The Writer’s Prayer

Mainly because he isn’t around to defend himself, I am going to take issue today with the great Saint Augustine of Hippo.*

Intellectually and spiritually I know he would eat my lunch, so I waited sixteen hundred years after his death to be sure it was safe.

Also, since Augustine didn’t speak and write in English, but Latin, I assume his writing lost something in the translation.

If he were to come after me somehow, I can plead, “me non intelligent” which is Latin for “Huh?”

Have you ever heard or used this phrase to motivate someone to action or bring a perspective to a situation? Augustine wrote:

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

I have to be honest the statement has always bothered me.

Not along ago, I was speaking with a person who shared a difficult problem and said, “I have been praying about it, but I thought there must be something more I could do than just pray.”

More than a few times either I have or someone else has said, “All I can do is pray,” when they are at a loss what to do otherwise.

As if prayer was a last resort after we exhausted all the stuff we could do.

With all due respect to the great Augustine, the weakness of his statement is that it might be perceived as attempting to put hard work and fervent prayer on the same level.  It probably resonates with American Christians, because it supports the Judeo-Christian work ethic.

However, the key to truly understanding the balance between work and prayer is knowing a conversation with an eternal God has infinite potential for impacting lives, whereas our work is extremely finite.

Comparing our total effort to the abundance of God’s power is not even close.

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” It’s just fine to say, as long as you understand the infinite scope of the former and the limited effect of the latter.

Writing is hard work. It is never easy and natural. As a matter of fact, many Christian authors experience direct spiritual attack from the enemy of their souls during the writing process, in addition to the struggle of writing itself.

So today, I want to suggest some prayers for authors. We spend a lot of blog-space helping you navigate the work part. I thought suggesting some elements to help you pray would be appropriate.

  • Heavenly Father, as I sit before this keyboard, my desire is to honor you and give great glory to your name. May the words I type be acceptable to you. 
  • Jesus, you walked among us and so you know how hard it is to live on this earth. Help me today to lighten the load for someone who is struggling, needs encouragement or direction. Maybe that person is me. 
  • Holy Spirit, you are right here with me. I ask you to provide a covering against the enemy. Your power is far beyond anything we could ever imagine. 
  • Lord God, as I sit and write today, I think about all the other things I should be doing and I wonder why you gave me this desire to write. Clear my mind and heart so what I write can be used by you. 
  • Jesus, you made everything and existed before time itself. Help me never to forget this when I reach the end of my effort and myself so you can take my feeble work and multiply it infinitely. 
  • Holy Spirit, you are working in lives of people right now who don’t know you or even care to know you. You continue to work in their hearts, drawing people to you. Allow my work to come along side yours and be used by you. 
  • Creator God, you made centipedes, oak trees, mountains and snow. Your creativity is endless, timeless, boundless and downright amazing. While I run out of ideas, you never do. You are God and I am not, but take my words as an offering of praise. 
  • Jesus Christ, son of God, when Joseph trained you to work with your hands, did you ever want to give up because it was too hard? Writing is not easy, but I know, even though you are God, you understand my plight. Encourage me today! 
  • Holy Spirit, you fill God’s people with wonderful fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. May these come through today in what I write. 

Do you have a theme to what you pray before, during or after you write?

Footnote

*This saying has been attributed to either Augustine of Hippo or Ignatius of Loyola. No one is sure. I suspect either of them could eat my lunch in a debate. Especially if it were in Latin with Augustine or Spanish with Ignatius.”

 

44 Responses to The Writer’s Prayer

  1. Avatar
    chris storm October 4, 2016 at 5:08 am #

    Jesus you are the word. Give me words. Fill these pages with your spirit so this book will touch the hearts of readers in ways my human self never could. Let God be glorified.

  2. Avatar
    Henry Styron October 4, 2016 at 5:16 am #

    Thank you. Very encouraging.

  3. Avatar
    Martha Rogers October 4, 2016 at 5:48 am #

    I am going to print these out and place them in my prayer journal. They go along with what I pray.

    Holy Spirit fill my heart today with the words You want my readers to have to lift their spirits, encourage, and give hope as well as pleasant reading. May Your words flow through my heart to my fingers on the keyboard.

    He never fails to give me the words I need for certain scenes or situations.

