I’m always on the look out for good materials to shape and inform my prayer life. As an individual Christian wanting to pray more effectively, and as one who must lead others in prayer, I’ve benefited from many of the forms and patterns handed down by our fathers in the faith. One example—and one that I’ve used from time to time in our churchwide prayer meetings—comes from the fourth-century work The Constitution of the Holy Apostles.
The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (or Apostolic Constitutions) is a collection of materials on church life, order, and liturgy. The Apostolic Constitutions comprises eight books, from different times and places, put together in one volume in the fourth century. Books 7 and 8 contain a number of prayers, including a “bidding prayer for the faithful” (what Christians ought to pray for) and a “form of prayer for the faithful” (a liturgical example to be read by one of the church officers).
I’ve taken the “bidding prayer” and divided it into 18 categories. I skipped a few prayers that seemed less pertinent and cleaned up some of the old language. The wording is still close to the original, showing us how many ancient Christians prayed and what they prayed for. The prayers are not literally apostolic (i.e., the book was not authored by the Apostles), but they do give us a sense for the how the church prayed in the centuries following the Apostles. I think you’ll find the list below still remarkably relevant.
A Bidding Prayer for the Faithful
1. Peace and Happiness
Let us pray for the peace and happy settlement of the world, and of the holy churches; that the God of the whole world may afford us His everlasting peace, and such as may not be taken away from us.
2. Worldwide Church
Let us pray for the Church which is spread from one end of the earth to the other; that God would preserve and keep it unshaken, and free from the waves of this life, until the end of the world, as founded upon a rock; and for the holy parish in this place, that the Lord of the whole world may vouchsafe us without failure to follow after His heavenly hope, and without ceasing to pay Him the debt of our prayer.
And let us pray for our elders, that the Lord may deliver them from every unreasonable and wicked action, and afford them an eldership in health and honor.
Let us pray for all the deacons and servants in Christ, that the Lord may grant them a blameless worthy ministry.
5. The Needy
Let us pray for the widows and orphans.
6. Family Life
Let us pray for those that are in marriage and in child-bearing, that the Lord may have mercy upon them all.
Let us pray for those in a state of singleness that the Lord make grant them purity and piety.
8. Industry and Generosity
Let us pray for those that bear fruit in the holy Church, and give alms to the needy.
9. Young Christians
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters new to the faith, that the Lord may strengthen and confirm them.
10. Sick Christians
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters exercised with sickness, that the Lord may deliver them from every sickness and every disease, and restore them sound into His holy Church.
11. Traveling Mercies
Let us pray for those that travel by water or by land.
Let us pray for those that are in prisons, and in danger for the name of the Lord. Let us pray for those that are afflicted with slavery and bitter servitude.
13. Our Enemies
Let us pray for our enemies and those that hate us.
Let us pray for those that persecute us for the name of the Lord, that the Lord may pacify their anger, and scatter their wrath against us.
Let us pray for those that are outside the church and those wandering from the way, that the Lord may convert them.
Let us be mindful of the infants and children of the Church, that the Lord may perfect them in His fear and bring them to maturity.
17. Deliver Us From the Evil One
Let us pray one for another, that the Lord may keep us and preserve us by His grace to the end, and deliver us from the evil one, and from all the scandals of those that work iniquity, and preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom.
18. Final Dedication
Let us pray for every Christian soul. Save us, and raise us up, O God, by your mercy. Let us rise up, and let us pray earnestly, and dedicate ourselves and one another to the living God, through His Christ.