And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
I have been privileged and blessed to pray with some of God’s greatest saints! I have prayed with Paul, Augustine, Francis, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Bonhoeffer and Corrie ten Boom, as I have prayed their prayers as my own. Their time-tested prayers have taught me a lot about prayer and about what matters to God. Praying the prayers of such people helps me see my blind spots. There is something about taking up the words of those who faced persecution, brought new life to the church, and were faithful unto death, that makes me pray with a little more faith and fervor!
But this blessing of praying the saints’ written prayers is relatively new for me. For much of my life I thought that real prayer had to be my own spontaneous, impromptu words, not someone else’s. But I think differently now. I think that theologian Richard Peace has it right in his caution about praying just our own prayers:
All of us get into a rut with our prayers. We tend to ask the same things in the same way over and over again. By means of the rich and powerful prayers of others we speak to God in ever-broader ways. Then in our spontaneous prayers we have a richer set of words and images to use in addressing God.” (Meditative Prayer: Entering God’s Presence)
Praying the prayers of spiritual giants gives us a new vocabulary of prayer. This allows us even greater freedom and fluency in our own praying. I frequently prepare for praying by reading a prayer of one of God’s greats. I also like to pray the lyrics of a hymn by Wesley or Watts. They always stir me to prayer. The vision and wisdom of their words have stood the test of time, making me ready to pray them as my own. I hope that you will consider what praying the prayers of others can do for your praying. You might begin by the many printed prayers found in The Book of Common Prayer available free online at www.bcponline.org. I have been blessed to pray with some of God’s greatest saints. I know you will too!
- Take a few moments to pray one of the great prayers passed down to us from the fourth century. The prayer is known by its Latin name Te Deum (“Thee, O God”). It is thought by some to have been written by St. Augustine for his own baptism. Read, pray, and let yourself be caught up in worship of our God!
You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord; we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not shun the Virgin’s womb.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.
(From The Book of Common Prayer)
- What one phrase stands out to you in Te Deum? Take a few moments to meditate on it.
- Talk to God about that phrase.
- Take a few moments to be still in God’s presence.
“If they [prayers] are our own words they will soon, by unavoidable repetition harden into a formula.”
C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer