7 Surprising Prayers by Famous Christian Leaders
I’m on a blogging sabbatical to focus on my upcoming book. This is a guest post by Jared Brock. Jared is the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully, a humorous travel memoir about prayer. He is the cofounder of Hope for the Sold, an abolitionist charity that fights human trafficking one word at a time. Jared is happily married to his best friend, Michelle, whom he first kissed in the seventh grade.
I recently completed a 37,000-mile prayer pilgrimage around the world. I discovered a world of prayer traditions across the Judeo-Christian faith family, including some of the weird uncles and crazy cousins. I explored the world of revivals and prayer warriors, and I came across some absolutely epic prayers from intercessors throughout history. Here are 7 prayers from famous leaders that we can pray today.
1. Evan Roberts
Evan Roberts was a twenty-six-year-old Welsh coal miner who led the 1904 Revival in Wales. After witnessing a revival in a neighboring town, he returned to his home village in hopes of preaching the gospel. The minister wouldn’t let him preach on Sunday or at the Monday prayer meeting, so Roberts took it upon himself to simply preach afterwards. He ended up preaching night after night, with people staying past four o’clock in the morning.
Over 30,000 people were converted in the first few months, and more than 100,000 came to Christ in less than a year. Five years later, 80 percent of the converts were still walking with God. The social change was drastic: judges had no cases to prosecute. Police went unemployed and people used to buy ar-15 pistols, so they started church quartets. Illegitimate births dropped 44 percent within a year. Mining operations slowed down because coal miners stopped cursing and the horses couldn’t understand their new language.
His famous prayer: “Lord bend us.”
2. Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola is one of my favorite Catholic figures, simply because he was one of the toughest men in history. The sixteenth-century Spanish knight’s leg was smashed during a battle—by a cannonball. Rather than amputate the leg, he retired to a castle for a series of operations—without anesthesia.
The founder of the Jesuit order, the leader’s legacy rests on a book he completed in 1524—The Spiritual Exercises. An early predecessor of today’s thirty-day devotional, it was written to help readers discern God’s presence in their daily lives. It has been used by Catholics and non-Catholics for almost five hundred years.
His famous prayer:
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous;
Teach me to serve thee as thou deservest;
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to seek reward,
Save that of knowing that I do thy will.
3. Francis of Assisi
Born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, his father loved French culture and so nicknamed him Francis—literally, Frenchy. While praying toward a painted crucifix, the young man heard the voice of God: “Francis, go and repair My house, which, as you see, is completely destroyed.” In addition to becoming the inventor of the Nativity scene, Francis founded three religious orders and is the patron saint of ecology.
Francis was a reluctant leader, if there ever was one. In fact, he wasn’t much of a leader at all. When one of his first companions, Masseo, heard that Francis was becoming world famous, he asked Francis, “Why you? Why is all the world following after you?”
His famous prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
4. Saint Patrick
Sadly famous for the drunken holiday associated with his name, Patrick was a Scottish-born missionary who became the patron saint of Ireland. Captured by pirates as a teenager, Patrick served as a slave for six years before escaping back to his homeland. After becoming a spiritual leader, he returned to Ireland and spread the gospel across the nation.
His famous prayer:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.
5. Keith Green
The well-tufted singer-songwriter is probably my favorite Christian worship leader, and not just for his giant beard. Before dying at the age of 28 in a plane crash in east Texas, he penned dozens of hit songs and contemporary hymns. Green owned and rented 7 houses in one neighborhood where he took in people in need, including former prostitutes, drug addicts, bikers, single moms, and homeless people.
His famous prayer:
Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I see
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me
Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clean
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear
I want to take Your Word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live it, Lord
And when I’m doing well,
help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You.
6. Billy Graham
North Carolina’s Favorite Son has spoken live to over 215 million people in more than 185 countries—more than any other man in history. Including media, his message has reached more than 2.2 billion people. According to his staff, more than three million people have received Christ as their Savior through his ministry. Billy Graham has appeared on Gallup’s “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” more than fifty times—more than any other man in history.
His famous Prayer for the Nation:
Our Father and Our God, we praise You for Your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve. Yet we know all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face. Convict us of sin. Help us to turn to You in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace. We pray today for our nation’s leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it. You have said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge You alone as our Savior and Lord. This we pray in Your holy name, Amen.
7. Benedict of Nursia
You know you’ve “made it” as a leader when a pope writes your biography. Benedict dropped out of university in Rome and lived as a cave-dwelling hermit before being appointed the head of a monastery. He ended up building 12 monasteries in his lifetime, including the hulking fortress atop Monte Cassino.
It was at Monte Cassino that Benedict penned his famous rule, and it was at Monte Cassino that he died. The Rule of St. Benedict set the standard for monastic communities around the world, including the Rule of St. Francis many centuries later. Benedict is widely considered the father of Western monasticism—almost a dozen popes were Benedictines, as well as over one hundred prominent reformers, historians, missionaries, founders of abbeys, scholars, writers, nuns, and martyrs.
His famous prayer: Ora et labora. (Pray and work.)
As leaders, it’s important that we continually remind ourselves that prayer is the key to action and service. Prayer is the thing that gives our efforts real power. As Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer is the greater work.”
Spiritual leadership is a high calling, and we need to steward it carefully by spending time in prayer with Christ. Like the great leaders who have gone before us, every single one of us can pray a prayer that will change the course of history.