Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Earnest Prayer of a Soldier
The October days roll by, and the sections of the Lord’s Prayer pass me by, as well. The prayer I chose for today from The Oxford Book of Prayer concerns “Lead Us Not into Temptation.” (Prayer 395, page 119)  The prayer is in a section entitled Right Living.
O, Lord, I need all the help I can get.
The subtitle on this specific prayer is “Prayer of an unknown Confederate soldier.” I quote it in its entirety.
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for – but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoiled prayers were answered.
I am among all men, most richly blessed.
Poignant. Moving. Heart-breaking. All of these descriptive words, and so many more. Strength, contrasted with weakness. Health and infirmity, riches and poverty. Weakness as opposed to power? Life, and that abundantly. Truly, this earnest and worthy man was indeed richly blessed. May I be one quarter as blessed as this man.
A brief postscript: the Book of Prayer describes the author of this prayer as a Confederate soldier. Yes, that is a descriptor. However, it does not tell me what I really want to know. Was the man young? Old? Did he smile often, or was he serious? Was he married? Did he have children? What did he do before the war? Did he have a sense of humor? Was he scared at the thought of going into battle? Did he miss his hometown? What about brothers and sisters, other family members, friends, comrades?
In other words, who was this man? I know he was someone’s son. I suspect he was a faithful believer in God, since these words were probably not penned by a skeptic.
Like all others in this Book of Prayer, the author of this prayer was a child of God. Dear Lord, just as You heard this dear one’s prayer, written one hundred fifty years ago, hear mine. Hear me—hear others as we repeat his words. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.
 The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 119.