 And how reckless it is either to pass a day without prayer, while you are slow to apologise to your brother, or to lose the chance to pray while your angry temper persists!

12.     And it is not from anger only, but from every possible clouding of the spirit that the purpose of prayer ought to be free, since that purpose proceeds from a spirit like unto that Spirit to which it is directed. For a spirit that is stained cannot possibly be recognised by a holy spirit, or a sad by a joyful or a shackled by a free spirit. No one welcomes an adversary, and only a real friend is admitted to our confidence.

13.     But what sense is there in engaging in prayer, with hands washed, it is true, but with spirit befouled, since even for the hands themselves spiritual cleanliness is necessary, that they may be raised in a state of purity from forgery, from murder, from cruelty, from poisonings, from idolatry and all other stains, which are devised by the spirit, though they are carried out by the work of the hands? This is the true cleanliness, and not that which very many superstitiously cultivate, making use of water for every prayer, even when they have just bathed the whole body. When I inquired very carefully about it and asked the reason, I found that it was a commemoration of the fact that Pilate washed his hands when delivering up the Lord.76 But we worship the Lord, we are not delivering Him up; nay, rather, we ought to oppose the example of such an one, and not for that reason to wash our hands. Except we wash (for conscience sake) on account of some stain due to a human manner of life, in other respects our hands are clean |30 enough, for we have washed them (with the rest of our bodies), once for all in Christ.

14.     Although Israel wash daily over his whole body, yet he is never clean. At least, his hands are always unclean, for they are covered over for ever with the blood of the prophets and of the Lord Himself; and therefore, inheriting the guilt of their fathers, they do not dare even to raise them to the Lord, lest some Isaiah should cry aloud, lest Christ should be filled with horror. We, however, do not merely raise them, but also spread them out, and we make our confession to Christ, while we represent the Lord's passion and likewise pray.

15.     But since we have touched upon one kind of useless worship, it will not be irksome to point out others also, which are justly to be reproached as useless, since they are practised without the authority of any command either of the Lord or of the apostles. Such practices are, indeed, to be put down not to piety, but to superstition, being as they are eagerly pursued and forced, the product of a scrupulous rather than a rational sense of duty, and assuredly to be stopped if for no other reason than that they put us on a level with the heathen. For example, certain people offer prayer divested of their upper garments; that is the way the heathen approach their images. If this were our duty, the apostles who give instruction regarding the attitude of prayer, would certainly have included it in their teaching; but perhaps some suppose that Paul "left his upper garment with Carpus" 77 while engaged in prayer! God, of course, would not listen to men clad in the upper garments although He caught the words of the three holy men |31 in the Babylonian king's furnace,78 when they prayed with their trousers and their turbans on! 79

16.     Again, why, after prayer is duly ended, certain people are accustomed to seat themselves, I cannot see the reason, unless it is that which appeals to children. For, if the well-known Hermas, whose writing is generally entitled "The Shepherd,"80 had not "seated himself on his couch" after his prayer was over,81 but had done something else, would we claim that this practice, too, should be observed? Certainly not. For even now the words: "When I had prayed and had seated myself upon my couch," 82 are set down simply in the course of the narrative, and not as a pattern of a custom to be followed. Otherwise, prayer will have to be offered only where there is a couch. Nay, any one who sits on a seat or a bench will be acting contrary to Scripture. But, since the heathen do likewise, sitting down after they have prayed to their marionettes,83 even for that reason what is performed in the presence of images deserves to be reproved in us. Thereto is added the fault of irreverence, a fault that even the heathen themselves would |32 understand, if they had any sense. If indeed it is irreverent to be seated in close view of, and right opposite him whom you are at the very moment revering and worshipping, how much more is this act irreligious in close view of the living God, while the messenger of prayer 84 is still standing by! Unless it be that we are reproaching God with the weariness prayer causes us.