  4. Avatar
    Dianne Barker October 4, 2016 at 5:59 am #

    Just what I needed today. Thank you.

  5. Avatar
    Connie Almony October 4, 2016 at 6:17 am #

    Wow Dan, you hit some nails dead-center today (no offense Auggie!)
    Yes, we sometimes treat prayer as a last resort. That’s why God too often has to take us right to the end of our rope to get us where He wants us. But maybe if we STARTED with prayer, we wouldn’t have so many rope burn scars on our palms.
    What you said about the spiritual attacks REALLY resonated as well. I have way too often had horrible things occur right around the release of a novel. Just as I was preparing for the release of my first novel, our house had a sudden “plague” of rats to the point we wore shoes to bed and stuffed towels under our bedroom doors. It ended about two weeks after the book came out. Though I’m sure the many measures we took to shore up the perimeter or our house didn’t hurt, I believe the fervent prayer against what I’d labeled a “plague of satan” was the real shield. Before the release of another novel, which featured a boy, inspired by my son, who is gifted in bringing peace to troubled souls around him, my son had sudden violent outbursts. They were very scary! And eventually, he went back to being sweet.
    These occurrences have only made me realize how much our challenges really ARE spiritual in nature. The only way to combat these things is to FIRST call upon our Creator-God. He alone can guide us. He alone can wage against evil. He alone can change the circumstances for the better.
    We also need to avoid namby-pamby prayers. We need to speak POWER into our words and believe that God is FOR US. We need to say the words as if we KNOW this God of ours has the POWER to make ANYTHING happen.
    Thank you for this post! We need it today!
    Just as a side note, some of your prayers above remind me of the NEEDTOBREATHE song, Garden. I sing this to myself almost every day as a morning prayer. Here’s a link in case you are interested …
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-7Ox2KED_Y

  6. Avatar
    Beverly Brooks October 4, 2016 at 6:26 am #

    Dan,
    This was of far greater worth to me as a writer than anything I have come across to date. While I appreciate and glean help from writings of writers to those of us engaged in the craft … nothing beats going to the Author of life.

    I hope you will consider periodically placing “writer” prayers amidst us.

  7. Avatar
    Rebekah Dorris October 4, 2016 at 6:36 am #

    I so agree with the above comments. This is possibly the most helpful writing post I’ve read.

    I too haven’t cared for that saying but wasn’t sure why. Kinda like “being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.” Really? Can someone be heavenly minded without doing a world of good?
    Thanks for the perspective this morning. I need to go pray. 🙂

    God bless!

  8. Avatar
    TERRI CLARK October 4, 2016 at 6:56 am #

    Thank you Dan. This post will be printed and kept by my computer.
    I pray every time I write, sometimes along the same lines of some of these. God does answer with inspiration and fresh ideas. I’ve found Him to be faithful and infinitely wiser than me when it comes to filling the page, especially when I’m stuck.

  9. Avatar
    April Cassidy October 4, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    Love this, Thank you so much, Dan!

  10. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins October 4, 2016 at 7:27 am #

    Funny and profound. I’ll print this out and post it near my computer.

  11. Avatar
    Linda Sammaritan October 4, 2016 at 7:27 am #

    The Lord reminded me just this morning that such prayers are exactly what He wants from me as I sit down to write. Now, He’s confirming the message. This is what sits on my desk (in case I forget to pray first, I’ll read it and remember!):
    Jesus, help me tell the story You want me to tell. Help me weave words together in such a way that the reader can’t put it down because their heart yearns to know the God, the Spirit, the Christ from these pages.

  12. Avatar
    Marjorie Hill October 4, 2016 at 7:40 am #

    Thank you. Well said.

  13. Avatar
    Norma Brumbaugh October 4, 2016 at 7:47 am #

    Well said. Prayer is essential. Thank you for bringing up this subject. It helps when I ask God to show me the way and to guide my thoughts. Another helpful tool is to meditate on His name for a few minutes. It refocuses our thoughts and calms and energizes. But best of all is loving God, this will overflow into your writing.

