The Best Possible Prayer(s) You Can Think Of
May 21, 2009 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Spiritual-filter: What general prayers would you recommend to use on a regular basis?

So I have been, during the beginning of my break from college study, rediscovering my spiritual life and have been trying to set up a daily routine (like a morning and night prayer, along with prayer before meals). Specifically, having been raised Catholic, I have been rediscovering their teachings and practices (bought the 2/e Catechism yesterday for reference).

I have been deeply spiritually-hurt from and have been recovering from the ~recent scandals of the church (nationally and locally known), reasoning for recovery and rediscovery of faith and belief being I shouldn't let the sins of others effect my spiritual life and hopes of heaven after this life. This is just to provide a light background.

Thus my question for the ~religious, very religious, and every mefite in between: what prayers do you find on a regular basis to be providing the best spiritual lift/high? what prayers do you find to be most influential, most game changing, etc.?

Also, feel free to add anything else that might better direct one's soul (thoughts of the saints, great thinkers in theology, etc.)

Google searching failed me, knowing such a search brings about 100s of results and it is incredibly difficult to pick out the good ones. I figured I would ask the hive mind considering I would very likely get some pretty smart answers to this. Thanks!

PS: Leave the popular Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, along with the Acts of [] out of this. Same with psalms. They already rank quite high I would imagine. I appreciate it.
posted by JoeXIII007 to Religion & Philosophy (37 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, and much hard work.

May we eat in mindfulness, so as to be worthy to receive it.

May we transform our unskillful states of mind and learn to eat with moderation.

May the food we eat nourish us and prevent illness.

We accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.

(via students of Thich Nhat Hanh.)
posted by alms at 11:08 AM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Are you familiar with these? Prayer to the Wound on the Shoulder, the 5 Holy Wounds, the Precious Blood, the Crown of Thorns, the 14 Holy Helpers, or my personal favorite - the Infant of Prague?

Check your mefimail...
posted by goml at 11:18 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
posted by pracowity at 11:32 AM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have always been a fan of the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi. Not only are the lines about helping me, but its affects really center around helping those around me and making the world a better place. I also enjoy it because it work when on religious highs and lows. The idea of hope, love, peace, and improving on your own shortcomings are universal.
posted by jmd82 at 11:35 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm not religious, so this isn't a prayer to any God(s), but I appreciate calling to mind some of the phrases used in metta (lovingkindness) meditation.

May I accept this moment exactly as it is. May I accept myself exactly as I am. May I accept others exactly as they are. May I be at peace with myself and all beings.

For others, as well as yourself: May you be happy and peaceful. May you be safe and free from danger. May you be healthy and well. May you live with ease and joy.
posted by Cygnet at 11:38 AM on May 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

I like the website Sacred Space, which comes from a (Jesuit) Catholic tradition. You should check out the beautiful World Prayers website and archive.

Also, because I recommend it constantly to people who are kind of actively involved in thinking about spirituality, you might really like to tune into the public radio show Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. You won't hear prayers, because it's usually an interview format, but you learn about amazing and interesting books, resources, projects, denominations, websites, paths, you name it. Highly recommended - serious, smart, respectful, challenging, and thoughtful.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on May 21, 2009

Oh, and I've always been fond of this little prayer that Garrison Kiellor sometimes injects into his shows and stories:
Thank you for this good life, and forgive us if we do not love it enough.
posted by Miko at 11:40 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, and another beautiful one from the Buddhist tradition: Shantideva's bodhisattva vow. It's pretty, er, ambitious, but very nice to read I think.

May I be a protector to those without protection,
A leader for those who journey,
And a boat, a bridge, a passage
For those desiring the further shore.

May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.

Just like space
And the great elements such as earth,
May I always support the life
Of all the boundless creatures.

And until they pass away from pain
May I also be the source of life
For all the realms of varied beings
That reach unto the ends of space.
May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
posted by Cygnet at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A commonly used template for prayer (and one of the ones that I teach in my Bible study) uses the acronym ACTS:

A - Adoration: Telling God how awesome he is.
C - Confession: Telling God how I screwed up today.
T - Thanksgiving: Thanking God for salvation, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and blessings.
S - Supplication: Practicing humility by praying for others.

This basic template provides a nice framework, and the flexibility helps to prevent it from becoming rote.

As a side note, I have found that praying for other people almost always leaves me feeling spiritually satisfied.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:46 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

The Serenity Prayer — very common in 12 step recovery programs

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

posted by netbros at 11:52 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please help me remember that this, too, shall pass.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:59 AM on May 21, 2009

God, if you get me out of X, I'll never do Y again.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Third Step Prayer

God, I offer myself to Thee - To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life. May I do Thy will always.

