Praying for Others and Understanding Free Will

When we pray for others’ conversion for example, how is it that we are not opposing their free will? If we pray and have confidence that our prayers will affect others, is this not like using a force on them in a way?

This questions relates to the general question of free will which I consider a great mystery.

[quote=Coder]When we pray for others’ conversion for example, how is it that we are not opposing their free will?

[/quote]

Because they can still reject the help you offer.

Sure, but it is a helpful force pulling them up from the mire. Yet, they can decide to encourage it or reject it. If they are grateful, they receive it, otherwise they do not benefit from it.

In fact, it is considered better to pray for the Poor Souls in purgatory rather than for proud and obstinate ones still alive. The prayers for those in purgatory will not be wasted, and they cannot help themselves. Those still alive can repent on their own if they so choose. Wouldn’t you hesitate to give someone a gift who has already spurned a previous one from you?

hurst

[quote=hurst]Sure, but it is a helpful force pulling them up from the mire. Yet, they can decide to encourage it or reject it. If they are grateful, they receive it, otherwise they do not benefit from it.

[/quote]

Thank you for the answer. I seek to break out of the circular resoning.

For example, as you say “if they are grateful…”, but then I would just ask “What if we pray for them to be grateful?”

Is there is a point where we can say that grace could not overcome the obstacles and it is only free will?

Let me clarify by example:

One might explain that someone does not respond due to one or more of the following: ignorance, lack of sight (i.e. darkness), hard heart, emotional pain that interferes, etc.

Yet could it not be said that grace can overcome any one of these?

On the cross Jesus asked the Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they are doing. Isn’t this ignorance then? Could not grace overcome this ignorance?

There are mysterious scriptures that allude strongly to it being God’s decision whom he chooses. E.g. Exodus (Pharaoh) and St. Paul’s letters.

I did appreciate your statement about praying for those in Purgatory vs. those who reject a gift - that is insightful and food for contemplation - thank you!

[quote=Coder]Thank you for the answer. I seek to break out of the circular resoning.

For example, as you say “if they are grateful…”, but then I would just ask “What if we pray for them to be grateful?”

[/quote]

It won’t help if they don’t want to be grateful.

Yet, this reminds me of the prayer of St. Catherine of Sienna:

Ah me! You cause them to cry in order to hear their voices! Your truth told us to cry out, and we should be answered; to knock, and it would be opened to us; to beg, and it would be given to us. Oh! Eternal Father, Your servants do cry out to Your mercy; do You then reply. …
To You, Eternal Father, everything is possible, and even though You have created us without our own help, You will not save us without it. I beg of You to force their wills, and dispose them to wish for that for which they do not wish; and this I ask You through Your infinite mercy. You have created us from nothing; now, therefore, that we are in existence, do mercy to us, and remake the vessels which You have created to Your image and likeness. Re-create them to Grace in Your mercy and the Blood of Your Son sweet Christ Jesus.

Dialog of St. Catherine of Sienna (p. 115)
catholicprimer.org/catherine/catherine_dialog.pdf

Still, the answer is dependent on the recipient:

And I, moved by your prayers, will do them mercy if they will only receive it, …
(p. 106)

Grace elevates nature, and does not destroy it. Grace can always overcome any obstacle, unless we decide to not let it. This is the sin against the Holy Ghost, essentially. We can choose to reject the very means of our forgiveness, and thus remain unforgiven.

God created us by His power, without our “permission”. Of course, we didn’t exist in order to give it to Him. He essentially conquered our nothingness. But now that we have a nature able to give or withold “permission”, God leaves our destiny up to us.

Ecclesiasticus 15:18 Before man is life and death, good and evil, that which he shall choose shall be given him:

We are forced to make a choice, but not forced which choice to make. Free will cannot cause oneself to stop existing. In hell, creatures still exist in God, but their free will is confirmed in their evil choices, and they can never benefit from grace again.

Certainly. But free will is not subject to any of those. It may be weakened, but is still able to will the good regardless of anything to the contrary.

Yes, for those who will seek.

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. 8 For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

The apostles were still ignorant of many things even after being with Jesus more than three years. But in the end, to those who persevered with Him, He opened their minds.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.

Those He healed were those who exercised faith.

Matthew 9:29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it done unto you.

Matthew 13:58 And he wrought not many miracles there, because of their unbelief.

This is why it is so important to prepare to receive Our Lord.

Yes, it is His decision whom He predestines for graces. We have no control over what is offered to us. We only control how we respond to it.

You’re welcome :slight_smile:

hurst

[quote=Coder]Thank you for the answer. I seek to break out of the circular resoning.

For example, as you say “if they are grateful…”, but then I would just ask “What if we pray for them to be grateful?”
[/quote]

Pray that God’s will be done, with regard to you in your role as one seeking to bring more souls to Him and with regard to those for whom you are praying. If it is God’s will that they be receptive to your entreaties, you would be at peace. If it is not God’s will, at this time, that they be receptive to your entreaties, still, you would be at peace - for now - and remain persistent in your prayers for that soul as well as your own.

When you pray that so-and-so be more grateful, less stubborn, etc. you’re really praying for something **you **want - something which would make your task of conversion easier than it is at the moment. This is in your best interest, not that of the person, nor of God’s. Be patient. Be persistent. Be compassionate.

Grace is dispensed by God according to His timetable, His will, His desires, not ours. Yes, we should always ask for His grace, for ourselves and for others, but we are not in the position to demand it or expect it to be manifested in any particular manner at any particular time.

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