17. And yet if we pray in an orderly and humble attitude, we shall the more commend our prayers to God,85 even if our hands themselves are not raised on high, but raised moderately and fitly, without the presumptuous raising of the face either. For the publican in the Gospel,86 who not only prayed with humble words but with humble and downcast expression of face, "went away more justified than" the self-confident Pharisee. Even the tones of the voice ought to be subdued; else how many air passages should we need, if we be heard for our sound! But God is hearer not of the voice, but of the mind,87 even as He is its discerner. The demon of the Pythian oracle says:88 "Even a dumb man I understand, and I catch the utterance of one that does not speak."89 Is it a sound that God's ears are waiting for? How then could |33 Jonah's prayer 90 find its way out to heaven from the depths of the sea monster's belly through the inward parts of so great a beast, and from the very depths of the sea through so great a mass of waters? What more will those who pray too loudly gain, except the disturbance of their neighbours? Nay rather, if they reveal their petitions, what less are they doing than if they were to pray in public?

18.     Another custom has now become increasingly common. Those who are fasting, after engaging in prayer with their brethren, refrain from offering the kiss of peace, which is the seal of prayer. But when can peace be more fittingly exchanged with the brethren than at the time when the prayer of fasting is ascending and is more acceptable, that they themselves may share in our fasting, by which they have been softened for the making of an agreement with a brother touching their own peace?91 What prayer is complete when divorced from the holy kiss? Who when performing his duty to the Lord, is hindered by peace? What sort of a sacrifice is it from which one departs without peace! Whatever92 sort of prayer it be, it will not be better than obedience to the precept which commands us to conceal our fastings.93 As it is, by abstaining from the kiss, we are recognised to be fasting. But if there is anything to be said for the practice, you can, perhaps, to prevent you from being guilty of disobeying this command, dispense with the kiss of peace at home, |34 where fasting cannot be entirely concealed. Wherever else, however, you can conceal your state of fasting, you ought to remember the precept; you will thus carry out the public practice and the private custom alike. So also on Good Friday, on which the religious duty of fasting is general, and as it were official, we rightly give up the kiss, not being careful to conceal what we are doing in common with everybody else.

19.     Similarly, also, with regard to the days of the stations,94 very many do not think that they should take part in the prayers of the sacrifices,95 because the station ought to be broken up after receiving the Lord's body.96 Does the Eucharist, then, abolish a service dedicated to God, or does it not rather bind it the more to God? Will not your station be more instinct with religion, if you also stand at God's altar?97 If you have received and preserved 98 the Lord's body, both privileges are secure, your participation in the sacrifice and your performance of your duty. If the station has got its name from the example of the army (for we are also the soldiers of God), assuredly no joy or sorrow happening to the camp abolishes the |35 outpost duty of the soldiers; for joy will carry out the discipline more gladly, and sorrow more anxiously.

20.     Again, concerning the dress, of women at least, the variety of custom has made it impertinent, especially for a man of no position like myself, to express misgivings, after what the holy Apostle has said,99 except that there would be nothing impertinent in the statement of scruples if they were in accordance with the Apostle's views. Concerning the propriety, indeed, of dress and adornment there is an unmistakable direction from Peter also,100 checking in the same words because also in the same spirit, as Paul, both the flaunting of dress, the arrogant display of gold, and the meretriciously elaborate coiffure.

21.     A practice, however, maintained universally throughout the churches, must be reviewed as if it were of doubtful validity, namely, whether virgins ought to be veiled 101 or not. Those who concede to virgins the right to keep their heads unveiled, appear to rely on the fact that the Apostle laid it down not that virgins specifically, but that women should be veiled,102 and referred not to the sex, employing the word "females," but to the rank of the sex, saying "women." For if he had named the sex, using the word "females," he would clearly have laid down the law with regard to every woman; but when he names one rank of the sex, he distinguishes the other from it by his silence. "He could," they say, "have either named virgins specially, or used the comprehensive general term, 'females.'"

