Century-Old Prayers compiled by Elizabeth Yates (October 2020)

Susan's Thursday morning note October 15, 2020
Century-Old Prayers (Your Prayers and Mine compiled by Elizabeth Yates).  

Good morning.  So still this morning.  The sun about to blind us all with her harvest appearance.  A little cricket tiptoeing past my feet hoping to not be noticed.  He was noticed.  For his effort of maintaining silence for me I gave him another day of life and set him outside the door.  My angel of dawn quietly arrives.  Handing me stillness as her gift today.  Handing me a few moments of quiet.  The last few weeks I’ve been rereading Your Prayers and Mine; a collection of century-old prayers compiled by Elizabeth Yates.  She is known especially for winning the Newberry Award for her book Amos Fortune, Free Man, which was about an African prince captured and sold as a slave in the 1700’s. 

Yates writes in her introduction, Any form of prayers is like the key that opens a door.  A small key it may be, taken from an inner pocket, a key grown smooth from much handling.  Responding to its turning, the door opens slowly – into what stillness, down what avenues of radiance, only the one who prays knows; but the experience, no matter how long or short, is not unmarked in our lives…To pause mentally, where we are and in the midst of what we are doing, and there to be aware of God’s presence, enables us to continue in what we are doing as though we were always in His presence…It is through prayer that we learn to walk confidently with God, to face life courageously, and to act lovingly with our fellows; for prayer is the mountaintop of vision from which we see the good that can be ours.”   Below are some of the prayers in her collection which embedded into my mind, hoping you will find words that strengthen your soul today.

Sir Jacob Astley, England.  17th Century
O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day; if I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me.

Francois de la Mothe Fenelon, France.  17th Century 
Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee; Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself.  O Father!  Give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask.  I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations; I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee.  Behold my needs which I know not myself; see and do according to Thy tender mercy.  Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up; I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will.  Teach me to pray.  Pray Thyself in me.

Russian Liturgy 10th Century
Grant calmness and control of thought to those who are facing uncertainty and anxiety; let their heart stand fast, believing in the Lord.  Be thou all things to all men, knowing each one his petition, each house and it’s need.

Socrates, Greece.  5th Century B.C.
Give me beauty in the inward soul; and my the inward and the outward be as one.  May I reckon wisdom to be wealth, and may I have so much gold as a temperate man and only he can bear and carry.  This prayer, I think, is enough for me.

Osage Indian Prayer
Here needy he stands, And I am he.

These tears that dim my eyes, this pain that plows my heart, take them, Lord, I give Thee As I give my gaiety.  Only let me keep as mine the blessing that is here: So to others I may always warm with sympathy.

Lucy H.M. Soulsby, England.  Headmistress Oxford High School (1856-1927)
Lord, grant that each one who has to do with me today may be the happier for it.  Let it be given me each hour today what I shall say, and grant me the wisdom of a loving heart that I may say the right thing rightly.  Help me to enter into the mind of everyone who talks with me, and keep me alive to the feelings of each one present.  Give me a quick eye for little kindnesses, that I may be ready in doing them and gracious in receiving them.  Give me quick perception of the feelings and needs of others, and make me eager-hearted in helping them.  

St. Ignatius Loyola, Spain.  16th Century
Teach us, good Lord, To serve Thee as Thou deservest: To give and not to count the cost; To fight and not to heed the wounds; To strive and not to seek for rest; To labor and not to ask for reward, Saving the knowledge that we do Thy will.

If at night when day is done kneeling by your bed, You can only think of Him though no words are said; If in crowds you think of Him Who give you light and air, God will know in His love That you mean a prayer.

Sioux Indian Prayer
Grandfather, Great Spirit, You have been always, and before You nothing has been.  There is no one to pray to but You.  The star nations all over the heavens are Yours, and Yours are the grasses of the earth.  You are older than all need, older than all pain and prayer.  Grandfather, Great Spirit, all over the world the faces of living ones are alike.  With tenderness they have come up out of the ground.  Look upon our children, with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.  Grandfather, Great Spirit, fill us with the light.  Give us the strength to understand and the eyes to see.  Teach us to walk the soft earth as relatives to all that live.  Help us, for without You we are nothing.

Prayer of the Breton Fishermen, France
Dear God, be good to me.  The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Italy.  13th Century
Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.  Bestow upon me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know Thee, diligence to seek Thee, wisdom to find Thee, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace Thee.  

Christina Rossetti, England.  19th Century
Lord, purge our eyes to see within the seed a tree, within the glowing egg a bird, within the shroud a butterfly.  Till taught by such, we see beyond all creatures Thee, and hearken to Thy tender word, and hear it, “Fear not: it is I.”

Formosan Prayer (Taiwan)
As the fire under the stone floor of my dwelling place burns brightly to warm my house, so may the love of God warm my heart and the hearts of those who step over my threshold.  

Sioux Indian Prayer
Great Spirit, help me to never judge another until I have walked in his moccasins for two weeks.

I wish we could close our eyes and see the actual moment in the past of these prayers being written.  Were they prayed originally on forest trails?  In kitchens?  In monasteries?  At births?  In graveyards?  Where was the prayer first prayed?  And where have they been prayed since being written?  How intriguing it would be go into the past over centuries and observe from the distance someone praying these words and having a change of countenance.  An actual change from strain on their face to peace. 

Tonight we will have the chance to chisel in our stone.  Will we have words worthy of inscription?  Possibly a prayer this time to inscribe?  Words to permanently etch to help someone later find words when they don’t have the strength to form their own thoughts.  Beautiful day.  Beautiful life.  Beautiful prayers.  Today we have the promise that if we look to the heavens with even a short glance help is there.  If we drop to our knees even mentally we will be given strength.  Thank you for letting me enter your morning.  For coming into our store for your toys, gifts, kids clothes, friendship, and reprieve from your life.  Possibly the next book you carry out will have a thought that may change your the rest of your life.  Susan

Latin for this week:
quaeso – pray
obsecro – beseech, pray, beg, implore
oro – pray, invoke, wish
subplico – kneel, entreat, pray
venero – venerate, adore, worship, revere, honor, pray

The Lord’s Prayer:  Pater Noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

Works Cited:
Yates, Elizabeth, compiler.  Your Prayers and Mine.  1954.  Boston.  Houghton Mifflin.