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A Prayer for Sunday (Thomas à Kempis)

Thomas a KempisFew people manage to have a lasting impact on the church with only a single book. Thomas à Kempis is one of them. His Imitation of Christ is widely considered to be the most influential devotional work of the Middle Ages and one of the most widely read Christian books of all time. (I’ve even heard it claimed that the Imitation of Christ has been translated into more languages than any book besides the Bible, a claim I have not even tried to confirm.) The Imitation of Christ had an undoubted impact on Catholic spirituality, but also impacted many Protestant thinkers (e.g. John Wesley). And it received a renewed boost in contemporary spirituality through the writings of people like Thomas Merton.

Although Thomas à Kempis’ book has received significant criticism over the years–especially for an apparent overemphasis on the “inner” life of the Christian at the expense of a more “active” spirituality–his work has played an unquestionable role in the spiritual lives our countless Christians. So in honor of the life and ministry of Thomas à Kempis, who died on July 25, 1471, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
To love what I ought to love,
To praise what delights thee most,
To value what is precious in thy sight,
To hate what is offensive to thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
Nor to pass sentence according
…..to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
But to discern with a true judgment
…..between things visible and spiritual,
And above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of thy will.

A Prayer for Sunday (Macrina the Younger)

The older sister of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina the Younger was an influential figure in our own right, becoming one of the leading monastics of the early church and deeply shaping the theology and writings of her two significant brothers. Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina describes her as an impressive woman with a tremendous intellect and a passion for following Christ.

Macrina died on July 19, 340. In honor of her amazing life and ministry, this morning’s prayer is the prayer that she prayed on her deathbed.

“O Lord, You have freed us from the fear of death;
You have made the end of life here the beginning of a true life for us.
For a time, You give rest to our bodies in
…..sleep and You awaken us again with the last trumpet.

The dust from which You fashioned us with Your hands
…..You give back to the dust of the earth for safekeeping,
and You who have relinquished it will recall it
…..after reshaping with incorruptibility and grace
our mortal and graceless substance.

You redeemed us from the curse and from sin,
…..having taken both upon Yourself;
You crushed the heads of the serpent who had seized us
…..with his jaws in the abyss of disobedience.
Breaking down the gates of hell
…..and overcoming the one who had the empire of death,
You opened up for us a path to the resurrection.
For those who fear You, You gave as a token
…..the sign of the holy cross for the destruction of the Adversary
…..and the salvation of our life.

O God everlasting, towards whom I have directed myself from my mother’s womb,
…..whom my soul has loved with all its strength,
…..to whom I have dedicated my body and my soul from my infancy up to now,
prepare for me a shining angel to lead me to the place of refreshment
…..where is the water of relaxation near the bosom of the holy Fathers.

You who broke the flaming sword
…..and compassionately gave Paradise back to the man crucified with You,
remember me also in Your kingdom,
…..for I, too, have been crucified with You,
…..having nailed my flesh through fear of You and having feared your judgments.
Let the terrible abyss not separate me from Your chosen ones;
let the Slanderer not stand in my way
…..or my sins be discovered before Your eyes
…..if I have fallen and sinned in word or deed or thought
…..because of the weakness of our nature.

Do You who have power on earth to forgive sins forgive me
…..so that I may be refreshed and may be found before You
…..once I have put off my body,
…..having no fault in the form of my soul,
but blameless and spotless may my soul be taken into Your hands
…..as an offering before Your face.

A Prayer for Sunday (John Wesley)

john wesleyA famous Anglican ministry in his day and ours, John Wesley‘s ministry, the accompanying revivals, and the subsequent rise of Methodism all combined to reshape the church in the English speaking world. For that alone Wesley would be worth remembering. But when you add in his impressive theological contributions and social efforts, his life becomes even more notable.

John Wesley died on March 2, 1791, fifty-three years after the famous Aldersgate experience that shaped his approach to Christian life and ministry. In honor of his amazing life and impact, today’s prayer comes from him.

Forgive them all, O Lord:
our sins of omission and our sins of commission;
the sins of our youth and the sins of our riper years;
the sins of our souls and the sins of our bodies;
our secret and our more open sins;
our sins of ignorance and surprise,
…..and our more deliberate and presumptuous sins;
the sins we have done to please others;
the sins we know and remember,
…..and the sins we have forgotten;
the sins we have striven to hide from others
…..and the sins by which we have made others offend;

forgive them, O Lord,
forgive them all for his sake,
…..who died for our sins and rose for our justification,
…..and now stands at thy right hand to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

A Prayer for Sunday (G. K. Chesterton)

chestertonGilbert Keith Chesterton was a famous English writer and thinker, probably best known for his detective stories and his apologetic works, particularly his influential Orthodoxy. Writing during a time when the church faced significant challenges from the rising “modernism” of the early twentieth century, Chesterton encouraged many to retain a high view of Christian theology and its ability to answer its critics and deal with the most difficult questions of life.

