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Prayer

Anselm’s Prayer to God

Anselm’s “Prayer to God” is a beautiful model prayer, which aims “to stir up the mind of the reader to love or fear of God, or to self-examination.”

Although he is best known for his ontological argument for the existence of God in the Proslogion, and for his classic articulation of the satisfaction view of the atonement in Cur Deus Homo, Anselm also left a rich legacy of prayers, written to help “ordinary” Christians pray.

He advises against feeling the need to read the whole prayer all the way through. Nor is it necessary to begin at the beginning; rather, we can start and finish wherever works for us on any particular occasion. The goal is to stir ourselves up to pray, and so he recommends that we read his prayers “little by little, with attention and deep meditation.”

Almighty God, merciful Father, and my good Lord,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Grant me forgiveness of my sins.
Make me guard against and overcome
all snares, temptations, and harmful pleasures.

May I shun utterly in word and in deed,
whatever you forbid,
and do and keep whatever you command.
Let me believe and hope, love and live,
according to your purpose and your will.

Give me heart piercing goodness and humility;
discerning abstinence and mortification of the flesh.
Help me to love you and pray to you,
praise you and meditate upon you.
May I act and think in all things according to your will,
purely, soberly, devoutly,
and with a true and effective mind.
Let me know your commandments, and love them,
carry them out readily, and bring them into effect.
Always, Lord, let me go on with humility to better things and never grow slack.

Lord, do not give me over
either to my human ignorance and weakness
or to my own deserts,
or to anything, other than your loving dealing with me.
Do you yourself in kindness dispose of me,
my thoughts and actions, according to your good pleasure,
so that your will may always be done
by me and in me and concerning me.

Deliver me from all evil
and lead me to eternal life
through the Lord.

From THe Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion, trans. Sister Benedicta Ward (Penguin, 1973).