Father of Heaven! whose goodness has brought us in safety to the close of this day, dispose our hearts in fervent prayer. Another day is now gone, and added to those for which we were before accountable. Teach us Almighty Father, to consider this solemn truth, as we should do, that we may feel the importance of every day, and every hour as it passes, and earnestly strive to make a better use of what thy goodness may yet bestow on us, than we have done of the time past.
Give us grace to endeavor after a truly Christian spirit to seek to attain that temper of forbearance and patience of which our blessed Savior has set us the highest example; and which, while it prepares us for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure to us the best enjoyment of what this world can give. Incline us, oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellowcreatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves.
We thank thee with all our hearts for every gracious dispensation, for all the blessings that have attended our lives, for every hour of safety, health and peace, of domestic comfort and innocent enjoyment. We feel that we have been blessed far beyond anything that we have deserved; and though we cannot but pray for a continuance of all these mercies, we acknowledge our unworthiness of them and implore thee to pardon the presumption of our desires.
Keep us oh! Heavenly Father, from evil this night. Bring us in safety to the beginning of another day and grant that we may rise again with every serious and religious feeling which now directs us.
May thy mercy be extended over all mankind, bringing the ignorant to the knowledge of thy truth, awakening the impenitent, touching the hardened. Look with compassion upon the afflicted of every condition, assuage the pangs of disease, comfort the broken in spirit.
Teach us Almighty Father, to consider this solemn truth, as we should do, that we may feel the importance of every day, and every hour as it passes . . .
More particularly do we pray for the safety and welfare of our own family and friends wheresoever dispersed, beseeching thee to avert from them all material and lasting evil of body or mind; and may we by the assistance of thy Holy Spirit so conduct ourselves on earth as to secure an eternity of happiness with each other in thy heavenly kingdom. Grant this most merciful Father, for the sake of our blessed Savior in whose holy name and words we further address thee.
Our Father which are in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever.
Jane Austen (1775–1817) is one of the most famous British novelists of all time, with Pride and Prejudice being her best-known book. The father of her close-knit family was an Anglican minister, and the household routine included regular and lengthy evening devotions.
Three evening prayers composed by Jane Austen have survived, saved for posterity by her sister Cassandra. A prayer becomes a devotional when we allow it to direct our thoughts and feelings Godward and to meditate on the truths of the spiritual life.
The first key that unlocks Austen’s beautiful composition is to read it as expressing spiritual sentiments that are appropriate at the end of a day. Whereas a morning prayer or meditation is prospective, looking forward to the day that will follow, an evening prayer or devotional is retrospective, casting a gaze backward on the day, in an awareness of the coming night as well. Looking for these end-of-day elements in Austen’s prayer provides good analytic insights.
A second key to appreciating Austen’s prayer is to notice how allinclusive and comprehensive it is. Although it is only thirteen sentences long (not counting the Lord’s Prayer at the end), it incorporates all of the standard elements of prayer—thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession for the needs of others—all permeated with an exaltation of God in a spirit of reverence and praise.
The stately style and verbal beauty are part of the devotional effect of Austen’s prayer. These qualities flowed into Austen’s artistic being from the King James Bible and Anglican Prayer Book, with which she had daily contact. The sentences are long, but they flow smoothly and are immediately understandable. The words too elevate our spirits because they rise above everyday colloquial discourse. The effect is elegance and reverence combined with simplicity.
It is a regular feature of liturgical traditions like the Anglican to end a prayer or meditation with the Lord’s Prayer, which possesses the same balanced clauses and dignified language that Austen’s prayer displays. Additionally, the Lord’s Prayer can be assimilated as a devotional composition as well as a prayer if we pause on the individual elements and meditate on them.
Jane Austen’s evening prayer has a calming effect, setting our spirits at rest in a twilight mood. Psalm 4:8 is cut from the same cloth:
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
- Jane Austen’s three evening prayers are in the public domain and available on such websites as Wikisource and in print books such as Rachel Dodge’s Praying with Jane (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2018). Information about Austen and her prayers was taken from this book.
This article is adapted from The Heart in Pilgrimage: A Treasury of Classic Devotionals on the Christian Life by Leland Ryken.
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