Mortal sin and prayers for others

From what I understand, when someone is in a “state of mortal sin” or not in a “state of grace” they are unable to earn merit or grace for their actions. What about their prayers for other people? Are their prayers for other people “heard” by God? Does He accept them? And if He would, can you earn grace for others if you are unable to earn it for yourself?

Im thinking not. From my understanding, you can’t merit or gain an indulgence for someone else if you, yourself, are “not in a state of Grace”. If you apply this further, then all your prayers while you are in this state are not accepted.

Lastly, what does become of your good actions you preform while you are in a state of mortal sin? Are they simply lost or do you get “credit” for them once you have been forgiven?

You seem to be in a position where you are getting sucked into the ugly undercurrent of legalism instead of the sweet assurance of God’s mercy.

Please don’t go there. It didn’t work for the Pharisees, and it doesn’t work for us.




Your questions are good one’s and in no way Pharisee like. You havent judged anyone, you are just talking about an article of faith in our Catholic Church. I am in the process of reading “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.” by Ludwig Ott and this question is answered in that book for sure. I’m sorry I cannot give you a clear answer. From what I understand people in mortal sin cannot gain merit but God does give them graces to repent. Their prayers are heard and effective for others but not as much as a person who is in the state of grace.

It’s a shame people shun true theological questions on account of a “false mercy.” It’s either a sort of communism or people that do not want to realize that sin and hell are real.


Legalism, especially the sort practiced by the Pharisees, is the performing of religious rituals and other actions with precise external adhesion, but without any sort of internal conversion. The words of Our Lord to the Pharisees cannot be understood if not in this sense.

The doctrine that someone in a state of mortal sin cannot merit anything supernatural isn’t legalism. It’s simply a doctrine. The converse of this doctrine is called Pelagianism.

What you have said can be the precise line of reasoning someone could give as to why they avoid going to Confession altogether. And that’s a problem, my friend.

By praying for others…a person in mortal sin is doing a good work…so I don’t see why God would not hear & accept these prayers.

When one is in mortal sin, he is unable to gain merit: this is correct and a de fide doctrine. This is true for any good work, be it of service or prayer (so much for Catholics believing in “justification by works”).

Now for the technicalese. Strictly speaking, one in mortal sin cannot merit “de condigno”, that is, as a matter of justice. In other words, outside of the state of grace, one does not gain any supernatural reward because simply put, they both do not deserve it and their souls are unable to receive it. So crudely speaking, God does not “owe” them anything. Merit “de condigno” is merit in justice, something God has bound himself to bestow under a certain set of circumstances. This set of circumstances of course is good works done in the state of sanctifying grace.

BUT: One in mortal sin can merit “de congruo”, that is, God sends reward due to nothing else but his own goodness, not because he “owes” them, so to speak. For the person in mortal sin, this often comes in the form of actual grace, prodding and prompting the soul to repentance so that he can be reconciled and restored to the state of grace. In prayers for others, such as sinner can merit such graces for others as well, “de congruo”. It’s not something that one can bank on, as it is dependent solely upon God’s free decision and not upon something he bound himself to, unlike strict merit “de condigno.” He is free to bestow such rewards or not.

So in light of these teachings, one must hold that God does hear and accept the prayers of one in mortal sin. It is in fact, good to do so because it disposes the soul to be restored to the state of sanctifying grace.

As for “credit”, no. If one falls into mortal sin, any merits already gained due to good works performed in the state of grace are completely lost. However, they revive upon reconciliation. For any works done in mortal sin, however, they do not stand to merit anything (that is, de condigno, i.e. salutary); there is no “credit.” This is only true for sacramental grace, not salutary merit.

So if I’m in mortal sin and pray to God, then he doesn’t hear them? Like if I need financial help, he won’t hear that prayer?

Read post #7 (by Porthos11). :wink:


I’m quite positive that your “take” on his comment is not at all what he meant.

Wow. I don’t see anyone advocating false mercy or worse, communism. What a load of stuff to read into another poster.


I suppose I was looking for a clearer answer.

Is it right that if you are in a state of mortal sin, God listens but is not obligated to send assistance? But if in state of grace, he allows it? Can this be made a little more clear for us please?

Assistance (e.g. financial) and merit are two different things.

Part of the teaching on merit is that temporal goods can constitute reward but only insofar as they contribute to one’s final salvation. God usually offers this reward “de congruo”, and therefore is not dependent on the state of grace. Salutary merit “de condigno”, i.e. in justice is supernatural, i.e. treasure in heaven, as per the Lord’s words.

Outside of that, finances and material good are fair game for both the good and the evil, as the Lord himself said, he lets the sun shine on both the good and the wicked. This means God doesn’t take away wealth because one is evil, and he doesn’t necessarily give wealth because one is righteous. He gives according to the need of each. And some people are either sufficiently skilled or shrewd to build their wealth, regardless of the state of their souls.

For one who prays for financial assistance, God is not obligated to answer in the affirmative, regardless of whether that person is in mortal sin or not.

If Protestants are outside the Catholic Church and considered anathema, then all of their prayers don’t count despite any works they do. That’s pretty dizzying.

What’s that got to do with anything? Who makes this claim?

This is not true.

Hi, new here (and timid):

What if one can’t go to Confession, but is repentant, longs to and tried (and is still trying) to make things right so that they can, but doesn’t know how or when that might be, but will the first moment they are able, which…might be a long way away.

Will their prayers for others really be valued as lesser than someone who is in full communion with the Church? Would anyone’s prayer (repentant or not) that springs out of love for another be considered less than because the person is not in a state of grace? Never mind indulgences, how can it be concluded that the prayers themselves are not heard and accepted?

It can’t.

The only thing the Church teaches is that one cannot gain supernatural merit. Nowhere does it teach that the prayers of a sinner is not heard or accepted. Otherwise, how can God hear a sinner’s prayer of repentance?

Thank you. I was trying to understand how one conclusion could lead you to applying it further to all prayer.

So true. otherwise Saul wouldnt have been able to convert to St.Paul! Or even David who repented so dearly as we see in the Psalms.

Please don’t be offended. When I read Neo’s post, it reminded me of a writing Pope Pius X wrote of Le Sillon that is why I related it to communism.

SAINT PIUS X (1903-1914):
The dream of re-shaping society will bring socialism
“But stranger still, alarming and saddening at the same time, are the audacity and frivolity of men who call themselves Catholics and dream of re-shaping society under such conditions, and of establishing on earth, over and beyond the pale of the Catholic Church, ‘the reign of love and justice’ … What are they going to produce? … A mere verbal and chimerical construction in which we shall see, glowing in a jumble, and in seductive confusion, the words Liberty, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Equality, and human exultation, all resting upon an ill-understood human dignity. It will be a tumultuous agitation, sterile for the end proposed, but which will benefit the less Utopian exploiters of the people. Yes, we can truly say that the Sillon, its eyes fixed on a chimera, brings Socialism in its train.” (Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique “Our Apostolic Mandate”] to the French Bishops, August 25, 1910, condemning the movement Le Sillon)

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