Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A prayer book that ought to be written

I have an Orthodox prayer book, and it's pretty cool. The daily prayers in it I've found to be enriching and challenging. Prayer books are nice, because sometimes I'm not on great terms with God; just like you put stakes in the ground and tie a sapling to them, to help the sapling grow straight, prayer books help me learn how to pray straight. Still, I feel like there are some situations that aren't covered. In the prayer book I have, there are prayers like these:
  • For the Priesthood
  • At the Table
  • For Repentence
  • Before Commencing any Task
  • Of Single Persons
  • Before a Journey
  • For the Sick
and so on. I guess it would be helpful to me to have a prayer book with prayers with titles like these:
  • When I Don't Like Jesus
  • For a Homeless Person that I Meet on the Street
  • When my Computer Crashes
  • When Nothing Makes Sense
  • When I Get Cut Off in Traffic
  • When Someone Needs a Friend, and I Don't Want to be That Person's Friend
  • For a Blown Test that I Didn't Study Enough For Because I'm a Slacker
I've looked hard on Amazon for a prayer book like that, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist, one that confronts mundane, everyday situations that suck with an understanding of God as holy, other, supernatural, and beautiful; either the realness of my situation or the holiness of God is compromised.

Here's a pretty cool prayer by Philaret, Patriarch of Moscow:

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee.
Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs.
Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee.
O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask.
For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation;
I dare only to stand in Thy presence.
My heart is open to Thee.
Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.
Behold and lift me up!
In Thy presence I stand,
awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments,
into which my mind cannot penetrate.
To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice.
No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will.
Teach me how to pray.
Do Thyself pray within me.


  1. That'd be an awesome book. That and the proposed "self-help" book about Just Being Happy About Being A Child Of God would make a Christian section at a bookstore less laughable/enraging.

  2. I'd forgotten about Just Being Happy About Being A Child Of God, but there really isn't much more to spiritual healing than that. Why do you think these books haven't been written?

  3. It could just be that you're not sufficiently translating between their titles and yours.
    Or it could be that making a connection between the supernatural-as-a-grandiose-thing and simple things is really hard, and everyone prefers to think about God as being about big stuff. We all want bigger, which is probably why Evan's book doesn't exist, because being content and even joyful at just being a child of God isn't nearly as cool sounding as a lot of the other stuff out there.

    Sometimes God comes in ways that sound and/or look small (like your prayer titles) to us and we're idiots and don't want to see it.

  4. Tim gets bonus points for his second hypothesis -- that we don't make the connection between the supernatural and the mundane. Perhaps this is because holiness is dangerous, and if it can't be confined to only majestic and mysterious experiences, but also applies to what I have for breakfast, that is a fearful thing.

    You can see a copy of the prayerbook here:

    Others that I've flipped through, from other traditions, have similar content and style. The daily prayers are absolutely spot-on; I've found them to be very enriching, pointing me consistently to wonder at God's holiness.

    The occasional prayers, on the other hand:

    The theology in them is spot on, and the writing is beautiful and reverential. However, for example, the prayer for repentance is too general to strike at the core of the sin that traps me. It's a good model, but not such a good prayer on its own.

  5. Hey,

    I have another prayer book that Keith gave to me that has those prayers and a much larger and expanded list of other prayers as well if you like. It not only has prayers for more occasions but also more types of prayers for the ones in the little red handbook.

    For example, it has in there prayers for things like Anxiety, When you don't know what else to pray for, Vacations, Praise, and so on.

    It also has some interesting prayers like one from Dostoevsky for example. Another prayer I found need was the Prayer of King Mannaseh under the prayers of Confession section. There is also a good follow up one from St. Ephraim the Syrian that further expounds on that same prayer and personalizes it for us.

    If you are interested I can lend it to you if you want to have a look.

  6. Brandon, I'd like to take a gander at that prayer book. I don't think it sounds exactly like what I'm describing, but it does sound helpful.