Introductory Note:

Richard Foster writes of Søren Kierkegaard’s prayers: It is a wonderful thing to see a first-rate philosopher at prayer. Tough-minded thinking and tenderhearted reverence are friends, not enemies.

The prayer shared here models not only Kierkegaard’s tender reverence for God but also his deep desire to do only God’s will. He speaks of the struggle involved: “Each day, and day after day something is being placed in between... So in this time of repentance may You give the courage once again to will one thing.”

In Devotional Classics, Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith suggest praying these words as if they are your own. Perhaps Kierkegaard’s words can help us identify barriers, ask for courage, and receive the grace we need to choose God’s agenda over our own.

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Devotional Classics

Father in Heaven! What are we without You! What is all that we know, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if we do not know You! What is all our striving, could it ever encompass a world, but half-finished work if we do not know You: You the One, who is one thing and who is all!

So may You give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills only one thing. In prosperity may You grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing. 

You that gives both the beginning and the completion, may You early, at the dawn of day, give to the young the resolution to will one thing. As the day wanes, may You give to the old a renewed remembrance of their first resolution, that the first may be like the last, the last like the first, in possession of a life that has willed only one thing.

Alas, but this has indeed not come to pass. Something has come in between. The separation of sin lies between. Each day, and day after day something is being placed in between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption. So in this time of repentance may You give the courage once again to will one thing. True, it is an interruption of our ordinary tasks; we do lay down our work as though it were a day of rest when the penitent is alone before You in self-accusation. 

This is indeed an interruption. But it is an interruption that searches back into its very beginnings that it might bind up anew that which sin has separated, that in its grief it might atone for lost time, that in its anxiety it might bring to completion that which lies before it.

You that gives both the beginning and the completion, give your victory in the day of need so that what neither our burning wish nor our determined resolution may attain to, may be granted unto us in the sorrowing of repentance: to will only one thing.

Lord! Make our heart Your temple in which You live. Grant that every impure thought, every earthly desire might be like the idol Dagon-each morning broken at the feet of the Ark of the Covenant. Teach us to master flesh and blood and let this mastery of ourselves be our bloody sacrifice in order that we might be able to say with the Apostle: I die every day.”

Suggested Exercises

The following exercises can be done by individuals, shared between spiritual friends, or used in the context of a small group. Choose one or more of the following.

1. Turn Kierkegaard’s prayers into your prayers during your times of devotion. Pray them slowly, savoring each phrase, considering its meaning, and lifting it to God as the cry of your own heart.

2. A central theme of Kierkegaard’s writings is that of willing one thing. That one thing for Kierkegaard was to seek first the kingdom of God, to remain committed to God in all that he did. Simplify your life this week by concentrating on this one thing, knowing that all that you need will be added unto you.

3. Kierkegaard seamlessly injected prayer into his work as a philosopher. Each morning this week compose a prayer specifically for your work.

Taken from Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups (Richard J. Foster & James Bryan Smith, Editors. HarperCollins, 1993.).

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Text First Published June 2005 · Last Featured on March 2022