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Refreshing Our Prayer with the Faith of Our Forefathers

Getting unstuck in our devotional life by listening to prayers prayed long ago.

Daily Devotionals blogger Julia Attaway

I prayed with a group of moms from a different church a few weeks back. Their prayer patterns were different from mine. Their faith focus was different. Their vocabulary was different. It was refreshing—and weird.

It made me wonder how much my devotional life reflects not only where I worship but also the time I live in. So I looked up prayers from different eras, to see what stepping outside the 21st century would do.

I discovered it’s been a while since I’d prayed like Augustine of Hippo (354–450 AD):

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. Amen.

I learned that my humility benefits from praying like Martin Luther (1483 –1546):

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.
I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor.
I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. Amen.

I was struck by this perspective on hardship by Saint Francisde Sales (1567 –1622):

O my God, I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine. With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much! It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it. I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve. Amen.

Bold prayers, by bold believers. Listening to how others pray can point to new ways to grow my devotional life, even if those prayers were first said long ago.

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