One of the coolest parts about being Catholic is the rich treasury of 2,000 years worth of prayers penned by some of the holiest and most virtuous men and women who have walked the planet. The prayers of the Church's saints are simply sublime, formed like a precious jewel through the fire of trials and temptations they endured.
One of the easiest ways to access many of these timeless prayers and incorporate them into your own prayer life is through Catholic prayer books. Like a songwriter who picks just the right lyrics to express your thoughts and emotions, the saints pick just the right words to express your heart's deepest response to God. You may be surprised at what prayers you will identify with the most, which ones resonate with you and touch you deeply, so I encourage you to use Catholic prayer books if you don't already.
Below is a prayer that struck me deeply the first time I read it while praying with a Catholic prayer book. I love it because in it is everything I need to ask of God for a life well-lived, well-ordered, and well-loved. Despite its long length, this prayer is so simple. Every time I read this prayer it sinks a little deeper into my heart and becomes more and more like my own voice as my life experiences color the words. This is the kind of prayer that you want to cross-stitch and hang in the hallway. I hope to commit it to memory one day.
The Universal Prayer
(attributed to Pope Clement XI)
Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.
I worship you as my first beginning,
I long for you as my last end,
I praise you as my constant helper,
and call on you as my loving protector.
Guide me by your wisdom,
correct me with your justice,
comfort me with your mercy,
protect me with your power.
I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
my words: to have you for their theme;
my actions: to reflect my love for you;
my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
I want to do what you ask of me:
in the way you ask,
for as long as you ask,
because you ask it.
Lord, enlighten my understanding,
strengthen my will,
purify my heart,
and make me holy.
Help me to repent of my past sins
and to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weaknesses
and to grow stronger as a Christian.
Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
and see myself as I really am:
a pilgrim in this world,
a Christian called to respect and love
all whose lives I touch,
those in authority over me
or those under my authority,
my friends and my enemies.
Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,
greed by generosity,
apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself
and reach out toward others.
Make me prudent in planning,
courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.
Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer,
temperate in food and drink,
diligent in my work,
Let my conscience be clear,
my conduct without fault,
my speech blameless,
my life well-ordered.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me,
keep your law,
and come at last to your salvation.
Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
that my true future is the happiness of heaven,
that life on earth is short,
and the life to come eternal.
Help me to prepare for death,
with a proper fear of judgment,
but a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death
to the endless joy of heaven.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Do you have a favorite Catholic prayer book that you use? Which prayer in it resonates with you the most?
Copyright 2012 Gretchen Filz
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