G. K. Chesterton died on June 14, 1936. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

O God of earth and altar,
…..Bow down ahd hear our cry;
Our earthly rulers falter,
…..Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
…..The swords of scorn divide;
Take not thy thunder from us,
…..But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
…..From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
…..That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
…..Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
…..Deliver us, good Lord!

A Prayer for Sunday (St. Ephrem)

ephrem the syrianSaint Ephrem the Syrian was a leader and theologian of the fourth century church, best known for his tremendous literary output. One of the most significant Syrian Christians in the history of the church, Ephrem wrote many influential hymns, commentaries, and other works, a particularly impressive accomplishment given that he lived through that turbulent century marked by the theological dissension following the Council of Nicea and the non-stop warfare between the Roman and Persian empires.

St. Ephrem is believed to have died on June 9, 373. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

Blessed be he who in his love stooped to redeem mankind!
Blessed be the King who made himself poor to enrich the needy!
Blessed be he who came to fulfil
…..the types and emblems of the prophets!
Blessed be he who made creation rejoice
…..with the wealth and treasure of his father!
Blessed be he whose glory the dumb sang with hosannas!
Blessed be he to whom little children sang new glory
…..in hymns of praise!
Blessed be the new King who came
…..that new-born babes might glorify him!
Blessed be he unto whom children brought faltering songs
…..to praise him among his disciples!

A Prayer for Sunday (St. Anselm)

anselmOne of the great minds of the medieval church,  St. Anselm of Canterbury served as a monk in northern France for more than thirty years before becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury. Best known for his treatise on the doctrine of the atonement (Cur Deus Homo), Anselm was also a key figure in the Investiture Controversy, an important clash between church and state that helped define medieval Europe.

Anselm died on April 21, 1109. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

Teach me to seek you,
and reveal yourself to me as I seek:
For unless you instruct me
I cannot seek you,
and unless you reveal yourself
I cannot find you.
Let me seek you in desiring you:
let me desire you in seeking you.
Let me find you in loving you:
let me love you in finding you.

A Prayer for Sunday (St. Patrick)

st patrickIn the fifth century, St. Patrick established his reputation as one of the most famous missionaries in Christian history. According to tradition, he was just a teenager when he was taken as a slave to Ireland. He eventually escaped, became a priest, and returned to Ireland with the gospel. After years of faithful service, he has long been remembered as the “Apostle of Ireland” and one of the key figures in establishing Celtic Christianity.

In memory of Patrick’s amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

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A Prayer for Sunday (Thomas Aquinas)

St Thomas AquinasThomas Aquinas is one of those theologians who needs little introduction. One of the most influential theologians in the history of the church, Aquinas has shaped the way theologians in the west think about almost every theological issue. Best known for his massive Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles, Thomas also wrote extensive commentaries on Scripture and Aristotle, as well as various liturgical works.

Thomas Aquinas died on March 7, 1274. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, today’s prayer comes from him. And it’s an excellent prayer for students and learners everywhere.

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
has established three hierarchies of angels,
has arrayed them in marvelous order above the fiery heavens,
and has 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.

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A Prayer for Sunday (George Herbert)

george herbertSeventeenth century Britain produced a number of impressive figures, but few as creative and provocative as the poet George Herbert. Though he died young (only 39), he still produced an amazing body of work, and is considered one of the most influential of the “metaphysical poets,” or people who used poetry to craft their ideas about the essential nature of the universe.  And Herbert’s poems continue to be widely read and studied today. In addition to his poetry, Herbert also served in Parliament for a couple of years and spent the last decade or so of his life as the rector of a small church near Salisbury.

George Herbert died on March 1, 1633. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him. It’s actually a sonnet that he wrote about prayer, filled with powerful and often conflicting images about what prayer is, ultimately concluding with the simple assertion that despite the mystery of prayer, it is “something understood.”

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
…..Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
…..The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinners towre,
…..Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
…..The six-daies world transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
…..Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
…..Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The Milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

…..Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
…..The land of spices; something understood.

A Prayer for Sunday (Martin Bucer)

bucerMartin Bucer may well be one of the most influential figures of the Protestant Reformation that people haven’t heard of. Working with a group of reformers in Strasbourg, Bucer played a mediating role between Luther and Zwingli, influenced a young John Calvin, led efforts to continue theological dialog with Catholic theologians, and eventually ended up in England where he helped shape the reformation efforts there as well. Bucer was, therefore, one of the few reformation figures who truly impacted the reformation throughout all of Europe.

Martin Bucer died on Februrary 28, 1551. In honor of his amazing life and ministry, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.

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