Praying with our Ancestors: A Prayer for Truth

ACU Library hosts a weekly chapel for our students, student workers, faculty and staff. I was asked to pray in last week’s assembly. I chose to draw from the well of our history rather than bring a word of spontaneous prayer. I reflected on what we are trying to do in the library, not just the tasks we perform, but a core reason for our existence at the heart of the university’s life and mission. I reflected on what we are trying to accomplish in a weekly gathering of students and faculty. I reflected on why we collect and steward information resources in our spaces, why and how our community uses these resources, and to what ends. I then spent some time with J. H. Garrison.

As is the case with most of my friends, Garrison has been dead a good long while. But while he was among the living he contributed mightily to the devotional spirit of the Stone-Campbell movement. Arguably his Alone With God is the classic work on the inner devotional life.  He wasn’t the only one who tried to develop this sense among us, and you’ll have to gauge for yourself whether he even did it well, but every time I read him I’m better for it.

My reflections about the nature of our work in our space converged with Garrison’s prayer for truth.

Living as we do in a world charmed by lies, half-truths, near-truths, and spin, I think it wise to pause for a moment and pray for truth.  Living as we do in a context rife with passive-aggression, innuendo, rhetorical slight of hand, I think it wise to pause and pray and seek truth.  Living and working in a community of scholars, nearly every last thing we do is a search for truth: we research, we investigate, we experiment, we hypothesize, we inquire, we discover, we assess, we interpret.  It is good for us along this way to gather and pray for truth.

James Harvey Garrison’s ‘Prayer for Truth’* in Alone With God** (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company, 1891), 151:

O God, the God of truth, mercifully grant that the Holy Spirit of Truth may rule our hearts, grafting therein love of truth, and making us in all our thoughts and words and works, to study, speak, and follow truth, that we may be sincere before all people, and blameless before Thee.  May no unworthy prejudice or sectarian pride prevent us from accepting whatever bears the divine impress of Thy truth.  May we love the truth, know the truth, and be made free by the truth; for His sake who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and in whom is no guile, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen!

*I adapted Garrison’s pronouns.  I changed them from singular to plural and where he prayed to be ‘blameless before men’, I prayed ‘blameless before all people.’

**Read the first edition here or purchase a new edition here.

This post is co-published at Charis, an online space for conversations of and about Churches of Christ.

a heart for the people

Wilson Adams has an article in this month’s Biblical Insights about praying in the assembly.  In it he discusses a dozen things not often mentioned in prayers in the assembly…but should be.  Among them is this:

Pray for shepherds to have a heart for the people.  An elder remarked to me how he hears people praying for the elders to have wisdom in making decisions.  “It sounds like we’re CEO’s managing some company,” he said.  After noting that elders have to make decisions and certainly need wisdom, he went on to add, “I would love to hear brethren pray for us that we may have a heart for the people, because shepherding, after all, is about people.”  

Prayer for the Preacher

G. H. P. Showalter, from Ligon's PortraitureI notice several folks found my post reproducing Isaac Errett’s prayer before reading scripture.  Below is a similar prayer by G. H. P. Showalter (pictured to the right), editor of the Firm Foundation from 1908-1954.  He published, with Frank L. Cox, A Book of Prayers, How to Pray that Prayer May Be Answered (Austin: Firm Foundation) in 1940.  The prayer is on page 73.  By the way, when I mentioned in an earlier post about devotional literature among Churches of Christ, I failed to include this volume. 

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Prayer for the Preacher

     Our loving Father, we are grateful for that noble man, wherever he may be, who is proclaiming to the lost the gospel of the Crucified.  In this service help him to be humble, yet unafraid.  In all of his efforts, may he be actuated by the sole desire to please thee.  grant that he may give himself to prayer, to holy meditation, and to the ministry of the word to the that he may save both himself and them that hear him.  Keep his soul from sin and his name from the abuse of the vicious tongue.

     Bless his loved ones from whom he is so often separated.  Wouldst thou, O Lord, shield them from every harmful thing.