11th Step Prayer (very similar to St Francis prayer)

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. That where there is hatred, I may bring love. That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness. That where there is discord, I may bring harmony. That where there is error, I may bring truth. That where there is doubt, I may bring faith. That where there is despair, I may bring hope. That where there are shadows, I may bring light. That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted. To understand, than to be understood. To love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
posted by wowbobwow at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have found meditation to be more spiritually uplifting than reciting prayers - or even going through an "outline" of a prayer form (thanking/asking) - for me, it is more beneficial when I still my mind, breath, and try to connect with The Source/God/Life
posted by mrmarley at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2009

The Lord's Prayer
posted by Rad_Boy at 12:18 PM on May 21, 2009

Best answer: Thank you.
When things are going well, thinking "Thank you" gives me a deeper sense of gratitude. When things aren't going so well, thinking or saying "Thank you" helps to put problems in perspective.
posted by calumet43 at 12:23 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh C'thulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."* Helps to give me a sense of perspective. Things could always be worse, much worse.

*In his house at R'lyeh dead C'thulhu waits dreaming.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

what prayers do you find to be most influential, most game changing, etc.?

A daily free-form prayer of thanksgiving.

Also game-changing for me has been St. Anthony's Bread via Franciscan Charities. Sometimes being Catholic makes me feel like Maximus in "Gladiator" when he prays to his little statues, and making a promise and a petition to St. Anthony is one of those times. But everything requires a little faith.

LOL solipsophistocracy - that, too.
posted by txvtchick at 12:49 PM on May 21, 2009

Best answer: Two beautiful "general" Christian prayers from the classical Book of Common Prayer:

A General Confession

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

A General Thanksgiving

ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may he unfeignedly thankful: and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
posted by adjockey at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I use Phyllis Tickle's "The Divine Hours" books for daily prayer. I highly recommend them. There's also lots of good material in 2000 Years of Prayer.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:30 PM on May 21, 2009

I'll second/third the Prayer of St. Francis. (Raised Catholic, now not religious at all.)
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 2:36 PM on May 21, 2009

I also recommend the Prayer of Saint Francis. My little Catholic Worker community says it every morning.

This site from a Jesuit university offers daily reflections, and this page hosts a 34-week online retreat you can begin at any time.

A Jesuit friend recommended the book Sadhana, a Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form, which is a good way to learn to pray.

Good luck with your prayer life. It's hard to go alone, and you may find that faith requires community. I'd highly recommend finding your own spiritual director - a mentor who can guide and teach you through this. If you want to stay within the Catholic tradition, many priests, nuns, and laypeople are available as spiritual directors. Find someone who suits you. The Catholic church is large, but it is not uniform. Be picky in choosing your community and pastor.
posted by Sfving at 2:47 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Book of Common Prayer has lots of wonderful, wonderful ones in it. I like the 1928 edition best. I've found the best sections to be the one for Family Prayer and the section of miscellaneous Prayers and Thanksgivings.

Some of my particular favorites:

Prayer for God’s Protection through the Night following.
IN particular, we beseech thee to continue thy gracious protection to us this night. Defend us from all dangers and mischiefs, and from the fear of them; that we may enjoy such refreshing sleep as may fit us for the duties of the coming day. And grant us grace always to live in such a state that we may never be afraid to die; so that, living and dying, we may be thine, through the merits and satisfaction of thy Son Christ Jesus, in whose Name we offer up these our imperfect prayers. Amen.

For Those in Mental Darkness.
O HEAVENLY Father, we beseech thee to have mercy upon all thy children who are living in mental darkness. Restore them to strength of mind and cheerfulness of spirit, and give them health and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A General Intercession.
O GOD, at whose word man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening; Be merciful to all whose duties are difficult or burdensome, and comfort them concerning their toil. Shield from bodily accident and harm the workmen at their work. Protect the efforts of sober and honest industry, and suffer not the hire of the labourers to be kept back by fraud. Incline the heart of employers and of those whom they employ to mutual forbearance, fairness, and good-will. Give the spirit of governance and of a sound mind to all in places of authority. Bless all those who labour in works of mercy or in schools of good learning. Care for all aged persons, and all little children, the sick and the afflicted, and those who travel by land or by sea. Remember all who by reason of weakness are overtasked, or because of poverty are forgotten. Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before thee; and according to the greatness of thy power, preserve thou those that are appointed to die. Give ear unto our prayer, O merciful and gracious Father, for the love of thy dear Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

For Every Man in his Work.
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who declarest thy glory and showest forth thy handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men; for the sake of him who came among us as one that serveth, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

There are a number of excellent weather and season related prayers in the "Prayers and Thanksgivings" section linked to above, but I think I've excerpted enough here!
posted by bubukaba at 2:49 PM on May 21, 2009

The Prayers of Kierkegaard are very good.
posted by pseudonick at 3:00 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I asked about this (supposedly) sanskrit prayer a while ago, to no avail. Still a nice prayer.

Look to this day
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
posted by shothotbot at 3:10 PM on May 21, 2009

Here is the Metta Sutra, the Buddha's lesson on loving kindness.

