In the school of prayer with Anselm

Anselm of Canterbury, also called Anselm of Aosta after his birthplace and Anselm of Bec after his monastery, was a Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian of the Catholic Church, who held the office of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 till his death in 1109. (Wikipedia)

In 2015 the current Archbishop of Canterbury, set up the Community of St Anthem, to bring together Christians aged 20 to 35 from many countries and cultures, and many church denominations and traditions for 10 months under a shared Rule of Life focused on prayer, study and service to the most vulnerable in society.

Most of us are not in the right age bracket or circumstances to join the Community of St Anselm ourselves. There’s nothing stopping us from joining them in spirit, though. Here’s some material to get you started.

Theology as prayer

About Anselm’s development as a writer on spiritual matters, Eugene Peterson writes:

“[Anselm] had written his Monologian, setting forth the proofs of God’s existence with great brilliance and power. It is one of the stellar theological achievements in the West. Then he realized that however many right things he had said about God, he had said them in the wrong language. He rewrote it all in a Proslogian (ed. Latin for Discourse), converting [talking about God] into [talking with God]: first-person address, an answer to God, a personal conversation with the personal God. The Proslogian is theology as prayer.” (from The Gift: Reflections on Christian Ministry, p. 93)

Call to prayer

The Proslogian begins with this call to prayer:

Come now … leave behind for a time your preoccupations; seclude yourself for a while from your disquieting thoughts. Turn aside now from heavy cares, and set aside your wearisome tasks. Make time for God, and rest a while in Him. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind; shut out everything except God and what is of aid to you in seeking Him; after closing the chamber door, seek Him out.

Together, one-on-one with God.

You can find the full text of the Proslogian here.

A prayer

based on Anselm’s writings

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
Gather your little ones to you, O God,
as a hen gathers her brood to protect them.

from A Service for Mothering Sunday from the Church of England website.

Digging deeper

Article: “St. Anselm of Canterbury: Scholarship Rooted in Prayer” by John P. Bequette

Article: “Faith Seeking Understanding” featuring Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on St. Anselm from September 2009 (900th anniversary of Anselm’s death).

See also “In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin” and “In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew

For all the saints

Fellow presbyters in Malta, waiting for the bus (Photo: Irene Bom)

A prayer

For all the saints who went before us
who have spoken to our hearts and touched us with your fire,
we praise you, O God.

For all the saints who live beside us
whose weaknesses and strengths are woven with our own,
we praise you, O God.

For all the saints who live beyond us
who challenge us to change the world with them,
we praise you, O God.

by Janet Morley. Posted on the RevGalBlogPal’s A Place for Prayer.


I’m just back from the Presbytery meeting in Malta, where I had the opportunity to speak about this blog and get people excited about using it and even contributing to it.

I have a guest post lined up from Israel for later this month, and a number of the saints in the Presbytery have agreed to help me with a daily series of posts for Advent. I’m excited.

How good, how pleasant

The theme for October is “Together”.

To kick things off, a psalm that celebrates the rich blessing that flows from life-giving relationships amongst God’s people.

Psalm 133

A song of ascents. Of David.

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life for evermore.

Digging deeper

On the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website I found this article on Psalm 133 in the “Psalms for Families: Devotions for All Ages” series. All ages … that includes me and you.

A prayer

after St Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200–258)

Lord, we pray for the unity of your Church.
Help us to see ourselves as rays from the one sun,
branches of a single tree,
and streams flowing from one river.
May we remain united to you and to each other,
because you are our common source of life;
and may we send out your light
and pour forth your flowing streams over all the earth,
drawing our inspiration and joy from you.

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #527

Note: Congregations in the International Presbytery are invited to participate in a special Presbytery Prayer Focus for the 5 Sundays in October. The Aim: to join together in prayer for Presbytery-related matters and to strengthen the bonds between congregations with Presbytery as a whole, and Presbyters and congregations with each other.

For more information, click here.

Protection for hearts and minds

Quaker Meeting House, Edinburgh (Photo: Irene Bom)

When we worry, we leave ourselves vulnerable to attack. Here is Paul’s remedy to ensure defenses are in place so we can rest secure:

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

For more posts on the theme of Refuge, click here.

3 Prayers for Refugees


Refuge … refugee …

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) website:


We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.

An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

In a world where nearly 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution, our work at UNHCR is more important than ever before.

189,300 refugees were resettled in 2016.


Last month I published a post entitled “3 Prayers for Wayfarers”. In some sense refugees are wayfarers too, but not by choice.

Here are 3 prayers to help us keep on praying and not lose heart (Luke 18:1-8); despite the size of the problem; despite the seemingly impossible hurdles to providing those forced to leave their homes with genuine “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Also pray for the work of the UNHCR and other agencies, big and small, seeking to make a difference: for creative solutions, real breakthroughs, and grace.

A prayer from Sudan, 21st century

Lord Jesus,
many of us are waiting for you:
the war-torn are waiting for peace,
the hungry are waiting for bread,
the refugees are waiting for a homeland,
the sick are waiting for healers.
Have you forgotten us?
O Lord, come quickly, we pray.

Posted on Bruce Prewer’s Homepage.