  14. Avatar
    Carol Ashby October 4, 2016 at 8:03 am #

    Dan, I cannot think of anything more spot on for what I needed to read today than this post. The prayers about multiplying my feeble work and using my work to draw people to Jesus so beautifully phrase what my prayers need to be going forward. I’m bringing my first book to market late next week. I have an off-normal marketing plan riding on a Roman history website aimed at teachers, homeschoolers, and people interested in Latin or ancient history. I’m actually going to market the website, with my novels going along for the ride. Will it generate many sales? I hope so since we want to use the book income for missions. But even if it doesn’t, it’s a chance to reach out to many people who aren’t Christians but who might be drawn that way if they get invested in my characters as they struggle with the deep questions of life and faith in my stories.

    Sharing how following Jesus can transform everything was the main reason God called me into this fiction-writing world three years and nine days ago. I’m planning to put those two prayers where I can see them as I start each writing session. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  15. Avatar
    Shannon October 4, 2016 at 8:08 am #

    “As if prayer was a last resort” … Oh. Yes. Thank you!! I so needed this today.

  16. Avatar
    Kenneth Kinghorn October 4, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    Splendid post, Dan. Many thanks!

  17. Avatar
    Samantha Ann October 4, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    “All I can do is pray,” has always irked me. Hello, it is the best thing you can do! We have such a work driven society, it seems hard for people to just quiet themselves and trust.

    These are lovely prayers, and such great reminders.

    My prayers tend to be simple. “Help me, God, because without You, my efforts won’t matter a hill of beans.” Probably not even one bean, come to think of it. 🙂

  18. Avatar
    Davalynn Spencer October 4, 2016 at 9:03 am #

    My prayer is, “Teach me, Lord, to write what you will bless.” A prayer of Augustine’s (perhaps) that I like is: “He who sings prays twice.” Thanks for sharing such soul-stirring prayers that remind us of God’s infinite, creative power.

  19. Avatar
    Joey Rudder October 4, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    Thank you. While reading this, my heart was nodding. Make sense?
    May God bless you abundantly as you encourage those who are living to write alongside of and for Him.

  20. Avatar
    Carla Jo October 4, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    1. Lord accept this sacrifice of time. Living below my financial abilities to do this writing limits my church giving. You know that sometimes it bothers me yet I tithe my time hoping that it is an acceptable gift. May today’s time-gift be to Your glory. Amen.

    2. Lord send out your help to anyone who sees and helps in this work. Protect them. Amen.

    Giving a prototype for review to 5 people, within days 4 of them had life threatening events to even suddenly being at death’s door in the hospital or possessions almost dying. It was unnerving and created a new prayer. All ended up OK eventually.

    That time brought a new seriousness to working effectively and efficiently with a joy of being useful in my whole publishing experience with the need of being strong in the Lord for myself and others. The end will be interesting.

  21. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson October 4, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Thank you. This is great encouragement, especially since I am a new writer. 🙂

  22. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. October 4, 2016 at 9:30 am #

    Dan, I loved what you wrote today so much that I copied and pasted it, so that I can look at some of those prayers every time I sit down to write. Thanks so much for the posting! Also, please accept my condolences on the recent death of your father.

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow October 4, 2016 at 10:56 am #

      Thank you Sheri.

      By the way, it was Karen Ball’s dad who recently passed. Mine is still around. He would definitely be surprised by the rumor!

      🙂

  23. Avatar
    Cynthia Herron October 4, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Made my day. Thank you, Dan!

  24. Avatar
    Richard Mabry October 4, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    Dan, Before I speak, I usually pray aloud: “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our collective spirits, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.” Thanks for sharing these thoughts–they help.

  25. Avatar
    Judith Robl October 4, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    Beautiful post, Dan.

    My sainted grandmother used to say “before all else fails, read the instructions.” That translates for me into “before you act, seek the Lord.”

    Without Him we are nothing. With Him we are unstoppable.

  26. Avatar
    edith Mosier October 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Can anyone give me feedback on this company – Christian Faith Publishing? I’m in the process of finishing a book I have wrote on my mother’s life. My brother who has already wrote and published four books has added several chapters in my book as well. I have searched the internet and looked at numerous publishers. Either they are extremely high priced, your making hardly nothing off book as author, or they aren’t taking manuscripts at this time. My book is based on actual events that took place in my Mother’s life as well as her children’s. From her shooting and her death, heaven, her recovery. The domestic violence and abuse that she and her children endured for years from her husband and our Father. Along with my manuscript I have newpaper articles, police reports, FBI reports, and court documents. Want to honor my Mother in getting this book published.

