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I’m always on the look out for good materials to shape and inform my prayer life. As an individual Christian wanting to pray more effectively, and as one who must lead others in prayer, I’ve benefited from many of the forms and patterns handed down by our fathers in the faith. One example--and one that I’ve used from time to time in our churchwide prayer meetings--comes from the fourth-century work The Constitution of the Holy Apostles.

The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (or Apostolic Constitutions) is a collection of materials on church life, order, and liturgy. The Apostolic Constitutions comprises eight books, from different times and places, put together in one volume in the fourth century. Books 7 and 8 contain a number of prayers, including a "bidding prayer for the faithful" (what Christians ought to pray for) and a "form of prayer for the faithful" (a liturgical example to be read by one of the church officers).

I've taken the "bidding prayer" and divided it into 18 categories. I skipped a few prayers that seemed less pertinent and cleaned up some of the old language. The wording is still close to the original, showing us how many ancient Christians prayed and what they prayed for. The prayers are not literally apostolic (i.e., the book was not authored by the Apostles), but they do give us a sense for the how the church prayed in the centuries following the Apostles. I think you’ll find the list below still remarkably relevant.

A Bidding Prayer for the Faithful

1. Peace and Happiness

Let us pray for the peace and happy settlement of the world, and of the holy churches; that the God of the whole world may afford us His everlasting peace, and such as may not be taken away from us.

2. Worldwide Church

Let us pray for the Church which is spread from one end of the earth to the other; that God would preserve and keep it unshaken, and free from the waves of this life, until the end of the world, as founded upon a rock; and for the holy parish in this place, that the Lord of the whole world may vouchsafe us without failure to follow after His heavenly hope, and without ceasing to pay Him the debt of our prayer.

3. Elders

And let us pray for our elders, that the Lord may deliver them from every unreasonable and wicked action, and afford them an eldership in health and honor.

4. Deacons

Let us pray for all the deacons and servants in Christ, that the Lord may grant them a blameless worthy ministry.

5. The Needy

Let us pray for the widows and orphans.

6. Family Life

Let us pray for those that are in marriage and in child-bearing, that the Lord may have mercy upon them all.

7. Singles

Let us pray for those in a state of singleness that the Lord make grant them purity and piety.

8. Industry and Generosity

Let us pray for those that bear fruit in the holy Church, and give alms to the needy.

9. Young Christians

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters new to the faith, that the Lord may strengthen and confirm them.

10. Sick Christians

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters exercised with sickness, that the Lord may deliver them from every sickness and every disease, and restore them sound into His holy Church.

11. Traveling Mercies

Let us pray for those that travel by water or by land.

12. Prisoners

Let us pray for those that are in prisons, and in danger for the name of the Lord. Let us pray for those that are afflicted with slavery and bitter servitude.

13. Our Enemies

Let us pray for our enemies and those that hate us.

14. Persecution

Let us pray for those that persecute us for the name of the Lord, that the Lord may pacify their anger, and scatter their wrath against us.

15. Conversion

Let us pray for those that are outside the church and those wandering from the way, that the Lord may convert them.

16. Children

Let us be mindful of the infants and children of the Church, that the Lord may perfect them in His fear and bring them to maturity.

17. Deliver Us From the Evil One

Let us pray one for another, that the Lord may keep us and preserve us by His grace to the end, and deliver us from the evil one, and from all the scandals of those that work iniquity, and preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom.

18. Final Dedication

Let us pray for every Christian soul. Save us, and raise us up, O God, by your mercy. Let us rise up, and let us pray earnestly, and dedicate ourselves and one another to the living God, through His Christ.

Save

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15 thoughts on “Praying with the ‘Holy Apostles’”

  1. Yes prayer is very important, but I submit that alot of this list should be writen in parrellel using the theme of us Priesthood of all believers, as Ambassadors for Christ going out into the the local world to the edge of life to the gates of hell in peoples lives….Sharing the good news, visitng and helping the widows, the sick, the poor, the helpless, the prisoners, children in distress and standing against evil in this world and in heavilly places. Just as Jesus articulates in Luke Ch4…setting the captives free….This is the Kingdom of God with us in it doing what He has called us to do. Not very very complex but confronting

  2. David says:

    Hi Kevin,

    “Let us pray for all the deacons and servants in Christ, that the Lord may grant them a _blameworthy_ ministry.”

    Is that a typo?

    Regards,
    David

  3. Bob says:

    Re: David’s remark… the word in the original appears as “unblameable”

    Ref: http://www.bible.ca/history/fathers/ANF-07/anf07-49.htm#P7113_2381404

  4. Jph says:

    I looked up the original and it seems quite Catholic, is that why you changed the wording. It mentions the priests and Bishops and the laying on of hands..

    “Let us pray for the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which is spread from one end of the earth to the other;”

    What’s the deal?