     When days are dark, give him the assurance of the love and confidence of his brethren.  May he receive that material reward that is due and be content with the same.  When betrayed by his friends, and brethren prove false, uphold him by they everlasting arm.

     When his course is finished and he lays his burden down, give him rest with thee.  Grant that he may enter into the fruit of his labor and be glad.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Much More Brightly Than Before

O Lord, our God, when we are afraid do not let us despair. When we are disappointed do not let us become bitter. When we fall do not let us remain prostrate. When we are at the end of our understanding and our powers, do not let us then perish. No, let us feel then Thy nearness and Thy love, which Thou hast promised especially to those whose hearts are humble and broken and who stand in fear before Thy word. To all men Thy Son has come as to those who are so beset. Indeed, because we are all so beset he was born in a stable and died on a cross. Lord, awaken us all and keep us all awake t this knowledge and to this confession.

And now we think of all the darkness and suffering of this our time; of the many errors and misunderstandings with which we men torment ourselves; of all the burdens that so many must bear uncomforted; of all the great dangers by which our world is threatened without our knwoing how we should meet them. We think of the sick and the sick in spirit, the poor, the displaced, the oppressed, those who suffer injustice, the children who have no parents or no proper parents. And we think of all who are called to help as far as men can help; the rulers of our land and of all other lands, the judges and officials, the teachers and leaders of youth, the men and women who are responsible for writing books and newspapers, the doctors and nurses in the hospitals, those who proclaim Thy word in the various churches and congregations near at hand and far away. We think of them all with the petition that the light of Christmas may shine brightly for them and for us, much more birghtly than before, that thereby they and we may be helped. We ask all this in the name of the Savior in whom Thou hast already heard us and wilt hear us again and again. Amen.

–Karl Barth, Selected Prayers, trans. Keith R. Crim. Richmond: John Knox Press, 1965, pp. 22-23.

Hope for the Whole World

Loving Heavenly Father! Because we are here together to rejoice that for us Thy dear Son has become man and our brother, we beseech Thee from our hearts to tell us Thyself what great grace, benefits, and help Thou hast prepared for us all in Him.
Open Thou our ears and our understanding that we may perceive that in Him there is forgiveness for all our sins, the germ and power of a new life, comfort and exhortation for life and for death, hope for the whole world. Create Thou within us the good spirit of freedom humbly and boldly to approach Thy Son, who now comes to us.
Grant that today in the whole of Christendom and the world many may be enabled to break through all the outward vanity of these holidays and to celebrate with us a good Christmas. Amen.
–Karl Barth, Selected Prayers, trans. Keith R. Crim. Richmond: John Knox Press, 1965, p. 17.

A Prayer Before Reading Scripture


A Prayer Before Reading Scripture

Isaac Errett

O Lord, I am about to read thy holy word. I pray for a teachable spirit. May I come to thee hungering after righteousness. May my soul pant for thee as the hart panteth for the water-brook, and drink of the water of life and be satisfied. Open thou mine eyes to behold wondrous things out of thy law. Enable me to receive the word of the kingdom into a good and honest heart, that I may bring forth fruit unto eternal life. May thy word be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path; and may I give heed to it as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in my heart. May I love thy law, and rejoice in its teaching as one that findeth great spoil. May it be more desirable to me than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, or the droppings of the honeycomb. Be pleased, O Lord, to enlighten the eyes of my understanding, that when I read I may understand thy will. And may thy doctrine drop upon my waiting spirit as the rain, and thy speech distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. Let thy word be unto me the joy and the rejoicing of my heart. Save me from every blinding influence of passion and prejudice, and from all perverseness of spirit, lest I should handle thy word deceitfully. And let thy truth search my inward parts and discern the thoughts and intents of my heart. Let me receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save my soul. And do thou search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and show me if there is any wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting. These petitions I humbly offer to thee in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Isaac Errett, Letters to a Young Christian. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1877, pages 162-164.