I’ve learned that there are certain times when I just can’t find the words to express my thoughts, concerns, or desires in prayer. Often, the emotion is one big ball of yarn that is hard to unwind. In these times, reading and praying the prayers of others can be both enlightening and comforting. In truth, their words express and unpack my emotions. Is that not why the book of Psalms occupies the center of the Bible–to be a prayer and song book?
Below are a few historic prayers worth reflecting on in times of struggle.
Psalm 31, A Prayer of Faith in Troubled Times
let me never be disgraced.
Save me because you do what is right.
Listen to me
and save me quickly.
Be my rock of protection,
a strong city to save me.
For the good of your name, lead me and guide me.
Set me free from the trap they set for me,
because you are my protection.
Save me, Lord, God of truth.
I trust only in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
because you saw my suffering;
you knew my troubles.
You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.
and my whole being is tired from grief.
My life is ending in sadness,
and my years are spent in crying.
My troubles are using up my strength,
and my bones are getting weaker.
and even my neighbors look down on me.
When my friends see me,
they are afraid and run.
I am like a piece of a broken pot.
I am forgotten as if I were dead.
I have heard many insults.
Terror is all around me.
They make plans against me
and want to kill me.
I have said, “You are my God.”
My life is in your hands.
Save me from my enemies
and from those who are chasing me.
Show your kindness to me, your servant.
Save me because of your love.
Lord, I called to you,
so do not let me be disgraced.
Let the wicked be disgraced
and lie silent in the grave.
With pride and hatred
they speak against those who do right.
So silence their lying lips.
How great is your goodness
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you have given to those who trust you.
You do this for all to see.
You protect them by your presence
from what people plan against them.
You shelter them from evil words.
Praise the Lord.
His love to me was wonderful
when my city was attacked.
In my distress, I said,
“God cannot see me!”
But you heard my prayer
when I cried out to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you who belong to him.
The Lord protects those who truly believe,
but he punishes the proud as much as they have sinned.
All you who put your hope in the Lord
be strong and brave.
Christ Within Me, St. Patrick
St. Patrick is known as the Apostle of Ireland and is the main patron saint of the Irish. St. Patrick was captured by pirates at the age of sixteen and taken as a slave to Ireland. His faith and eventual status as bishop demonstrate a profound trust in God. His Christ-centered view of life is unmistakable in his famous prayer.
Christ 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 when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis is one of the most authentic of the Catholic Saints. The current Pope took him as his namesake for his life devoted to simplicity and concern for the poor. This simple prayer below beautifully captures his meek spirit.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
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
Reinhold Niebuhr was a theologian at Union Theological Seminary who wrote this prayer in the mid 1900s. It has been widely circulated and is also used by Alcoholics Anonymous We are, therefore, so used to hearing this prayer that it can sometimes feel cliche. But an honest read reveals a prayer that is deep and rich. It is one of my favorites.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
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.