Calvin’s 1542 Genevan Catechism included a series of prayers. Prayers were meant to serve as models of prayers to be said. They were for training our minds and encouraging our souls to pray daily. Some prayers could be memorized others were longer and were inspirational because of the language taken from Scripture (mostly the Psalter). Here are some sample prayers:
When waking up:
My God, my Father, and my Savior, since you have been pleased to give me the grace to bring me through the night to the present day, may you also now grant me the gift of spending this day entirely in your service, so that I may not think, or say, or do anything except to please you and obey your good will, so that in this all my works be done to the glory of your name and to the edification of my neighbors. And just as you are pleased to make your sun shine on the earth to give us bodily light, so illuminate my understanding and my heart through the light of your Spirit, to guide me along the straight paths of your justice. Thus, whatever my undertaking, may my main goal and intention always be to walk in the fear of you, to serve and honor you, expecting that all good and prosperity comes to me from your blessing alone, so that I do not attempt anything that is not pleasing to you. Furthermore, while I work hard for the sake of my body and for the present life, may I always cast my gaze further, namely, toward the heavenly life that you have promised to your children. Yet may it please you to be the protector of both my body and my soul, strengthening me against all the devil’s temptations, and delivering me from all the earthly dangers that may threaten me. And because a good beginning is worthless without perseverance, please guide me onto your holy paths, not only for today but for my whole life, daily continuing and increasing your grace in me, until you bring me to full unity with your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the true Sun of our souls, shining endlessly and perpetually day and night. And in order that I may obtain these graces from you, please forget my previous faults, forgiving me for them according to your endless mercy, as you have promised to all those who wholeheartedly ask this of you.
from Psalm 104:
All things wait for you, O Lord, and you give them food in their season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up, and when you open your hand, they are replete with good things.
Lord, in whose is the fullness of all good things, please grant your blessing to us, your poor servants, and bless the gifts which we receive from your bounty, so the we may make use of them in a temperate and pure fashion, according to your good will, that we may hence acknowledge you as Father and author of all mercy and always seek first the spiritual bread of your Word, which feeds our souls eternally, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, Amen.
Man does not live by bread alone, but by the word that comes from the mouth of God.
Thanksgiving after the meal:
From Psalm 107:
Let all the nations praise the Lord, let all the people praise him.
For his mercy is spread over us, and his truth is from everlasting to everlasting.
Lord God, we thank you for all the blessings we continuously receive at your hand, in that you are pleased to sustain us in our bodily life, providing for all our needs, and especially that you have been willing to regenerate us in the hope of a better life, which you revealed to us in your Holy Gospel. We pray that you may prevent our affection from being rooted in these corruptible things, but that we instead may always raise our gaze higher, awaiting our Lord Jesus Christ, until he returns for our redemption. Amen.
Prayer to be recited before sleeping:
Lord God, since it has pleased you to create the night for man’s rest, just as you ordained the day for work, grant me the grace to have my body rest this night so that my soul is always awake to you, and that my heart is raised up in your love. Given my weakness, may I find such relief in laying down my earthly concerns that I may always remember you. May the record of your goodness and your grace remain always imprinted on my memory, and in this way may my conscience take its spiritual rest, just as my body takes its physical rest. Furthermore, may I not overindulge in sleep to unduly satisfy the desire of my flesh, but only sleep enough to satisfy my fragile nature in order to be fit for your service. Please also preserve my purity of body and soul and keep me from all dangers, so that even my sleeping is done to the glory of your name. And because the day that is past has not gone by without me offending you in various ways, given that I am a poor sinner, just as everything is now concealed by the darkness you send over the earth, may you also bury all my faults by your mercy, so that I will not be case away from your face because of these sins. Hear my prayer, my God, my Father, my Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The best way to learn what to say in prayer is to practice it. When we don’t quite know what to say, then I encourage Christians to read prayers that have been thoughtfully and prayerfully written. In time we too will continue to have tongues that express the contents of our hearts and minds to God in our prayer.