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
posted by shothotbot at 3:14 PM on May 21, 2009

Response by poster: Good luck with your prayer life. It's hard to go alone, and you may find that faith requires community. I'd highly recommend finding your own spiritual director - a mentor who can guide and teach you through this. If you want to stay within the Catholic tradition, many priests, nuns, and laypeople are available as spiritual directors. Find someone who suits you. The Catholic church is large, but it is not uniform. Be picky in choosing your community and pastor.

Thanks! I have actually found a couple good friends on the matter and who are part of the main reasons I am back in the swing of things (or at least approaching it).

Being picky is the indeed the hard part seeing that the church as a whole is certainly not uniform, my immediate family has bounced between 4 different churches within the 20 years of living in Ypsi, I am on my 5th (CTK out by Dominos Farms, and I have only been to prayer meetings).

Thanks for all the contributions, as always, keep 'm coming!!! And God Bless!
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:20 PM on May 21, 2009

Best answer: I don't pray so much as think, ponder, and reflect.

And sometimes sing. George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" is great for this, as is his "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)". A lot of his stuff comes from a very spiritual place. Then there's also "Day By Day" from GODSPELL.

as for the stuff I think, ponder, and reflect upon, I have a collection of "books from the worlds' religions' mystic traditions" set that a book club I belonged to once released -- I think it has the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bhagavad-Gita, excerpts from the Kabbalah, the Eastern Orthodox Christian work Way Of The Pilgrim, and a selection of poems from Rumi. I find I got to the Rumi book again and again for the sheer beauty of the words.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:11 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.
posted by Scoo at 5:27 PM on May 21, 2009

O God, refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.

O God, Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.

- 'Abdu'l-Baha (From the Baha'i Faith)
posted by 913 at 5:42 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just to nth the Prayer of St. Francis and combine it with music: Sarah McLachlan's lovely sung version of it.
posted by pised at 11:49 PM on May 21, 2009

Not religious at all, but, well, "This too shall pass" helps. No matter how bad something is, it ends. Things change. Life moves on. Not so much a prayer as a willingness to endure.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:40 AM on May 22, 2009

This prayer was on the fridge of my ex's sister, M. M's kids went to the local Catholic primary school.

I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, No.
It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No.
His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, No.
Patience is a by product of tribulations;
it isn't granted, it is learned.

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, No.
I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares
and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No.
You must grow on your own! ,
but I will prune you to make you fruitful.

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, No.
I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.

I ask God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said...Ahhhh, finally you have the idea.

M took her life not long after my ex and I visited her, and this is the prayer I remember her by.
posted by flutable at 5:19 AM on May 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Feather Mike Judge, a very practical man and a priest with the FDNY who died on 9/11, offered the following prayer:

Lord, take me where you want me to go
Let me meet who you want me to meet
Tell me what you want me to say
And keep me out of your way.

Speaking as an Irish/German Catholic from the Midwest, I also like St. Patrick's Breastplate, especially the last few lines:
It's pretty long, but it has a strong and affirmative voice, and it reminds me of Walt Whitman. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:16 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I usually sing a Te Deum whenever anything wonderful happens. Teach yourself your prayers in Latin (or some other language). Meditating upon the words one at a time is very beneficial and revealing.

Pick up a Liber Usualis or get it free online, which contains the Gregorian chants (and has an awesome introduction to teach everything you need to know about chant) and some CDs and learn to sing the great prayers of the Church. Almost all our prayers were at one point ancient songs with ancient melodies and it's really exciting to "re"-discover these and tap into the vein of the prayer of the early Church; as Augustine said at one point, 'qui cantat, bis orat' (he who sings prays twice).
posted by resurrexit at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2009

When our little girls were four and six, they were kind of spooked by the "Now I lay me down to sleep…" bedtime prayer. We told them that prayer was just talking to God, and that they were welcome to make up their own. They came up with this:

"Thank you God for this wonderful day, and for everything you've given us.
Please watch over us tonight, and please make everybody happy. Amen."

I think that about covers it.
posted by dinger at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Speaking as an Irish/German Catholic from the Midwest, I also like St. Patrick's Breastplate...

Oh, yes! This is another one I've thought of at times -- well, in my case it's the excerpt that Madeline L'Engle nicked for one of her books:

"In this hour
I call on all heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all of the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness --
All these I place
By God's almighty help and grace
Between myself and the power of darkness."

....That's a paraphrase/retranslation of the original. Stricter translations are actually better, I find -- there's a starkness to the language that gets me every time. As, actually it does with other Celtic-Christian texts.

Fun fact: the other name for St. Patrick's Breastplate is "The Deer's Cry," after a tradition that St. Patrick claimed that reciting that before he traveled had the power to make his enemies mistake St. Patrick and his followers for deer instead of people.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 PM on May 22, 2009

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