In this article it my intention to invite you on a journey back in time, to an era where the church was young, and a time when the ancient fathers were paving the way in Christian piety, prayer and worship. Below are ten prayers by the Early Fathers of the Church that give us wonderful insight into how these great pioneers approached God in prayer and worship. The short excerpts below are from the first five centuries and allow the modern believer to delve into the same spirit of prayer as the fathers did before them, and to approach God with like-minded humility and reverence.
I hope you find great value in tasting the flavor of these rich and powerful prayers and that they are transformational to your spiritual life.
- Prayer to God the Father – St Clement of Rome (1st century -101 AD)
We beseech You, Master, to be our helper and protector.
Save the afflicted among us; have mercy on the lowly;
Raise up the fallen; appear to the needy; heal the ungodly;
Restore the wanderers of Your people;
Feed the hungry; ransom our prisoners;
Raise up the sick; comfort the faint-hearted.
St Clement of Rome, 1st century-101 AD
- Singing to the Father – St Ignatius of Antioch (35-108 AD)
And you have all been formed into one choir, to…sing God’s song together and praise the father with one voice through Jesus Christ, that when he hears you he may realize from what you have done so well that you are of his Son’s members.
St Ignatius of Antioch, 35-108 AD
- Prayer to God the Father – St Irenaeus of Lyons (130-202 AD)
I appeal to you, Lord, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob and Israel, You the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Infinitely merciful as You are, it is Your will that we should learn to know You. You made heaven and earth, You rule supreme over all that is. You are the true, the only God; there is no other god above You.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ…and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, grant that all who read what I have written here may know You, because You alone are God; let them draw strength from You; keep them from all teaching that is heretical, irreligious or godless.
St Irenaeus of Lyons, 130-202 AD
- Prayer to the Divine Tutor – St Clement of Alexandria (150-215)
Be kind to Your little children, Lord; that is what we ask of You as their Tutor, You the Father, Israel’s guide; Son, yes, but Father as well. Grant that by doing what You told us to do, we may achieve a faithful likeness to the Image and, as far as is possible for us, may find in You a good God and a lenient Judge.
May we all live in the peace that comes from You. May we journey towards Your city, sailing through the waters of sin untouched by the waves, borne tranquilly along by the Holy Spirit, Your Wisdom beyond all telling. Night and day until the last day of all, may our praises give You thanks, our thanksgiving praise You: You who alone are both Father and Son, Son and Father, the Son who is our Tutor and our Teacher, together with the Holy Spirit.
St Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 AD
- Prayer for Peace of Mind – Origen (184-253 AD)
Let us pray that Jesus may reign over us and that our land may be at peace-i.e., that our bodies may be free from the assaults of fleshly desires. When these have ceased, we shall be able to rest, beneath our vines, our fig-trees and our olives.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit will shelter us as we rest, our peace of mind and body once recovered.
Glory to God the eternal, age after age. Amen.
Origen, 184-253 AD
- Prayer for Peace – St Cyprian of Carthage (210-258 AD)
We beg and beseech the God whom the enemies of the Church are forever provoking and irritating that he would tame their wild hearts. May their rage subside and calm return to their hearts; may their minds, clouded by the darkness their sins produce, repent and see the light; may they seek the bishop’s prayers and not his blood.
St Cyprian of Carthage, 210-258 AD
- Prayer to God the Holy Trinity – St Basil the Great (330-379 AD)
As I rise from sleep I thank You, O Holy Trinity, for through Your great goodness and patience You were not angered with me, an idler and sinner, nor have You destroyed me in my sins, but have shown Your usual love for men, and when I was prostrate in despair, You raised me to keep the morning watch and to glorify Your power. And now enlighten my mind’s eye and open my mouth to study Your words and understand Your commandments and do Your will and sing to You in heartfelt adoration and praise Your Most Holy Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
St Basil the Great, 330-379 AD
- Prayer to God the Father – St Macarius the Great (300-391 AD)
O Eternal God and King of all creation, who has granted me to arrive at this hour, forgive me the sins that I have committed today in thought, word and deed, and cleanse, O Lord, my humble soul from all defilement of flesh and spirit. And grant me, O Lord, to pass the sleep of this night in peace, that when I rise from my bed I may please Your most holy Name all the days of my life and conquer my flesh and the fleshless foes that war with me. And deliver me, O Lord, from vain and frivolous thoughts, and from evil desires which defile me. For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
St Macarius the Great, 300-391 AD
- Prayer to God the Father – St Ambrose of Milan (337-397 AD)
O Lord, who has mercy upon all, take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me the fire of Your Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore You,
a heart to delight in You,
to follow and to enjoy You,
for Christ’s sake.
St Ambrose of Milan, 337-397 AD
- Supplicatory prayers corresponding to 24 hours of the day – St John Chrysostom (344-407 AD)
Lord, deprive me not of Your heavenly joys. Lord, deliver me from eternal torments. Lord, if I have sinned in mind or thought, in word or deed, forgive me. Lord, deliver me from all ignorance, forgetfulness, cowardice and stony insensibility. Lord, deliver me from every temptation. Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened. Lord, I being human have sinned, but You being the generous God, have mercy on me, knowing the sickness of my soul. Lord, send Your grace to my help, that I may glorify Your holy Name. Lord Jesus Christ, write me Your servant in the Book of Life, and grant me a good end. O Lord my God, even though I have done nothing good in Your sight, yet grant me by Your grace to make a good start. Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Your grace. Lord of heaven and earth remember me, Your sinful servant, shameful and unclean, in Your Kingdom. Amen.
O Lord, accept me in penitence. O Lord, leave me not. O Lord, lead me not into temptation. O Lord, grant me good thoughts. O Lord, grant me tears and remembrance of death and compunction. O Lord, grant me the thought of confessing my sins. O Lord, grant me humility, chastity and obedience. O Lord, grant me patience, courage and meekness. O Lord, plant in me the root of all blessings, the fear of You in my heart. O Lord, grant me to love You with all my mind and soul, and always to do Your will. O Lord, protect me from certain people, and demons, and passions, and from every other harmful thing. O Lord, You know that You act as You will; may Your will be also in me, a sinner, for blessed art You forever. Amen.
St John Chrysostom, 344-407 AD
Question: Have you come across any prayers by the early church fathers? You can share them with us in the comments section below.
Thanks and God bless