Sunday, 13 January 2019

Fresh Thoughts About An Old Prayer

Having visited the Old Meeting House in Norwich, I looked at their website. They have a Church "Prayer for the Year" . The one on the site at the minute is still for 2018. I'll forgive them that, it's always hard keeping websites up to date, and maybe their administrator is only just back from her Christmas Holiday.
But I was rather surprised that it was such an old prayer, written by the congregational Theologian P T Forsyth [1848 -1921] around a century ago. And the language was archaic - almost arcane - in places. But I thought I would share it, and some thoughts about it, this morning. Here it is - just four brief stanzas

Almighty Father, who knowest our downsitting and our uprising and art acquainted with all our ways, make us ever to be glad and rejoice before Thee.

Give us the tractable spirit of hope and love and of a sound mind. Take away from us all ungodly fear and all inhuman hate, all fretful temper and all dark self-will.

Clothe our lives with modest mirth and our age with the beauty of holiness. May our life begin, continue, and end with Thee.

Help us to take Jesus for our close companion and make men and women out of us in Him. Make us Thy blessed texts and write us like verses in Thy great Book of Life, for ever and ever. Amen

1- my computer autocorrected this first sentence "Father, who knowest our downsizing and our uprising" Maybe the Lord is reminding me that I do need to let go of more stuff. But also that sometimes I need to focus more on the spiritual and less on the stuff in my life.

2-when did you last use [or hear someone else use] the word tractable? I am aware that I can sometimes be quite intractable and stubborn about things. [ e.g. gentle inquiry from Bob - "Do you need help with opening that jar, Ang?" immediate response as I wrestle with stubborn lid "NO! I can manage!"] Less stubbornness and self-will, more hope, love and courage.

3-my favourite line in the whole prayer "Clothe our lives with modest mirth, and our age with the beauty of holiness". A good balance between humour and holiness ius needed at all times, if one is to maintain 'a sound mind' in this crazy world.

4- 'write us like verses in Thy great Book of Life' Spoken words are quickly forgotten- but when they are written down, they have a lasting quality. My Mum used to quote these lines 'Only one life, t'will soon be past, only what's done for Jesus will last'. At this new year begins, I am eager to focus on using my days wisely and well.


  1. I found this prayer really thought provoking.
    I think the archaic words help because it made me read more slowly and consider the meaning more carefully.
    Sometimes prayers and their language are so familiar that I find myself daydreaming through them.
    I shall write this one out which will help me to remember parts of it.
    Like you I thought the third stanza was a good one to heed in today's unfiltered noise.

  2. What a lovely prayer - and what a lovely response to it.

  3. I love this prayer and your thoughts on it, Angela. May we all have this prayer on our lips and in our hearts!

  4. I think it is a wonderful piece - our God does not change with our fads and fancies - the value in those words is amazing !

  5. Wonderful words - our God does not change with our fads and fancies - so much gets lost in modern language.

  6. I enjoyed reading the original prayer and your interpretation of it. I like the word, "downsitting"!


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