It always sends a chill down my spine when I join the congregation in singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This hymn assures me of a strength I can draw upon that will ultimately vanquish even the darkest powers. My own personal struggles are, it reminds me, ultimately just a subplot in the universal battle against evil. And evil does not stand a chance in the face of Jesus’ name.
No matter how long and deeply I thought about it, I don’t think I could ever find words to proclaim this truth as powerfully as Martin Luther did when he penned this hymn. That is why we joyfully raise our voices with others in singing the great hymns of the faith or the best of the modern worship songs. They can be a source of encouragement, strength, comfort, and challenge for every believer. They give us words to express the faith that burns within us; words we might not be able to find within ourselves.
Similarly, the prayers of some of the great Christians of the past can also give us the words we need to express things we feel deeply but don’t know how to say. I have found that praying these prayers, passed down to us from brothers and sisters who are no longer with us, has given me a richer vocabulary for my own conversations with God and opened my heart to praying things I might never have thought to pray.
Years ago I began to collect the prayers of the great Christians of the past. Whenever I came across one that resonated with the thoughts and feelings in my mind and heart, I would set it aside for my own use. Recently I gathered some of my very favorites from this collection to create a little book that might just motivate and enrich your own life of prayer. That book is Beautiful Prayers to Inspire Your Soul. Here is one of the prayers from its pages, from the man who gave us “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:
An empty vessel that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in the faith,
I am cold in love;
Warm me and make me fervent
That my love may go out to my neighbor.
I do not have a strong and firm faith;
At times I doubt and am unable to trust You altogether.
O Lord, help me.
Strengthen my faith and trust in You.
One of my great joys I receive from prayers like this is the reminder that countless other believers throughout the ages have used these very prayers to approach the heart of God. How incredible to be part of that chorus of prayerful voices down through the ages, voices lifted to seek the God who loves us beyond measure and beyond time.