African Prayer for Refugees

O Brother Jesus
who as a child was carried into exile,
remember all those who are deprived
of their home or country,
who groan under burden of anguish and sorrow,
enduring the burning heat of the sun,
the freezing cold of the sea,
or the humid heat of the forest,
searching for a place of refuge.
Cause these storms to cease, O Christ.
Move the hearts of those in power
that they may respect the men and women
whom you have created in your own image;
that the grief of refugees may be turned into joy.

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #452

For the Courage to Do Justice

O Lord,
open our eyes that we may see the needs of refugees;
open our ears that we may hear people’s cries for justice;
open our hearts that we may assist sojourners near and far.

Show us where love, hope and faith are needed.
Use us as ministers of your healing.
Let us not be afraid
to protect the weak because of the anger of the strong,
or to defend the poor because of the power of the rich.

Sustain us so that in these coming days
we may be able to do some work of peace for you.
We ask these things in your blessed name.

from The Uprooted Ones: Remembering Refugees (Uniting Church in Australia), in Welcoming the Stranger, posted on the Minnesota Council of Churches website.

Theme: Shelter under His wings

This prayer sheet is inspired by the September 2017 theme of the month: Refuge.

The psalmist says,

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, because I come to you for safety. In the shadow of your wings I find protection until the raging storms are over.”

(Psalm 57:1, GNT)

These prayers are a response to God’s gracious invitation to us to seek shelter “under his wings” and to bring others to safety.

For personal use or to share.

Continue reading “Theme: Shelter under His wings”

God of grace

The World News in Prayer entry for this week weaves together the particulars of current events with the John Newton song Amazing Grace in a prayer to the God of grace, relief and safety.

You can find the prayer here.

Why not use one of your favourite hymns as an inspiration for prayer this week?

See also: Balm to heal the world

Circle me, Lord

Women’s Day 2016, Rome (Photo: Irene Bom)

Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers, will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.

(Psalm 91:4, The Voice)

When early Celtic Christians felt physically or spiritually threatened they turned to the Caim or “encircling” prayer as an act of faith in God as our refuge and protection.

Here’s what the book, Celtic Daily Prayer (p. 305-306), has to say about this versatile form of prayer incorporating both spoken word and a simple ritual:


When words get in the way and it seems impossible to focus, the caim or “encircling” prayer can often be helpful. Draw a circle clockwise around yourself, using the right index finger as you say the prayer; this symbolizes the encircling love of God. (The situation may make this physical action impractical; in which case see the action in your mind’s eye as you pray.) See yourself and others encircled and be aware that the living God surrounds and encloses with His love, care and protection.


Two examples of caim prayers taken from Celtic Daily Prayer to outline the format. Substitute the words in italics as appropriate.

Circle (name), Lord
Keep (comfort) near
and (discouragement) afar.
Keep (peace) within
and (turmoil) out.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep protection near
and danger afar.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep hope within,
keep despair without.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep light near
and darkness afar.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep peace within
and anxiety without.

The eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit
shield (name) on every side.

A video in which 6-year-old Elliot shares how encircling prayer has helped him.

Who in your life needs to be encircled by the Eternal, Sacred Three? Why not pause and pray for them right now?

Note: The original Celtic Daily Prayer compiled by the Northumbria Community is now Book One of a two-volume series.

See also: Ancient Irish Prayer.


Bird houses from recycled billboards* (Photo: Irene Bom)

Hear Jesus’ gracious invitation in John 15:4a: “Abide in me, and I in you.” (King James Version) Or, to put it another way, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.” (The Message)

Somehow the word “abide” has the word “refuge” built in. An invitation to make refuge in God a constant, not just in crisis moments.

Here is a prayer by way of response.

In the awareness of your presence,
Beneath the shadow of your wings,
In the closeness of your love,
     May we abide.

In the fellowship of your saints,
In the communion of the faithful,
In the church called to mission,
     May we abide.

In the power of your love,
In the fullness of your gifts,
In the guidance of your wisdom,
     May we abide.

from The Open Gate: Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually
by David Adam, p. 98

see also To Emmaus and back

* bird houses made by my brother, Michael

A very present help in trouble

“More fear” billboard, Amsterdam (Photo: Irene Bom)

The theme of the month for September is “Refuge”. For the first post in this series I’ve selected a Call to Worship by Joanna Haradar posted on the Spacious Faith website in 2013, inspired by Psalm 46. The words could have been written yesterday.

Call to Worship

inspired by Psalm 46

The earth shakes, the mountains quake
  — tempting our hearts to fear.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Storms rage, winds swirl
  — destroying schools, hospitals, homes.
Still, God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Violence comes to light in our communities
and violence continues around the world
  — causing us to wonder if our prayers for peace are futile.
Yet God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

For those mourning and rebuilding after the storms,
God is their refuge.
For those living in fear of their neighbours,
God is present.
For the distraught and displaced and dismembered
in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere,
God is a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear.
Therefore, we will lay down our weapons
and worship our God.

In case you were curious about the last line, in her blogpost Joanna Haradar writes:

*A note on the last line of the call to worship: Psalm 46:10 is generally translated as, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew term translated as “be still” (raphah) more accurately means “let drop, let go, abandon.” It is a call for disarmament, not a request for silent meditation.