5 Ways to Improve Your Prayers

The prayers of Lancelot Andrewes suggest new and beautiful ways to pray that will bless you and all for whom you pray.

Posted in , Aug 27, 2018

Woman praying

Who taught you to read? Add and subtract? Cook? Drive a car? Play checkers? Use a computer?

Most of us have had tutors and mentors in many different areas. Some were our parents or grandparents, others were teachers, coaches and so on. But few of us have had someone teach us to pray.

Maybe that’s because prayer is such a private, and often solitary, exercise. Or maybe it’s because prayer is an area in which we think we should already be adept, so we are reluctant to ask for help. Whatever the reason, we don’t have to stumble in the dark, so to speak. Mentors and teachers in prayer are abundant, if we know where to look. One of my prayer mentors is a man named Lancelot.

Lancelot Andrewes was an Anglican bishop during the Elizabethan and Jacobean age. He was among the most influential church leaders of his day and was one of the translators of the King James Version of the Bible. He was renowned for his preaching, but it is his prayers that have had the most lasting impact, primarily through his written “private devotions,” which are stirring examples and masterpieces of the art of prayer. By simply reading them, we can learn to pray better, primarily in five ways:

1)  Write some of your prayers
Andrewes wrote his daily prayers, in an age when paper and ink were scarcer commodities than they are today. I imagine the exercise focused his mind and heart and empowered his praying in much the same way that writing (by hand or by keyboard) can do the same for us today.

2)  Pray daily and systematically
Andrewes’s prayers were recorded in a daily cycle of adoration, confession of sin, prayer for grace, confession of faith, intercession and thanksgiving. It’s easy for us to see, as we read his prayers 400 years later, how the flow of his thoughts and the issues of his heart drew him closer to God. 

3)  Pray thoroughly
Andrewes’s prayers exhibit a thoughtful and thorough sensitivity that often seems to have left no mental or spiritual stone unturned. The following excerpt is just one example, among many:

Helper of the helpless,
Hope of the homeless,
The Strength of those tossed with tempests,
The Haven of those who sail:
Be all to all.

Be within us, to strengthen us;
without us, to keep us;
above us, to inspire us;
beneath us, to uphold us;
before us, to direct us;
behind us, to propel us;
around us, to sustain us.
Be all to all in present need.

4)  Pray biblically
Unsurprisingly (not only for a pastor and preacher but also for someone who translated whole sections of the Bible into English), Andrewes’s prayers are replete with biblical allusions and quotations, such as:

let me learn to abound, let me learn to suffer need,
in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content;
for nothing earthly, temporal, corruptible,
let me ever long or wait.

5)  Pray gratefully
One of the things I love most about prayer mentors like Lancelot Andrewes are the ways they express thoughts I’ve never expressed—probably never even thought! For example, the following excerpt suggests numerous new reasons to be grateful to God, such as for the blessings of past, present and future: 

O Lord, my Lord, for my being, life, reason,
for nurture, protection, guidance,
for education, civil rights, religion,
for Thy gifts of grace, nature, worldly good,
for redemption, regeneration, instruction,
for my call, recall, yea, many calls besides;
for Thy forbearance, longsuffering,
long longsuffering toward me,
many seasons, many years, even until now;
for all good things received, successes granted me, good deeds done;
for the use of things present, for Thy promise, and my hope of the enjoyment of good things to come;
for my parents honest and good,
teachers kind,
benefactors never to be forgotten,
fellow-ministers who are of one mind,
hearers thoughtful,
friends sincere,
domestics faithful;
for all who have advantaged me by writings, sermons, conversations, prayers, examples, rebukes, injuries;
for all these, and all others which I know, which I know not....

Whether you have prayer mentors or not, the prayers of Lancelot Andrewes can inform, enrich and suggest new and beautiful ways to pray that will bless you and all for whom you pray.


The above prayers are excerpted from Lancelot Andrewes and His Private Devotions by Alexander Whyte.

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