Paul and the Power of Prayer

Eric Bohn said…

Good post.

A few weeks ago, at a mass honoring St Paul, the reading of the paralytic was read. I couldn’t help but think that Paul was very much like the paralytic with regard to the faith. If I had to guess, I’d say that the people who prayed for Paul were the same people that he killed earlier on. That the prayers were efficacious I think is evidence of Paul’s disposition. In other words, God doesn’t justify people whom he doesn’t think it will work in. Neither are Apostles sent to just anyone.

The paralytic in question is featured in all three Synoptic accounts: Matthew 9:1-12, Mark 2:3-12, and Luke 5:18-26. All three of these mention that Jesus forgives the paralytic because of the faith of his friends (Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20). It’s a fascinating, and in my opinion under-discussed, concept: that God will sometimes forgive our loved ones as a favor to us, on the basis of our faith. We see it other places in the Bible, running from Genesis 19:29 up through 1 Corinthians 7:14, written by none other than ours truly, St. Paul. All of this underscores the incredible power of prayer. As James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
To be honest, I’m not sure that I fully understand what’s going on with this vicarious forgiveness of sins. Presumably, a person would still have to be in a proper disposition to receive forgiveness: you couldn’t be totally unrepentant-yet-forgiven just because your loved one was fervently praying for you. I think it’s probably something nearer the St. Monica / St. Augustine situation. Monica was Augustine’s mother, and prayed fervently for him. Her prayers were effective in leading Augustine back to the faith (and in a big way – he became one of the most influential Christian thinkers of all time, and he covers virtually every Catholic topic in his writings). If my theory’s right, it would explain why both Augustine and Paul were so fascinated with this idea of a predestined salvation by faith, because both of them would have been gravely aware of where they would be if not for the grace of God and fervent prayers of believers.
Good point, Eric!

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