Great Prayers of the Past: St. Patrick

St_patricks  Well, since it is St. Patty's day, I thought it would be appropriate to break out an old segment which I haven't done in a while on this blog: Great Prayers of the Past. You can see previous ones by clicking here.

Before we get to one of his prayers that I wish to feature in this post, here are a few things about St. Patrick that you may not know. 

First of all, he wasn't a beer drinking leprechaun like my image here suggests. Okay, you probably knew that one already, but this next one may come as a shock, so you need to prepare yourself… Are you sitting down? He wasn't even Irish. I know that comes as a shock for most of you, but it's true. St. Patrick was a Romano-Briton. In other words, he was British. The last thing you may not know about him is that he was a missionary. You see, here's what happend. When he was 16, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken back to Ireland as a slave. That's right, he was a slave. He remained a slave for 6 years until he somehow managed to escape and return to his home. Sometime after he returned home, he became a Christian and was later ordained as a bishop. It was then that he decided to return to the very people who had enslaved him, this time as a missionary. This guy had a serious love for Jesus, and some serious balls.

I have a huge amount of respect for this man, and knowing who he was and what he did provides some context to the prayer below. Perhaps it was prayers like this that gave him the courage to preach Christ to the very people who had enslaved him. You can also see his passion that every aspect of him preach Christ to the lost.

Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Salvation is of the Lord,
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

- St. Patrick

Great Prayers of the Past – John Calvin

The great reformer John Calvin has long been a hero of mine, but not because of anything that has to do with what has become associated with Calvinism today. Rather it was his unbending commitment to doctrinal purity, and fearless objection to anything he thought unbiblical. Certainly, my praise of Calvin doesn't come without equal amounts of critique. He was often ruthless and at times cold-hearted by some accounts. Nonetheless, for better or worse even these actions should be viewed as stemming from the seriousness that he placed on doctrinal purity.

Calvin was not a man without mistakes and major flaws, but his heart wholly and completely belonged to God. In a day when many of his followers were looking to him to be a "savior" of sorts, he always strove to bring all the attention and focus back to God and
the preeminence of Christ, while attempting to make himself smaller. Being exalted by men as he was (and still is today), I can imagine the struggle he must have had with pride. I can imagine that it must have been in that context that he penned the following prayer:

Grant, almighty God, as no other way of access to you is open for us except through unfeigned humility, that we often learn to abase ourselves with feelings of true repentance. May we be so displeased with ourselbes as not to be satisfied with a single confession of our iniquities. May we continue to meditate on our sins until we are more and more penetrated with real grief. Then may we fly to your mercy, prostrate  ourselves before you in silence and acknowledge no other hope than your pity, and the intercession of your only begotten Son. May we be reconciled to you, absolved from our sins, and governed throughout the whole course of our life by your Holy Spirit. Let us at length enjoy the victory in every kind of contest, and arrive at that blessed rest which you have prepared for us by the same, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Great Prayers of the Past – C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is one of my all time favorite authors. He was also a Christian apologist, Oxford don, professor at Cambridge, lover of Greek mythology, and expert in Medieval and Renaissance literature, among other things. 

One of the least known things about Lewis is that he was also a poet. The prayer below is both poetry and prayer. I love this prayer because I had never thought of the issues he explains below. Essentially what he is saying is that all of us have in our minds some image of God when we pray to him. But God is beyond any image that we can conceive. So in one sense when we pray and conceive of insufficient images of God, we are committing idolatry. But he goes on to explain that since we are incapable of properly conceiving of God, he condescends to us. He diverts our poorly aimed "arrows," and helps them hit the mark. This is similar to what Paul meant in Romans 8:26 when he said "in the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." 

One more important note. C.S. Lewis would often refer to people, works, or events from history assuming that people would have at least a basic knowledge of them. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case, and one reference in the prayer probably needs explanation. "Pheidian fancies" refers to Pheidias, a first century Greek sculptor who is known for his statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He also made many other sculptures of gods and goddesses. So when Lewis refers to our thoughts of God as "Pheidian fancies," he is describing how insufficient are our ideas of God.

C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963)

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to thyself divert
Our arrows aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if thou take them at their word.

Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

Great Prayers of the Past – St. Augustine

St. Augustine of Hippo was an early church father and was both a philosopher and theologian. He may be the single most important figure in the development of western Christianity. Even the great reformers like Calvin and Luther would later be influenced heavily by his writings. 

The prayer that I am sharing this morning is appropriate because God woke me up three minutes before my 4:00 am alarm. Almost immediately after I got out of bed, I began pumping the new Hillsong United album (which you should go buy right now) into my head by way of my Iphone. This scenario brought to mind a prayer I read a few weeks back.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)

You awaken us to delight in your praises, for you made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it reposes in you.

When not properly understood a restless heart will do nothing but get you into trouble. I must admit that too many times I have been guilty of pursuing other things because my heart was restless. In reality, my heart is sometimes restless because I was made for God. I was made to delight in him and in praising him. This morning, I am at peace. I am at rest because my heart has been reposed in God himself. My prayer for you today is that you will delight yourself in his praise and that you will find peace for your restless heart.

Great Prayers of the Past – Susanna Wesley

A while back I was doing a segment that I called "Great Daily Prayers." These were prayers that I have used to direct me during specific times, and most of them came directly from Thomas a'Kempis. Well,

now I'm going to be doing away with that segment and a new one is going to replace it.

The new segment is called "Great Prayers of the Past." Here I will highlight some prayers of great followers of Jesus who have gone before us. It fascinates me to know how people who walked closer to Jesus than I do prayed. What was their conversation with God like?

Today's installment comes from Susanna Wesley. Susanna was the mother of 19 children, two of whom you may have heard of: John and Charles Wesley (John was perhaps the founder of the modern missionary movement and the modern small group. Charles was a leader in his brother's movement and wrote some of the best hymns of all time). Susanna was known for being an incredible woman of God and she raised some awesome men of God.

Now that I am a father of two (and soon to be three), I am beginning to look to people like this to understand what their walk with God was like. She obviously did something right to have raised the men that she did. Here is a small glimpse into her prayer life.

Susanna Wesley (1669 – 1742)
I thank you, O God, for the relief and satisfaction of mind that come with the firm assurance that you govern the world; for the patience and resignation to your providence that are afforded as I reflect that even the tumultuous and irregular actions of the sinful are, nevertheless, under your direction, who are wise, good, and omnipotent, and have promised to make all things work together for good to those who love you.