Christ’s Prayer to Conquer the Seven Deadly Sins

While preparing for talks on the seven deadly sins for The Thomas Aquinas Forum on Virtue in Our Current Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee February 12th-13th, 2016 and for the 20th Annual In His Father’s Footsteps Catholic Men’s Conference in Norman, Oklahoma on February 27th, I knew I would build those talks around demonstrations of the memory methods of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, so that by the end of each talk  the hearers would at least know by heart the names and meanings of the seven deadly sins.  When pondering how to conclude, I recalled a method St. Albert the Great used to tie a bow on his sermons.  He would recite a brief prayer that summarized all the key ideas and helped his hearers remember them.

Well, something occurred to me that had not in full even when writing a whole book on The Seven Deadly Sins, and I should note as well that surely you will notice below there are eight and not seven sins listed.  When Pope St. Gregory the Great formulated his list of seven “capital” or “deadly” “vices” or “sins,” and when St. Thomas Aquinas built upon it, they included the sin of vainglory instead of pride among the seven, because they believed that pride was even more fundamental than the seven deadly sins and gives rise to them all. Modern lists of the seven deadly sins, including the one in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1866) show pride rather than vainglory among the seven deadly sins.  Vainglory means seeking glory and attention toward oneself for petty or unworthy things. The related but more fundamental sin of pride is a more direct turning away from God’s will and elevating one’s own will above it that opens the door to vainglory and to all manner of vice and sin.

When discussing the power of prayer to combat sin in The Seven Deadly Sins, I sometimes used a few key words from some well-known prayers to address a particular sin. Lately though I realized that the prayer I could use to conclude my talks was a prayer that all of my listeners already knew (as do you), but that perhaps they (and you), like me, never considered just how this prayer can be used to petition God’s help to conquer each and every one of the seven deadly sins, including the pride that gives birth to them all.  Furthermore, this prayer has been called by theologians the greatest of all prayers, and was certainly given to us by the greatest of all pray-ers!  You can find this prayer in full in the Gospel of St. Matthew 6:9-13, and we know it as The Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster, or as the Our Father.

Let’s take a fresh look at this prayer with spectacles focused on the seven deadly sins, and pray it in such a way, as Christ Himself advised us, that God might truly deliver us from the seven deadly sins, and indeed, from all manner of evils.

Parts of the Lord’s Prayer                       Opposing Deadly Sins

1. “Our Father 1. Envy
2. who art in heaven 2. Sloth
3. hallowed by thy name. 3. Vainglory
4. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 4. Pride
5. Give us this daily our daily bread 5. Gluttony,  Avarice
6. and forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 6. Wrath
7. Lead us not into temptation, 7. Lust
8. but deliver us from evil, Amen.” 8. All the deadly sins

 

“Our Father” (we pray to “our” not “my” Father a remedy for envy, which is self-absorbed and saddened by another’s good, since it reminds us we are all members of the same family, brothers and sisters of the same loving Father, and we pray for the benefit of all), “who art in heaven, (a remedy for sloth, which is mired in earthly concerns, neglecting heavenly things and the holiness of God), hallowed be thy name,” (a remedy for vainglory in which we seek earthly glory for our own names and neglect the honor due God), “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (a remedy for pride, that font from which all the deadly sins flow, in which our will and desires come first), “give us this day our daily bread” (both a remedy for gluttony which seeks more than a day’s worth of bread at a time!, and for avarice, which seeks more than one’s share of any earthly goods – as well as a reminder of the greatest of all breads which we are receive in the Eucharist), “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (a remedy against the unforgiving anger of wrath). “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (a remedy against the temptations of lust, and every kind of evil that comes from deadly sins).

Amen.

image: Thoom / Shutterstock.com

Dr. Kevin Vost

By

Dr. Kevin Vost, Psy D. is the author of Memorize the Faith, The Seven Deadly Sins, The One Minute Aquinasas well as numerous other books and articles. He has taught psychology at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Lincoln Land Community College, and MacMurray College. He is a Research Review Committee Member for American Mensa, which promotes the scientific study of human intelligence. You can find him at drvost.com.

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  • veritatis3

    IT NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE ME WHAT OTHERS CAN SEE IN THE BIBLE AND
    IN THIS CASE THE “OUR FATHER”. OF COURSE, THE INTENT IS GOOD.
    AS A CATHOLIC, I WONDER SOMETIMES WE TRY TOO HARD.
    LET THE WORDS OF JESUS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES. INTERPRETING THEM
    TO MAKE A POINT BY THIS AUTHOR IS MUCH MORE THAN I THINK OUR LORD
    INTENDED. BUT, IF IT WORKS FOR SOME…GOOD.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    I find your comment a bit puzzling. He contradicts nothing in Catholic teaching, and the understanding is completely supported by Scripture. If you look at some of the approved private revelations where the Lord talks about some of the deeper meanings of Scripture, it can look like even more of a “reach” to our limited, and often cynical, human minds.

