3 Ways to Pray Like a Saint

Though he died nearly 1600 years ago, Saint Augustine’s thoughts on prayer still ring true today.

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Posted in , Aug 27, 2019

Pray like Saint Augustine

I don’t think Guideposts would even exist without the model of a great writer and thinker who died nearly 1600 years ago, Saint Augustine. Augustine’s day on the liturgical calendar is August 28. But there's no need to wait till then to pray like and with him.

A deeply personal description of a journey to faith can be life changing. One of the first to write one down was Augustine in his magnificent Confessions.

I first read Augustine’s Confessions in college, and I confess I hurried through most of it, looking for the juicy parts. There is some of that, especially in his famous prayer, “God, make me chaste—but not yet.”

It is that sheer honesty that makes him so readable. Haven’t we all said prayers like that, crossing our fingers behind our backs? Wanting to change but not quite ready?

Augustine did finally convert to Christianity, becoming a firebrand of a preacher and church leader. One of the first to advocate against slavery (hundreds of years ahead of his time), he had a passionate faith. Here are three quotes from Augustine that I’ve found helpful for my prayer life.

1) God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.

It’s easy enough to get caught up in asking God for things without recognizing—and accepting—all the good God has already given us.

Prayer is a way to give up the busyness of our lives and empty ourselves to receive God’s blessings.

2) Prayer consists more in groaning than in speaking, in tears rather than in words…Our groaning is not hidden from Him who made all things by the word and does not need human words.

Sure, we all use words when we pray—Jesus certainly gave us a few—but in the end we are at a loss for words. Because God knows us better than we can know ourselves. 

So go ahead with the groaning and the tears. Be as honest as this long-ago saint.

3)  You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in You.

I used to wonder why God would want us to praise Him all the time. Is God really that insecure, always looking for compliments?

I think God delights in praise because it’s good for us. It’s a way to step back from human restlessness that’s superficial and tiresome and unnecessary. In praise, our restlessness finds its end.

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