A Prayer For Study

Andreas Hyperius (1511 – 1564)

A prayer from Flemish theologian Andreas Hyperius:

Thou, most wise heavenly Father, art the fount and origin of all knowledge and wisdom: thou pourest into the minds of all men knowledge of thyself and of thy will, thou pourest understanding, weightiness of judgment, prudence, right counsel, and the other excellent gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which thou both unitest, in accordance with thy good pleasure, and teachest the minds not only of small children but even of babes and sucklings, and fashionest their mouths to exalt thee with praises. I therefore pray that thou wouldst render my natural disposition docile both to the discipline of piety and to all good arts, in order that, when, by means of the example and aid of thy Son Jesus Christ, I have made some progress in true wisdom and grace and age before thee and before men, I may continuously refer all my study and effort to magnifying and propagating the glory of thy name and of the same your Son and to the advantage of men, through the same our Lord Christ. Amen.

Thanks to Dr. Scott Swain for the notice, and Dr. E. Hutchinson for the translation.

A Prayer Before Study

Aside

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
have established three hierarchies of angels,
have arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and have marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
The goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man, who live and reign, world without end.
Amen.  
Creator ineffabilis,
qui de thesauris sapientiae tuae
tres Angelorum hierarchias designasti,
et eas super caelum empyreum
miro ordine collocasti,
atque universi partes elegantissime disposuisti,

tu inquam qui
verus fons
luminis et sapientiae diceris
ac supereminens principium infundere digneris
super intellectus mei tenebras
tuae radium claritatis,
duplices in quibus natus sum
a me removens tenebras,
peccatum scilicet et ignorantiam.

Tu, qui linguas infantium facis disertas,
linguam meam erudias
atque in labiis meis gratiam
tuae benedictionis infundas.

Da mihi
intelligendi acumen,
retinendi capacitatem,
addiscendi modum et facilitatem,
interpretandi subtilitatem,
loquendi gratiam copiosam.

Ingressum instruas,
progressum dirigas,
egressum compleas.

Tu, qui es verus Deus et homo,
qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.
Amen.  

From Thomas Aquinas

A Dying Man’s Prayer

and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption at the hour of my death

Samuel Johnson (b. 1709) is an interesting figure for a number of reasons, but I wanted to post a prayer he wrote in his dying days. Having held a variety of beliefs, and only coming around to biblical orthodoxy in his later years, to see him grapple with his beliefs and end in certainty on what the Scriptures say is gratifying to behold. As his positions on God, man, Christ, and the truth became more certain, his attending physicians noticed the change in his speech – about doctrine – and in his behavior. In the last week of his life, Johnson composed the following prayer:

Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now, as to human eyes, it seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the death of thy Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer. Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be in his merits, and thy mercy; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance; make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity; and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption. Have mercy upon me, and pardon the multitude of my offences. Bless my friends; have mercy upon all men. Support me, by thy Holy Spirit, in the days of weakness, and at the hour of death; and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jeremy Larson “Samuel Johnson and Presbyterianism” Pro Rege Vol XL, No 3 (March, 2012) p. 23.

May we all go to our final moment, before our eyes close, with such clear-sighted faith!

The Lorica

A lōrīca in the Latin world was armor, often the breastplate. As Christianity grew in the Roman empire, a lorica increasingly referred to a protective prayer, often recited as the soldier equipped and strapped on his armor. Celtic Christianity, which I’m noting today on St. Patrick’s Day, especially continued this tradition, and I list three loricas below.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me

A few things stand out from these prayers for protection. First, these prayers within the Protestant, Reformed tradition are noted for their reference to the Triune Lord, and not angels or saints (as most loricae were). Second, the prayers are very tactile and sensory; no Gnosticism here, they drip and hum from living in the Creator’s world. Third, notice how ancient these prayers are; our piety did not begin in the 1950’s, or at the Reformation. As Belgic Confession article 27 reminds us, the Church of Christ has existed from “the beginning of the world.” Fourth, there is an unmistakable desire for holiness and sanctity. Whether it is heavenly conversation (no Gaelic filth here!), or desires aligned by Divine power and vision, these prayers are not talismans of power, but instruments for sanctification. Especially in what would become “Be Thou My Vision,” there is an obvious (albeit unnamed) understanding of our union with Christ.

Fifth, I would concede there is something lacking in the piety of these prayers. I believe that what is lacking is an emphasis (certainly not the absence) of the Cross, and the Spirit’s power to make us cruciform, to make us Christ-like. It might be a quibble, or it might be a matter of emphasis, but the prayers of something like The Valley of Vision or Rutherford’s letters show (in my opinion) a maturation of piety.

Without further ado, three prayers of protection:

Lorica of St. Fursey (c. 650)
The arms of God be around my shoulders
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
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Prayers For the New Year

NewYearPrayerOf course, Christians are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), and that grace should be pursued all the more at the start of a new year. May the following prayers encourage you for the year ahead!

“O LORD,
Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed
in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains,
sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth thy praise,
testify thy love,
advance thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbor,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.
Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.
May thy fear be my awe,
thy triumphs my joy.

—Arthur Bennett, editor. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999 (first published in 1975), p. 112. ISBN 0-85151-228-3.