22.     Those who make this concession should reflect on the constitution of the word itself. What is meant by the term "woman" from the very earliest literature in the holy writings? They find that already it is the name |36 of the sex, and does not indicate the rank in the sex; since Eve, when she had not yet known man, was named by God both "woman" and "female," 103 "female" in virtue of her sex in a general sense, "woman" in virtue of the . rank of her sex in a special sense. So, since Eve was called by the name "woman," though at that time still unmarried, that name has become applicable to a virgin also. And it is not to be wondered at that the Apostle, being of course moved by the same spirit as inspired the composition of the whole of the divine Scripture, including the book of Genesis also, used the same word "woman" 104 as, after the example of Eve, is suitable to an unmarried woman and a virgin. Besides, the rest of his doctrine is in agreement. For by the very fact that he did not name virgins, any more than in another passage, where he is teaching about marriage,105 he sufficiently declares that he has been speaking about every woman and about the whole sex, and that he has made no distinction between woman and virgin; the latter, as a matter of fact, he does not name. One who remembers to make a distinction in other passages, where of course a difference demands it,—and he shows the distinction by indicating each of the two classes by its own name,106—when he does not make a distinction, while he refrains from naming both, intends that no difference should be understood. Again, in the Greek language, in which the Apostle composed his letters, it is the custom to speak as much of "women" as of "females." If, therefore, this word, which is in the translation instead of "female," is in frequent use as the name of the sex, it was the sex he named, when he said "woman." In the sex, moreover, the virgin is also referred to. But the following statement is also clear: "Every woman," he says,107 "that prays or preaches |37 with uncovered head, disgraces her head." What is meant by "every woman," if not women of every age, every class, every position? By the use of the word "all," he leaves out no element in woman, just as he leaves out no element in man, and no aspect of veiling; for he says in like manner: "every man." 108 Therefore, just as in the case of the male sex, under the name "man" even a beardless man is forbidden to veil himself, so also in the case of the female sex, under the name "woman" even the virgin is commanded to be veiled. In both sexes alike let the younger follow the practice of the elder, or else let the male virgins be veiled too, if the female virgins are not veiled, because the male virgins are not bound by name either; let a man who is also beardless, be regarded as different (from another), if a woman who is also a virgin, is to be so regarded. To be sure it is "on account of the angels," he says,109 that they ought to be veiled, because the angels revolted from God 110 for the sake of "the daughters of men."111 Who, then, would claim that women alone—that is, those already married, who have done with virginity—are objects of desire, unless it be unlawful that virgins also should excel in beauty and find lovers? Nay, rather, let us see whether it was not virgins only that they desired, since the Scripture says: "The daughters of men,"112 because the writer could have named "wives of men" or "women" indifferently. Also in saying: "And took them to themselves as wives," 113 his |38 view is determined by the fact that it is those, of course, that are free,114 who are taken as wives. He would have expressed himself differently concerning those that are not free. Of course they are apart alike from widowhood and virginity. So by naming the sex in general terms "daughters," he mingled the subdivisions together in the whole class.115 Also, when he says that "Nature herself teaches'' that women ought to be veiled,116 by assigning the hair as a covering and an adornment to women, is not the same covering and the same glory of the head assigned also to virgins? "If it is a disgrace to a woman to be shaved," 117 it is equally so to a virgin. From those, then, to whom one state of the head is assigned, one practice with regard to the head is also demanded, and this applies even to those virgins who are protected by their childhood; for from the very first she has been named "female." This, finally, is also the practice of Israel. But even if he did not practise it, our law, being enlarged and completed, would claim the addition for itself. He (or it) would be excused if he (or it) cast the veil over virgins also. Now let the age which knows not its own sex, retain the privilege belonging to its simplicity. For Eve and Adam also, when "knowledge" befell them,118 immediately "covered" what they had recognised.119 Certainly those in whom childhood has now passed away, ought in adolescence to perform the duties of morality as well as those of nature. For both in body and in duties they are counted among women. No woman is a virgin from the time that she is marriageable, since the age in her has already married its own husband, namely time. But some virgin has vowed herself to God. Yet from that time she both dresses her hair differently and |39 changes all her dress to that of a woman. Let her then make a complete profession and present all the characteristics of a virgin; let her completely enshroud that which for God's sake she conceals. It is of importance to us to commend to the knowledge of God alone what the grace of God makes it possible to practise, lest we should esteem as highly what comes from men, as what we hope for from God. Why dost thou bare before God what thou coverest before men? Wilt thou be more modest in public than in church? If it is a gift of God, and "thou hast received it, why dost thou boast," he asks, "as if thou hadst not received it "?120 Why by self-display dost thou pass a judgment on other women? Is thy ostentation meant to encourage others to that which is good? But really if thou boastest, thou art thyself in danger of loss, and thou art also forcing others into the same dangers. If we assume a quality from a passion for glory, we are liable to be deceived. Veil thyself, virgin, if virgin thou art; for modesty is thy duty. If thou art a virgin, do not submit to the gaze of the multitude. Let no one look with admiration on thy form; let no one feel thy falsehood.121 Thou counterfeitest well the aspect of a bride, if so be thou dost veil thy head. Nay, thou dost not appear false; for thou hast wedded Christ. To Him thou hast surrendered thy flesh; act as thy Husband's rule requires. If He bids brides of others to veil themselves, be sure he bids His own much more. But think not that the rule of every predecessor is to be upset. Many give over their own wisdom and its steadfastness to the bondage of another's habit. Let them not, then, be forced to veil themselves, but at any rate it |40 is not right that those who wish to do so should be prevented. Even those who cannot deny that they are virgins I permit to enjoy in their repute122 quietness of conscience before God. Concerning those, however, who are promised to bridegrooms, I can unhesitatingly go beyond my rule and declare with all solemnity that they must be veiled from that day on which they have quivered at their first contact with a man's body in kiss and right hand. For everything in them has already entered into wedlock, their age by its ripeness, their flesh by its age, their spirit by its knowledge, their modesty by its experience of the kiss, their hope by its expectation, their mind by its consent. Rebecca is enough of an example for us, who when her bridegroom had been merely pointed out, "veiled herself" 123 when marrying the knowledge of him.124

23.     As regards kneeling also, prayer finds a variety of practice in the action of a certain very few who refrain from kneeling on the Saturday.125 At the very moment when this difference of opinion is pleading its cause in the churches, the Lord will give His grace that they may either yield or, without proving a stumbling-block to others, follow their own opinion. But we, according to the tradition we have received, on the day of the Lord's resurrection, and on it alone, ought to refrain carefully not only from this, but from every attitude and duty that cause perplexity, putting off even our daily business, "lest we give any place to the devil." 126 The same thing, |41 too, at Whitsuntide, which is distinguished by the same solemnity of its rejoicing. But who would hesitate daily to prostrate himself before God even at the very first prayer with which we enter on the day? Further, at the fastings and stations no prayer must be engaged in without the bended knee and the other signs of humility. For we are not only praying, but also begging for mercy and confessing our misdeeds to God our Lord. With regard to the times of prayer nothing at all has been ordained, save of course that we must pray at all times and "in all places." 127

24.     But why "in all places,"128 when we are forbidden to do so in public? "In all places,"129 he means, that convenience or even necessity has offered. Nor indeed do we regard the apostles as having disobeyed this command, when they prayed and sang to God in prison in the hearing of the prisoners,130 or Paul, who on board ship 131 "in the presence of all celebrated the Eucharist." 132

25.     Concerning time, however, the keeping also of certain hours will not be useless from an external point of view—I mean of these common hours that mark the intervals of the day, the third, sixth and ninth,133 which in Scripture are to be found the most usual. The first pouring of the Holy Spirit on the assembled disciples took place at the third hour.134 Peter, on the day on which he experienced the vision of all uncleanness in the vessel,135 had "at the sixth hour ascended to the top of the house to pray." "He also in company with John was on his way into the temple at the ninth hour,"136 when |42 he restored the paralytic 137 to health. And although these facts are stated simply without any command about the practice, yet it would be a good thing to establish some prior standard which will both compel the remembrance of prayer, and as it were compulsorily at times drag one away from affairs to such a duty. We read also of Daniel's practice,138 which followed, you may be sure, the teaching of Israel: we ought, like him, to pray not less than thrice a day, being debtors to the three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; of course, quite apart from the regular prayers which without any reminder are due at the beginning of day and night. But it becomes the faithful neither to take food nor to proceed to the bath before prayer has intervened: for the refreshment and food of the spirit must be deemed to come before that of the flesh, since heavenly things come before earthly things.

