1 John and prayer about mortal sin

The Church points to 1 John 5:16 as one of the proofs from Scripture for the differentiation between mortal and venial sin (emphasis mine):

It’s that last bit that confuses me. Why does John write “I do not say that you should pray”? As far as I have been taught, we are supposed to pray for those in mortal sin, so that they may come to the light of God’s grace; but this verse is confusing in this context, as it seems to imply that we *aren’t *supposed to pray for those in mortal sin… :confused:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only interpretation that I can think of is that John is describing satisfactory prayer, as in, prayer which remits the punishment for venial sin. Do our prayers remit the punishment for others’ venial sins? In this case John means that we should not pray for the remission of punishment for mortal sin, since only God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession can accomplish that; but shouldn’t we still pray for the sinner’s repentance?
It’s still confusing, as he simply says “I do not say that you should pray,” as if, not pray at all
Furthermore, John writes “he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.” Since a person in a state of grace already has the life of God in him, isn’t it a person in deadly, mortal sin who would need it to be given? :confused:

We should always pray for our brothers in Christ. It is a command which dates way back even to the beginning when Cain said “am I my brothers keeper?” But what John is saying is that if a person is persistant in mortal sin, thus separating himself from Christ, we are not bound to pray for them. He does not say we shouldn’t, he just says that he does not bind us to pray for them.
Thats how I understand it through reading the whole chapter and see what he was talking about to begin with.

What John is saying here is that if a person has sinned venially, we may pray to God because He can apply our merits in prayer to the other person. This can help in many ways, including the remission of temporal punishment (This would include things such as offering prayers for the dead, and offering Masses [which are in and of themselves prayers]… this passage I feel is very applicable to purgatory).

Christ’s sacrifice cover all of our venial sins without our having to give it a second thought, so our prayers more easily benefit people whom have sinned venially. There is no need of their will there. We can ask God, and He can forgive (or remit temproal punishment) the person without that person making an act of the will to accept the forgiveness. However, a person in mortal sin can only come to forgiveness through a personal act of will (and God’s grace, of course!)

I think that what John is doing here is clarifiying something. First he tells us that we can pray for a person sinning and God will forgive him. Then he mentions mortal sins. I think what he is doing is adding that on to clarify that we can’t help people in mortal sins in the same way we can help people with venial sins.

In other words, he more or less says that if we see a person commit a venial sin, we should pray to God and God will forgive them right off the bat, its that simple. However, this isn’t the same for those in mortal sins: they have to conciously seek and accept forgiveness for those sins.

This also plays into what Christ said on the cross: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Christ was able to pray to the Father that they be forgiven because they were not mortally sinning; they didn’t know what they were doing. Therefore, we can pray for those who sin against us venially. When others sin against us, we can do as Christ did and ask God to forgive them. However, if a person sins against us mortally, God will not forgive them on our request because they have not willfully repented and willfully accepted forgiveness.

Thanks for the clarification :slight_smile: I figured it had something to do with remission of punishment as opposed to guilt. We can pray for others with the former, but not the latter.

Great post Lazerlike. I don’t mean to be anal (figured this would interest you, though) but I just want to point out that we cannot apply our *merits *to others, but satisfactions. The Catholic Church is careful to make this distinguishment ever since the Reformation, as this was one of the crucial sticking points for Luther. Merit is personal, but satisfaction is communal. Christ merited all glory personally from the Father, and we merit ours personally from Him; in like manner, Christ satisfied the justice of God for all, and we can imitate Him in this regard, by cooperating–as Mary exemplified–in His eternal Passion (primarily through prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds, but also by indulgence).

[see [url=“http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10202b.htm”]Merit]

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