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Are prayer and good works two different things?



Philip Kosloski - published on 04/27/24

Sometimes prayer can be divorced from good works, as though the two were not compatible with each other.

It is possible in Christianity to lean either too heavily on prayer, or too much into performing good works. Some may even be tempted to think that prayer and good works are opposed to each other.

Much of this viewpoint has to depend on a person’s understanding of prayer.

If prayer is something you can only do inside a church building, it would make sense then to think of prayer as an “interruption” in a person’s desire to feed the poor.

Simply put, prayer “gets in the way” of following Jesus’ command to feed and shelter the most vulnerable of society.

Union of prayer and works

However, the Catholic Church believes that prayer and good works should be united, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love; the same filial and loving conformity with the Father’s plan of love; the same transforming union in the Holy Spirit who conforms us more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love with which Jesus has loved us. “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he [will] give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.”

CCC 2745

The early Christian writer Origen provides a more succinct summary of this idea:

He “prays without ceasing” who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing.

CCC 2745

Prayer and good works are not opposed to each other in Christianity, but are meant to be united.

We need to pray during our charitable activities, and during prayer, we should ask God for strength to be charitable.

Prayer is not something that is reserved to Mass on Sundays, but is something that we can do at all times, no matter where we are or what we are doing.

We don’t always need to rely on formula prayers to be praying, but can simply raise our heart to God and give thanks to him for the graces he has given.

That is why even in the midst of serving soup at a local soup kitchen, we can be praying to God, offering him our heart in gratitude.

BibleCCC PrayerPrayer
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