This article appears on the Ligonier website.
Why is prayer a means of grace? This is an interesting question, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism simply states that prayer is a means of grace: “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation” (Q&A 88). But why? To give a true answer to this question, we must understand what is meant by a “means of grace.”
Theologians define the media gratia, or means of grace, as the channels by which God works His grace into our hearts. Like the pipes delivering the water into your home’s faucets from the local reservoir, God bestows the blessings of our salvation by using these “outward and ordinary means,” as the catechism states. Perhaps we see God’s use of means most clearly—and receive help in answering our question—by looking at the first two means that the catechism mentions, which are the Word of God and the sacraments.
By the preaching of the Word, the Lord brings salvation to sinners as His Spirit grants them faith to hear and believe (Rom. 10:17). He then further uses the Word to sanctify His people. As Paul told the Ephesian elders, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, emphasis added).
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