“Most Merciful Lord, the Ancient of Days,
Moved by your grace, we devote ourselves to you at the beginning of this year desiring to employ it better than we have done in the years that are past. And since this day also warns us that our years pass away like a flood, like a dream, give us grace that we may seriously number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom, that we may discern the vanity of this life, and that we may aspire to that better life, when days and months and years shall be counted no more, forever. While we continue in the flesh, may we more and more live, not according to its desires, but according to your will. And grant, O God, that when our years shall come to an end, and the day of our death arrives, we may depart in the peace that passes all understanding and in the sure hope of life everlasting. Favorably hear us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Personal prayer from Psalm 90 (source)
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A Prayer of Illumination

Westminster_Assembly2

The following prayer is inspired by Q&A #155 of the Westminster Larger Catechism, “How is the Word made effectual to salvation?”

O Lord God, our Father who has spoken in Your beloved Son,

Grant, we humbly pray, Your Spirit to assist Your Holy Word. By Your power, turn on the lights in our soul, so that Your Word would be a lamp to our feet, and lead us in the paths of righteousness. In Your wisdom, grant that we would become convinced that Your way leads to life, and our ways and wisdom will lead only to death and destruction. May Your Spirit grant us the grace of humility, to not think highly of ourselves, or our talents, or how many Facebook friends we have, but to think highly of Jesus, that He may increase even as we decrease.

Lord, may your Spirit take us on a journey this morning. Lead us, O Father, away from our places of comfort and self-sufficiency, and the never-ending labyrinth that always brings us back to self. Instead, may we walk by the Spirit as He leads us to our eternal safety in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that as we hear Your Word preached, we would undergo a spiritual makeover, coming away more and more like Jesus. Father, change our thoughts so that we would have the mind of Christ. Lord, transform our loves and desires, so that we would have faith working through love, the kind of love we discover in Your Holy Word as demonstrated at the Cross. Teach us to obey You here on earth, even as You are obeyed in heaven.
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The Finished Work of Jesus Needs No Addition

EVENSONGWe prayed this prayer from The Valley of Vision at our Evensong service last night at Zion Evangelical & Reformed Church.

Evening Renewal
My Father, if Thy mercy had bounds, where would be my refuge from just wrath? But thy love in Christ is without measure. Thus, I present myself to Thee with sins of comission and omission, against Thee, my Father, against Thee, adorable redeemer, against Thee and Thy strivings, O Holy Spirit, against the dictates of my conscience, against the precepts of Thy Word, against my neighbours and myself. Enter not into judgment with me, for I plead no righteousness of my own, and have no cloak for iniquity. Pardon my day dark with evil.

This night I renew my penitence. Every morning I vow to love Thee more fervently, to serve Thee more sincerely, to be more devoted in my life, to be wholly Thine; Yet I soon stumble, backslide, and have to confess my weakness, misery and sin. But I bless Thee that the finished work of Jesus needs no addition from my doings, that His oblation is sufficient satisfaction for my sins.

If future days be mine, help me to amend my life, to hate and abhor evil, to flee the sins I confess. Make me more resolute, more watchful, more prayerful. Let no evil fruit spring from evil seeds my hands have sown; Let no neighbour be hardened in vanity and folly by my want of circumspection. If this day I have been ashamed of Christ and His Word, or have shown unkindness, malice, envy, lack of love, unadvised speech, hasty temper, let it be no stumbling block to others, or dishonour to Thy name. O help me to set an upright example that will ever rebuke vice, allure to goodness, and evidence that lovely are the ways of Christ.

How to Pray When The World Gets Evil

Aside

calvin_coinJohn Calvin’s prayer based on Jeremiah 20:7 – 9

Grant, Almighty God, that as at this day a greater and viler impiety breaks forth than at any age, and thy sacred truth is treated with derision by many of Satan’s drudges — O grant, that we may nevertheless constantly persevere in it, nor hesitate to oppose the fury of all the ungodly, and relying on the power of thy Spirit, contend with them until that truth, which thou didst once proclaim by thy Prophets, and at length by thine only-begotten Son, and which was sealed by his blood, may attain its full authority, that as it proves to many the savour of eternal death, so it may also be a pledge to us of eternal salvation, until we shall be gathered into thy kingdom at the coming of the same thy Son Jesus Christ.
Amen.

(HT: Publican Chest | source)

Presbyterian Public Prayer

Few have the Old School street cred of Samuel Miller (1769 – 1850). And I recently discovered his Thoughts on Public Prayer, which can be
downloaded from Google Books here.

There are probably some important connections to think about between the relative paucity of congregational prayer in much of American Christianity, and how modern American Christian worship/entertainment is a descendant of New School ideas run wild. So the fact that you need to go to an Old School Presbyterian to think carefully about public prayer should probably be a no brainer, but I’ve been encouraged nonetheless.

Should the congregation face east for prayer (especially when that practice was so common in the ancient church)? What posture or liturgy best suits corporate prayer? Acknowledging that prayer is not mechanistic, but a Spiritually-derived communion of the soul with the Almighty, what steps or means – if any – may be taken to travel towards excellence in our prayer ministry? These questions, and so much more, is for free in Miller’s Thoughts on Public Prayer. Download it now!