26.     When a brother has entered thy house, suffer him not to depart without prayer ("Thou hast seen," says he, "a brother, thou hast seen thy Lord" 139),140 particularly if he be a stranger, lest perchance he be an angel. Even he himself, when received by brethren, would not put earthly refreshment before heavenly. For immediately your faith will be judged.141 Or else how will you say according to the precept: "Peace be to this house," 142 if |43 you do not exchange a greeting of peace with those also who are in the house?

27.     Those who are more careful in the matter of prayer, are wont to add in their prayers the "Hallelujah" and psalms of this character,143 to the clauses of which a response is to be made by those who are in their company. And certainly every custom is excellent which conduces to the precedence and honour of God, and such is the bringing to Him a full prayer like some fat victim.

28.     This is in fact the spiritual victim that abolished the sacrifices of the olden time. "To what purpose," says He, "is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and I will have none of the fat of lambs or the blood of bulls and of goats. For who hath required these at your hands?" 144 What God, therefore, did seek, the Gospel teaches. "The hour will come," He says, "when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth." 145 For "God is a Spirit," and therefore "He seeks worshippers of like kind." We are the true worshippers and the true priests, who praying with the spirit, with the spirit sacrifice prayer, a victim specially appropriate and acceptable to God, a victim which He truly sought, which He had in mind for Himself. This is the victim,146 dedicated with our whole heart, fed on faith, cared for with truth, unblemished in innocence, clean in purity, an offering of love garlanded, that we ought to escort to God's altar, in company with a procession of good works, 'midst psalms and hymns, and it will obtain all things for us from God.

29.     What will God refuse to prayer that comes from |44 spirit and truth, since such He demands? We read and hear and see how great are the proofs of His power. Even the prayer of the olden times freed men from fire and wild beasts and starvation, and yet it had not received its pattern from Christ.147 But how much more does Christian prayer work! It does not plant the angel of moisture "in the midst of a fire" or "stop the mouths of lions" or bring country fare to the starving;148 it turns away no feeling of suffering by the gift of grace, but furnishes sufferers and the victims of intense feeling and pain, with the power to endure; it extends grace to include courage, that faith may know what it is to get from the Lord, realising what it is suffering for God's name. But even in past days prayer inflicted scourges, routed the hosts of the enemy, stayed the benefit of rain showers.149 Now, however, righteous prayer turns away all the wrath of God, keeps watch in face of the enemy, "begs for the persecutors."150 Is there any wonder that it can wring water from the sky, seeing that it could obtain even fire? Prayer is the only thing that can prevail with God, but Christ willed that it should work no evil. All the power He conferred upon it sprang from good. So it has no power except to recall the souls of the dead from the very way of death, to restore the maimed, to cure the sick, to purge the victims of evil spirits, to open the bars of the prison, to loosen the bonds of the upright. It also washes away sins, drives back temptations, quenches persecutions, consoles the downhearted, cheers the courageous, attends upon the traveller in distant lands, subdues waves, confounds robbers, nourishes the poor, guides the rich, raises the fallen, supports the falling, and upholds them that do stand. Prayer is a wall for faith, a shield and a weapon |45 against the enemy who watches us from all sides. Therefore let us never go forth unarmed. Let us bethink ourselves of the station by day, and of watching by night. Under the armour of prayer let us guard the standard of our commander, let us in prayer await the angel's trump. All the angels likewise pray, and every creature, beasts of the field and wild beasts pray and bend the knee, and as they leave the stable or the cave, look up to heaven with no vain utterance, stirring their breath after their own manner. Even the birds as they rise in the morning, wing their way up to heaven, and make an outstretched cross with their wings in place of hands, and utter something that seems a prayer. What more, then, is there to say on the duty of prayer? Even the Lord Himself prayed, to whom be honour and power for ever and ever.151


[Footnotes and marginal notes have been moved here]

[Note to the online edition:  the printed volume has scripture and other references in the outside margin of each page, in smaller type, with no indication of exactly to where they refer.  Where I have been able to guess, I have inserted them place by place.  Otherwise I have collected a mass of references and indicated them by the first likely place on the page.  Corrections are welcome.]

