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

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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