Three Prayers to Calm Your Spirit
What is the history behind some of our historical prayers?
It is my personal opinion that prayer should come from the heart. But that doesn't mean your prayers have to be your own words. Most of the time for me, they are. My prayers are in my own words and I talk to God like I would talk to my best friend. But there are times when words are hard. When I don't know what to say or I need some extra guidance. During those times I find myself seeking the prayers of others. Occasionally I'll find one that I'll pick up over and over. The words of some prayers seem to resonate in any situation and when I pray them the words do come from my heart because I have taken them to heart.
Below are three prayers that I have used many times throughout my life and my ministry. They speak to my soul. Here they are along with a bit of the history behind them and/or the authors.
Covenant Prayer – John Wesley
This prayer and the Covenant service that it is a part of is one of Methodism distinctive contributions to Protestant liturgy. It is typically used during a Watchnight Service on New Years Eve to reinforce our faith as a covenantal relationship with Jesus.
The prayer can be used everyday to help us to remember we are to give all and be in service for God in all ways.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in heaven. Amen."
Instrument of Your Peace – St. Francis of Assisi
This prayer is attributed to St. Francis but actual authorship is not known. It can be dated back to 1912 but no futher. It was widely circulated during World War I and World War II. It is meant to bring peace and hope in uncertain times. Not only is it appropriate during times of war but in times of social unrest or internal strife. Mother Teresa recited this prayer each morning and asked that it be recited when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It has been set to music by many composers and has been performed at many notable events.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life."
The Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr
Perhaps my favorite prayer to read is this one. Nieburh wrote the prayer around 1932 or 1933 and it spread rapidly through church groups. It was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs. The original prayer has evolved a bit since it first circulated. The current version was published in 1944 in a sermon by Neibuhr but was given the title "The Serenity Prayer" in publications of Alcoholics Anonymous.
This prayer has a special meaning for me. I grew up believing in God but not attending church. Having no outlet for my questions or a place to practice my faith, I was on my own. This prayer was framed on the wall of our living room. Not knowing anything else about this prayer, it gave me comfort knowing that God sustains me in the hard times and that those hard times will eventually bring peace and happiness is possible.
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
May each of these prayers bring you comfort and fill your soul when your own words seem inadequate. May they also shape our words and give us courage to pray words of our own from the heart.