1. 1 Elsewhere, also, Tertullian speaks of Christ as God's Spirit; yet he distinguished the Three Persons of the Trinity.

2. 2 Tertullian was too good a Greek scholar not to know that the Greek word "Logos" (John i. 1) could not adequately be translated by one word in Latin. He therefore gives two renderings, "sermo" and "ratio," and, as if this were not enough, juggles with the two terms after he has given them. The later (European) rendering for "Logos" was "Verbum," not "Sermo."

3. [These references are given in the margin on this page: cf. John i. 1; cf. Rom. i. 4, etc.; cf. Matt, vi. 6 ff.; Luke xi. 2 cf. Matt. ix. 17 cf. Matt, ix. 16 cf. Rom. ii. 29, etc. cf. Matt, v. 17 cf. Matt, ii. 17, etc. cf. Matt, v. 17; cf. John i. 1 ]

4.  Luke xi. 1

5.  cf. Matt. iii. 3, etc.

6.  cf. John iii. 30

7.  John iii. 31. 32

8.  cf. Matt, vi. 6

9.  Matt, vi. 9

10.  John i. 12

11.  cf. Matt, vi. 1, etc. 

12.  cf. Matt, xxiii. 9

13.  Isa. i. 2

14.  John x. 30

15. 1 This is possibly the earliest reference to the Church as Mother (cf. Gal. iv. 26), and it is characteristically fantastic. 

16.  cf. Gal. iv. 26

17. 2 That is, the Son and the Church.

18.  cf. Exod. iii. 13, 14; cf. Matt. xi. 27 John v. 43; John xii. 28; John xvii. 6 cf. Matt, vi. 9

19.  Rev. iv. 8.

20.  Matt. vi. 9.

21.  cf. Matt, v. 44

22.  cf. Matt. vi. 9 

23.  Matt. vi. 10

24.  cf. John vi. 38, 39

25.  Matt. vi. 10

26.  Luke xxii. 42

27.  Matt. vi. 10

28.  Matt. vi. 10

29.  Prov. xxi. 1

30.  Rev. vi. 10

31.  Matt. vi. 33

32.  Matt. vi. 11

33.  John vi. 35 

34.  John vi. 33

35. 1 J. J. Blunt, The Right Use of the Early Fathers (London, 1857), p. 568, renders: "in the bread is understood his Body"; D'Alès, Théologie de Tertullien," p. 366, takes the meaning to be: "the Body of Christ also is classed within the category of bread, is one kind (among others) of bread."

36.  Matt. xxvi. 26 ; Luke xxii. 19 ; 1 Cor. xi. 24

37.  Matt. vi. 32

38.  Matt. xv. 26

39.  Matt. vii. 9

40.  cf. Luke xi. 5

41.  Matt. vi. 11

42. 2 That is, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. Tertullian's memory is at fault, for the passage actually occurs later than the Lord's Prayer, namely, at Matt. vi. 34.

43.  Matt. vi. 34

44.  cf. Luke xii. 16-20

45. 1 That is, if we are handed over to nourishment to be fattened thereby.

46.  cf. Heb. iv. 15 

47.  cf. Matt, vi. 12

48.  cf. Ezek. xviii. 32

49.  cf. Matt, xviii. 27

50.  cf. Matt, xviii. 30

51.  cf. Luke xii. 58 

52.  cf. Luke xii. 59

53.  Luke vi. 37

54.  cf. Matt. xviii. 21

55.  Matt. xviii. 22

56.  cf. Gen. iv. 24

57. 2 There seems no doubt that the passage of Genesis was in Our Lord's mind, as Tertullian states.