    But we know that God’s Word has many layers of meaning, that’s what makes it possible to
    read it over and over again and still keep discovering new things from
    it throughout our lives – and never be even close to finishing plumbing Scripture’s depths.

  • veritatis3

    Like I said…if it works for some, good. You and the author see
    another layer of meaning not unlike T.S. Eliot’s poems.
    All I am conveying is I don’t In this instance. If the matchups inspire
    you, fine. For me, it is a bit of a stretch. But who am I to judge?
    Catholics have a good sense of humor.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    That’s what makes this position of yours so puzzling – you took the time to comment just to let the author know that you don’t like to look beyond your immediate understanding of Scripture?

  • veritatis3

    Many years ago in College, we had to read the “Power and Glory” by Graham Greene. The latter utilized similes throughout his novel. I took one simile out of about 100 and
    wrote a paper on the “Judas Goat”, Christ’s Betrayal,
    the married priest as betraying his vocation.
    I received an A-. Others reading it
    did not have to agree with my work. I thought it brilliant
    but another did not have to agree. Same thing here.
    Only because a person lays out what he thinks is relevant
    never means we all accept his interpretation. Like I
    said the first go around, one can stretch whatever he wants
    to fit his narrative. That’s all. I have lots of things so say
    about the “Our Father” and how it fits into our daily lives.
    I just don’t see it here.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    Be assured that I am not upset. However, it does seem a bit troll-ish to post just to say you think his inspiration is forced on the text, implying that it is false.

    This really doesn’t compare to Lit teachers forcing students to find meanings that authors never intended. God is an omniscient Author & He has meanings that are broad and general, but also specific to each individual.

    The Church states that so long as an understanding does not conflict with or contradict Catholic teaching, it is acceptable. So why post a negative dismissal with nothing constructive to offer?

  • veritatis3

    NOT AT ALL FALSE. DID YOU EVER WRITE ESSAYS
    OR ANY TYPE OF WRITINGS FOR OTHERS TO READ.
    I AM ONLY SPEAKING IN THIS INTANCE THAT THE WRITER APPEARS TO MAKE HIS COMPARISIONS OR
    ANALOGIES FORCED. I AM IN NO WAY SAYING IT IS
    FALSE REGARDING FAITH AND MORALS. EVEN IF BISHOP SHEEN WROTE THIS,
    I WOULD STILL SAY THE SAME.
    IF HE WANTS TO SAY “LUST” CAN BE DIRECTED TO
    “LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION” THAT IS HIS
    PEROGATIVE. HE MAKES THIS ONLY BECAUSE
    HE HAD TO FILL SOMETHING FOR “LUST”
    TO MAKE HIS CASE FOR COVERING THE “CAPITAL SINS”. TO YOU AND OTHERS THAT’S FINE…
    ON A PUBLIC WEBSITE, BE PREPARED
    TO HEAR OPINIONS. GOING TO DAILY MASS SINCE THE EARLY 1980’S, I CAN ASSURE I AM NOT TROLLING OR WHATEVER. I AM JUST A HONEST CRITIC. YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACCEPT MY OPINION AS
    FACT OR WHATEVER.

  • Interesting discussion. This way of looking at the prayer is simply offered in the hopes that it might helpful to some. I will note though, that while lust sure did “fill something,” in this little essay, in the book The Seven Deadly Sins I had room to expound on the special way that Church Fathers treated the temptations of lust. In fact, St. John Climacus’s Ladder of Divine Ascent provided a six step process through which sins enter the soul, and it is within his chapter on chastity that he provided it. I’m emphasizing here the great power of the temptations of lust and the need to implore God’s help through prayer. As Climacus wrote “a man who tries to put an end to this struggle by means of temperance only is like someone trying to escape from the sea by swimming with just one hand.”

  • QuoVadisAnima

    I am sorry to have upset you. I have written quite a few essays in my lifetime (& yes, sometimes I did have to stretch to make them work for a teacher or professor). It is simply in this type of circumstance that I was questioning your approach. Perhaps it would have been more constructive of me to suggest that your criticism could have been more constructive, lol, and in this last comment, despite the capslock yelling, I believe you have actually stated your disagreement in a much more effective way.

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