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The Worst Sin

“The worst sin is prayerlessness. Overt sin, or crime, or the glaring inconsistencies which often surprise us in Christian people are the effect of this or its punishment. We are left by God for lack of seeking Him. The history of the saints shows often that their lapses were the fruit and nemesis of slackness or neglect in prayer. Their life, at seasons, also tended to become inhuman by their spiritual solitude. . . . Only living prayer keeps loneliness humane.”

~ P.T. Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer, 9.


  1. Hill wrote:

    Aquinas understood this quite well, except he called it sloth:

    Wherefore we must say that a certain order exists among spiritual goods, since all the spiritual goods that are in the acts of each virtue are directed to one spiritual good, which is the Divine good, about which there is a special virtue, viz. charity. Hence it is proper to each virtue to rejoice in its own spiritual good, which consists in its own act, while it belongs specially to charity to have that spiritual joy whereby one rejoices in the Divine good. On like manner the sorrow whereby one is displeased at the spiritual good which is in each act of virtue, belongs, not to any special vice, but to every vice, but sorrow in the Divine good about which charity rejoices, belongs to a special vice, which is called sloth.

    Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  2. Actually I think Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matt 10:27). So it would stand to reason that the worst sin is NOT loving God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.

    Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  3. Hill wrote:

    All sin is that in some sense. Halden’s (and Forsyth’s and Aquinas’s) point is temporally, the origin of many sins is spiritual torpor that leads to the neglect of the life of prayer. If you read the excerpt from the Summa I linked, you’ll see that Aquinas is basically saying that sloth constitutes a sin against charity, and a failure to rejoice in the Divine good such that sloth is, in a special sense, the failure to love God. It’s important to keep in mind that love is not a feeling, though.

    Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    In short, the life of prayer is loving God with all one’s being.

    Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Permalink
  5. I would probably say that a person who love’s God with all their being will have a rich prayer life. Christians pray, if there is no prayer life, then one might need to question if there is a relationship with Christ at all. In the same way, a life of prayer does not necessarily mean that someone loves God, correct? But that quote claims that sin is an effect or a punishment for not praying. Did I read that right?

    Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  6. ben wrote:

    Though, speaking pragmatically, I can’t imagine telling people they’re committing the worst sin is likely to get people struggling with prayer (which may itself be a form of prayer) to pray.

    Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  7. Robert wrote:

    Great – one more thing to beat myself over the head with then I fall away from prayer. :(

    Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 4:45 am | Permalink
  8. Forsyth can’t possibly be talking about the kind of prayer endorsed by conservative evangelicals, can he?

    Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 6:05 am | Permalink

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