58.  Matt. vi. 13 

59.  cf. 1 Thess. iii. 5

60.  cf. Jas. i. 13

61.  cf. Gen.; xxii. 2

62.  cf. Matt. ix. 37

63.  cf. Matt. iv. 10

64.  Luke xxii. 46 

65.  cf. Luke xxii. 45

66.  Matt. vi. 13

67.  Matt. vi. 13

68.  Matt, vii 7; Luke xi. 9

69.  cf. Matt. v. 24

70.  cf. Matt, vi. 12

71.  Gen. xlv. 24

72.  cf. Acts ix. 2, etc.

73.  cf. Matt. v. 22

74. 1 Reading malum for malo.  cf. Matt. v. 22

75.  cf. Eph. iv. 26

76.  cf. Matt, xxvii. 24

77.  cf. 2 Tim. iv. 13

78.  cf. Dan. iii. 88, 21

79. 1 Tertullian in such treatises as these generally restrains the tendency to humour, which finds such vent in the Apology.

80. 2 Hermas was brother of Pius, bishop of Rome from about A.D. 140—155. He wrote a lengthy apocalyptic work in Greek called The Shepherd. It is somewhat strange that in certain churches this work should have acquired something like ''canonical" authority about the end of the second century. Two early translations into Latin were made, both of which, as well as the original Greek, are slill extant: editions of the Greek, for example, by O. v. Gebhardt and A. v. Harnack (Lipsise, 1877) and A. Lelong (Paris, 1912), the latter with French translation, etc. Already in the third century the book was deprived of all canonicity: see the writer's Text and Canon of the New Testament (London, 1913), p. 180.

81.  cf. Herm. vis. v. 1

82.  Herm. vis. v. 1

83. 3 This term sigillaria is purposely used by Tertullian to show his contempt for the images of the pagan gods.

84. 1 The belief that human prayers were conveyed by angels or messengers from man to God was inherited by Christians from Judaism.

85.  cf. 1 Tim. ii. 8

86.  cf. Luke xviii. 14

87. 2 This remarkable expression is repeated by Cyprian, De Dominica Oratione, c. 4 (ed. Hartel, p. 209, 1. 6), and by Ambrosiaster (Pseudo-Augustine), Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti CXXVII. 18, § I (ed. Souter, p. 45, 1. 8).

88.  cf. Herod. I. 47

89. 3 Croesus, King of Lydia, consulted various oracles concerning the growing power of the Persians. Herodotus (I. 47) gives five hexameters as constituting the reply of the Pythian priestess of Apollo at Delphi. It is the second line that Tertullian refers to; to the third and fourth he refers in his Apologeticus, c. 22.

90.  cf. Jon. ii. 11

91. 1 Tertullian means that at the time of our fasting the kiss oi peace communicates blessing to our brethren, and that this influence disposes them the better to be at peace with us. It is, however, bj no means certain at this point what the true text is.

92. 2 This sentence contains an objection put into the mouth of the person who seeks to dispense with the kiss. What follows contains Tertullian's rejoinder to this objection.

93.  cf. Matt. vi. 16 f.

94. 1 I have kept the word "stations" as representing the Latin stationes, in spite of its unfamiliarity in this sense. The use is a metaphor from the military sense, as Tertullian himself recognises. Christ's soldiers are as it were on outpost duty. Stationes were fixed fasts, or half-fasts, observed on two days of the week, feria quarta, (Wednesday) and feria sexta (Friday). The fast was broken at the ninth hour of the day, corresponding to 3 p.m. at the equinoxes. The earliest mention of the statio is in The Shepherd of Hermas (Simil. V. 1, §§ i, 2, where the language shows that the term was then new in that sense).

95. 2 He is here alluding to fastings and the Eucharist. The prayers themselves are sacrifices (cf. Apol. 30, with Mayor's note, and Orat. 27, 28, below.)

96. 3 Each statio concluded with the Eucharist.

97. 4 That is, "the communion table," on which the elements were placed: at this period there were no stone altars in the churches.

