As God has called men and women from every generation into the Church, so also has He given us examples of faith to pass on to future generations. Their examples of piety and devotion can be seen most clearly in their prayers – their calling upon God. The prayers of the past can be of great benefit to our prayers in the present.
In this article below, there are a few examples for us to contemplate today. These examples again help us formulate our own prayer life – our own calling upon God. These examples can (and the authors would actually encourage) be used as part of a routine of daily prayers – upon waking, at meals, before bed, before study of the Word, etc.
The prayers included are a small sample size of the vast number of those written down and preserved in the history of the church. Moreover, various prayers from different eras will have different emphasis – especially when considering denominational shifts through out church history. When reading or contemplating prayers from the past, always keep in mind when the author is praying it (time in history) and the author’s own theological underpinnings. Be discerning about the content. What is in line with the Bible, use for your own contemplation and meditation. What is not in line with the Bible, or what you may find questionable, leave out. Seek then, later, to understand why an author may have inserted that into his or her prayers.
Here are a few examples:
Prayer of Augustine of Hippo to the Holy Spirit
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.
Prayer of Ambrose of Milan for Trust and Fuller Knowledge
Merciful Lord, the Comforter and Teacher of Your faithful people, increase in Your Church the desires which You have given, and confirm the hearts of those who hope in You by enabling them to understand the depth of Your promises, that all of Your adopted sons may even now behold, with the eyes of faith, and patiently wait for, the light which as yet You do not openly manifest; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Adapted from “Prayers of the Early Church,” edited by J. Manning Potts, © Copyright, 1953 by The Upper Room Nashville, Tennessee
Prayer of Anselm of Canterbury for Heavenly-Mindedness
O merciful God, fill our hearts, we pray of You, with the graces of Your Holy Spirit, with love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Teach us to love those who hate us, to pray for those who despitefully use us, that we may be the children of You our Father, who makes Your sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. In adversity grant us grace to be patient; in prosperity keep us humble; may we guard the door of our lips; may we lightly esteem the pleasures of this world, and thirst after heavenly things; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Adapted from “Prayers of the Middle Ages: Light from a Thousand Years,” edited by J. Manning Potts, © Copyright, 1954 by The Upper Room Nashville, Tennessee
Prayer of Thomas à Kempis for God’s Will to Be Done
O most merciful Lord, grant to me Your grace, that it may be with me, and labor with me, and persevere with me even to the end. Grant that I may always desire and will that which is to You most acceptable, and most dear. Let Your will be mine, and my will ever follow Yours, and agree perfectly with it. Grant to me, above all things that can be desired, to rest in You, and in You to have my heart at peace. You are the true peace of the heart, You are its only rest; out of You all things are hard and restless. In this very peace, that is, in You, the one Chief Eternal Good, I will sleep and rest. Amen.Adapted from “Prayers of the Middle Ages: Light from a Thousand Years,” edited by J. Manning Potts, © Copyright, 1954 by The Upper Room Nashville, Tennessee
Prayers at certain occasions
John Calvin’s Prayer Before Meals
All look unto thee, O Lord; and thou givest them their meat in due season; that thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, and they are filled with all things in abundance. (Ps. 104:27.)
O LORD, in whom is the source and inexhaustible fountain of all good things, pour out thy blessing upon us, and sanctify to our use the meat and drink which are the gifts of thy kindness towards us, that we, using them soberly and frugally as thou enjoinest, may eat with a pure conscience. Grant, also, that we may always both with true heartfelt gratitude acknowledge, and with our lips proclaim thee our Father and the giver of all good, and, while enjoying bodily nourishment, aspire with special longing of heart after the bread of thy doctrine, by which our souls may be nourished in the hope of eternal life, through Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.
Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth from the mouth of God. (Deut. 8:3.)John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 97.
Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.Luther’s Small Catechism
While too long to include in this post, prayers from Charles Spurgeon can be found here.
May God continue to strengthen you by the Holy Spirit to call upon Him as the saints of old have done.