  5. Neville Briggs says:

    This so called prayer has almost nothing in common with the spirit and message of the New Testament. It really looks like a manifesto for Christendom , which is a house built on the sand and is fast falling to pieces.
    The main thought of the composers of this piece appears to be a desire for secular comfort , safety and prosperity, when Jesus taught that the characteristic of the true discipleship would be self sacrifice, self denial and persecution in this world.

    When Jesus gave an example of prayer His number one thought was to worship God as the Father, the source of life, Jesus second thought was to pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
    If this prayer here does not mention the coming of the Kingdom then we might conclude that the author/ authors have completely missed the mission of Messiah and the vocation of the new creation.

    Sola Scriptura is said to be one of the pillars of the Reformation, doesn’t that mean that anything that is unsound in the light of scripture is unreliable and probably misleading.

    p.s. Re: no. 5, Does the NT tell us to pray for widows and orphans or does it tell us to take action and do something to help them.

  6. BruceS says:

    Neville, isn’t the answer to your ps question ‘Yes’? Which of these ‘groups’ of people are you suggesting we don’t pray for in intercessorary prayer (or if you like ‘Pastor’s prayer’? And to what end?
    Peace

  7. Neville Briggs says:

    I have not suggested not to pray for anybody.

  8. Dan says:

    actually Neville, you kinda did. you presented it as an either/or: “Does the NT tell us to pray for widows and orphans OR does it tell us to take action…” Your phrasing (and general comment on the article) implies the impetus to pray as a negative. If you’d wanted to be positive you could have said “we should pray for widows and orphans, but we should also take action…” Of course, that would have implied that there was something positive in what KDY wrote which doesn’t fit the narrative you historically portray on this site… (PS: you also seem to assume that KDY doesn’t do anything to help widows and orphans–again with the word “OR”. Do you have anything to back this up, or are you just slandering?)

  9. Jph says:

    This is also a “bidding” Prayer which is only a certain type of vocal prayer and not all encompassing of what we ought to pray for.

  10. Neville Briggs says:

    I don’t assume or comment anything about KDY, I commented on the patterns of the ancient writings ( I understand that is what it is, 4th century ?) . Please don’t make out that I say things that I don’t say.

    I do not think that the impetus to pray is negative. I have said no such thing.

    I am convinced that the example of prayer given by Jesus is our foundation for prayer. Jesus was greatly concerned about the fatherhood of God and the coming of the Kingdom and invited His followers to pray with that in mind. For some reason the unknown writers of the above prayers have left that out ( Father & Kingdom coming ), which is puzzling since Jesus was stating the fundamentals of God’s glorious plan of redemption. Surely that is something to pray about. Everything else follows.

    I have not portrayed prayer as a negative.

  11. Jph says:

    Dude, you realize there is more than 1 form of prayer? This is how the early church prayered for petitions. I also don’t think you are privy to what Jesus prayed for all the time. The apostles, however, did and they passed those prayers down to each other.

  12. BruceS says:

    “And let the Bishop say, God, who art great, and whose name is great, who art great in
    counsel, and mighty in works, the God and Father of thy holy child Jesus, our Saviour; look
    upon us, and upon this thy flock, which thou hast chosen through him, to the glory of thy
    name; and sanctify our body and our soul, and grant us the power to be made pure from all
    filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to obtain the good things laid up for us, and account no
    one of us unworthy; but be thou our Comforter, Helper, and Protector, through thy Christ,
    with whom glory, honor, praise, doxology, and thanksgiving be to thee, and to the Holy
    Spirit, forever.
    Amen.” (Apostolic Constitutions Bk 8 ch 13)
    When the bishop is to pray this after the bidding, Neville, does that meet your requirements?
    Peace

  13. I have always found pray and action should be side by side. eg you encounter a divine appointment ie God bumps you into someone in need, your not sure what that is so you ask Lord show me what I need to do here, the HS says listen to his story (his family is cold and hungry) so Ok Lord I will help them solve that problem or as it happend to me a few weeks a women in distress, Lord let me know what I need to do here? Listen to her story……she has just faced death and cant sleep and work because of trauma….help her. Listening and doing they go hand in hand. As Neville suggeted “for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. So whats that listen to Him and act..grace, mercy, justice and compassion delivered through prayer and action. Gods Kingdom has come through this!

  14. Very edifying! Tks pastor!

  15. Gregory Martha Herr Obl.S.B. says:

    Jph: Yes, it is quite Catholic. Horrifyingly so. Reminds me why I will, on occasion, refer to myself as
    Horrifyingly Catholic.

    An interesting excerpt to do a little excavation on is: “[But, without such observances,] assemble in
    the cemeteries, reading the holy books, and singing for the martyrs who are fallen asleep in
    the Lord, and for all the saints from the beginning of the world, and for your brethren that
    are asleep in the Lord; and offer the acceptable Eucharist, the representation of the royal
    body of Christ, both in your churches and in the cemeteries; and, at the funerals of the
    departed, accompany them forth with songs if they were faithful in Christ.”

    This sounds just like what we do each Sunday at Mass: “Let us pray for the holy Catholic and Apostolic church, which is spread from one end of the earth to the other…”

    Glad to be Catholic.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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