98. 5 An early reference to Reservation of the Sacrament.

99.  cf. 1 Cor. xi. 5; cf. 1 Tim. ii. 9

100.  cf. 1 Pet. iii. 3

101. 1 Tertullian afterwards wrote a special treatise on this subject, De Virginibus Velandis.

102.  cf. 1 Cor. xi. 6, etc.

103.  cf. Gen. ii. 22, 23

104.  cf. 1 Cor. xi. 5

105.  cf. 1 Cor. vii. 1, 4

106.  cf. 1 Cor. vii. 25, etc.

107.  1 Cor. xi. 5

108.  1 Cor. xi. 4

109.  1 Cor. xi. 10

110.  Gen. vi. 2

111. 1 Genesis vi. 2, according to the Greek (and Old Latin) Bible, reads: "that the angels of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair," etc. This mistranslation gave rise to a widespread belief that there were angels who were themselves actuated by lust, and could inspire it in women. The offspring of these early unions were believed to be giants. It was also believed that the evil spirits or demons were similarly descended (Justin, Apol. II. 5; Tert., Apol. 22, with Mayor's notes).

112.  Gen. vi. 2 

113.  Gen. vi. 2

114. 1 i.e. unmarried, not yet married.

115.  cf. Gen. vi. 2

116.  1 Cor. xi. 14

117.  1 Cor. xi. 6

118.  cf. Gen. iii. 7 

119.  cf. Gen. iii. 10

120.  1 Cor. iv. 7

121. 1 The "falsehood" of women means the appearance (without the reality) of being a married woman.

122. 1 Text and interpretation alike are here uncertain.

123.  cf. Gen. xxiv. 65

124. 2 This very striking expression means that in having come to know him who was to be her husband, she has already as it were entered into wedlock.

125. 3 Latin sabbato. I have avoided ''Sabbath" as a translation because of the frequent incorrect use of it nowadays for "Sunday."

126.  cf. Eph. iv. 27

127.  1 Tim. ii. 8

128.  1 Tim. ii . 8

129.  1 Tim. ii. 8

130.  cf. Acts xvi. 25 

131.  Acts xxvii. 35

132. 1 That Tertullian means this by eucharistiam fecit is confirmed by Cyprian, Epist. 70, § 2 (p. 768, 1. 19, Hartel).

133. 2 According to the usual practice in the early centuries of the Church; the scriptural instances he proceeds to give.

134.  cf. Acts ii. 15

135.  cf. Acts x. 9

136.  cf. Acts iii. 1

137. 1 Tertullian's memory has played him false here: the man was "lame" (Acts iii. 2), not a paralytic.

138.  cf. Dan. vi. 10

139. Apocryph. (Resch, Agrapha2, p. 182, No. 144 [L. 65]) 

140. 2 The manner in which Tertullian quotes this sentence shows that for him it had the value of Holy Scripture. Yet it is impossible for us even to state from what book it comes. Clement of Alexandria twice (Stromateis) I. 19, § 94; II. 15, § 71) quotes it in Greek in almost the identical words. It has been remarked that the juxtaposition of the two clauses, where the first has the value of a subordinate clause, points to a Hebrew or Aramaic original. For the thought compare Matt. xxv. 40.

141.  cf. Heb. xiii. 2 

142.  Luke x. 5

143.  Rev. xix. 1, etc.

144.  Isa. i. 11, 12

145.  John iv. 23, 24

146. 1 See note 2, p. 34.

147.  cf. Dan. iii. 92, 93; vi. 22, 23; 1 Kings xvii. 15 

148.  cf. Dan. iii. 92 cf. Heb. xi. 33

149.  cf. Exod. vii., etc. Exod. xvii. 13 Deut. xi. 17

150.  cf. Matt. v. 44

151.  cf. Matt. xiv. 23, etc.


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Alexander Souter (tr), Tertullian's Treatises Concerning Prayer and Baptism. S.P.C.K. 1919. 

Translated by Alexander Souter, 1919.  Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2002.   Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.


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