  27. Avatar
    Megan Nilsen October 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    Thank you for this much needed perspective! It ministers and speaks to me today. You have written something I needed to hear. To God be the glory. 🙂

  28. Avatar
    Susan Wingate October 4, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

    Love it and, thank you. -S

  29. Avatar
    Bill Hendricks October 4, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    Wise words, Dan! If I understand you correctly, you’re kind of saying that Augustine got it exactly backward: we should pray as if everything depends on us—because then we’d REALLY need prayer!—and work as if everything depends on God—because in point of fact, it does!

  30. Avatar
    Tisha Martin October 4, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    I often sit in front of my manuscript and pray, “Dear God, please just help me write today and share clearly with others the story’s message that You have given me.”

    Refreshing words, Dan. Thank you!

  31. Avatar
    Norma Nill October 6, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    Your prayer points resonated with me, Dan, because you expressed the desires of my heart, too. Thanks!

  32. Avatar
    Niki Schemanski October 6, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

    Love this! Thank you for always offering good practical advice, but especially for this post from more of a heart place!

  33. Avatar
    Brennan McPherson October 8, 2016 at 6:09 am #

    Great post, Dan. Thanks so much! Humorous AND uplifting. #winning! 🙂

  34. Avatar
    Christena Struben October 8, 2016 at 8:00 am #

    Thank you for pulling me out of the doldrums. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, deep feelings of humility brought tears that yielded to thanksgiving for the reminder of why I write and the God who gives me the words and helps me along the way

  35. Avatar
    Kathy Parish January 3, 2017 at 8:09 am #

    Oh, how I needed this today! So much grief from my son’s suicide has drained me of ambition and drowned me in procrastination for the past 16 months. Thank you for giving me some ways to frame my need as I sit at the computer. It is time to work again.

  36. Avatar
    Norma Nill January 4, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    To Kathy Parish – I’m so sorry about your son. Although I haven’t lost a son, I’ve lost a nephew and a cousin to suicide, and I’ve seen the depth of the pain it caused. I’m praying for you.

  37. Avatar
    Rachel Kang September 16, 2018 at 5:38 pm #

    These prayers are incredibly powerful and to see an agent hone in on this side of the writing process is a beautiful and hope-filled thing.

  38. Avatar
    Jeanette LaVoy March 15, 2019 at 7:59 am #

    I have to finish a 10-page manuscript this day to submit to visiting Agents from New York at a workshop in Florida.

    I’ve been a little stuck and these prayers are just what I need to finish this project today. I can’t thank you enough for how powerful they are.

    I Praise God for the talent he gave me. Today I need his inspiration and discipline. Jeanette LaVoy Jeanette

  39. Avatar
    Rocco April 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm #

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful prayers. ❤️🙏❤️

  40. Avatar
    Jeanette LaVoy April 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm #

    After sending in the manuscript PAST the edge of Midnight, I discovered myriad errors, that I believed had all been corrected. I was mortified and wanted to skip the Writers Conference for which I had shelled out more than $300.
    I persevered and went. Learned valuable things, words like ‘platform’ and imprint that I had never heard.

    One agent was kind and encouraging (except for punctuation), the other said there is little market for memoir – My son’s suicide – unless it has credentials like Ph. D of psychiatry or other professional.

    God Gave Me the Strength to pick myself up OFF the floor and keep on going. PLEASE KEEP ON KEEPING ON!
    As Dickens wrote: “God bless us ev-er-y-one!

  41. Avatar
    Christine May 9, 2019 at 2:50 pm #

    I skipped to the prayers and wow I really love them! Said them all outloud and bookmarked this posting so I can say them again when I try to write my fiction fantasy novel. If God’s not in it , my book won’t ever turn out. I want his help carving it out right
    Thank you
    -chtistine

  42. Avatar
    cd January 19, 2020 at 10:36 pm #

    I came across this just now, through Google. What a blessing. Thank you for posting this. It helped immensely. I will bookmark it and pass this on to some other writers that I know.

    Thanks again!

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