Are We Free to Pray? On the Freedom Necessary for Petitionary Prayer

Bibliographic information:

Christopher Woznicki, “Are We Free to Pray? On the Freedom Necessary for Petitionary Prayer,” Evangelical Review of Theology 44 (2020): 49-61.



In this paper, I argue against those who claim that libertarian freedom is necessary for a robust account of petitionary prayer. I claim that theological determinism is in fact compatible with an account of petitionary prayer that aligns with several important intuitions regarding our freedom to pray. In making this argument, I draw upon the philosophical theology of the sixteenth-century Italian Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli.

I begin by reviewing recent claims concerning the necessity of libertarian freedom for genuine petitionary prayer. I then turn to Vermigli’s account of petitionary prayer as it is articulated in his Loci Communes. I conclude by showing how Vermigli’s account is consistent with three common intuitions many Christians have about freedom and prayer: (1) God does some things precisely because we have prayed for them, (2) we freely desire the things we pray for, and (3) we are the cause of our own prayers.


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