Prayers written by others help me greatly when my own soul feels too dry and barren to find its own or too ebullient and joyful for anything short of poetic expression. The collections of prayers below also stretch, challenge, and deepen my prayer life beyond the default theological drift of my mind (in the way a personal trainer can help even an experienced exerciser). There is an old church proverb, Lex orandi, lex credendi. That means that the law of prayer is the law of belief. It follows, then, that anything that deepens our prayer life will also deepen our trust.
The sine qua non which is not on my top 5 list is Scripture. That is the first, last, and best source of written prayers. There are the Psalms, obviously, but also the prayers of Paul and numerous prayers short and long scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Jonah 2, Habakkuk 3, Isaiah 12, and 1 Chronicles 16 are a few that immediately come to mind. All other written prayers need measuring against the straight edge of the Bible.
Beyond that, here are my 5 favorite collections of written prayers, for your edification.
📚The Anglican Book of Common Prayer: my copy is the 1662 edition. If you are purchasing one, I would suggest the 2019 Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) edition. The prayer book is full of short prayers called collects which are memorable and beautiful and which hold much more truth than one might expect from their short length. The biggest negative to this suggestion is its navigational difficulty for those who have not spent some time in an Anglican church which still uses a prayer book instead of printing the relevant text in a weekly bulletin. The most similar option which would be more user-friendly to most Protestants is the free PDF download Praying the Psalms in 30 Days, from the good folks at the Christian Standard Bible and compiled by Trevin Wax. This draws from the Book of Common Prayer in addition to Psalms and other sources. See https://csbible.com/psalmsin30/ to read more and download.
📚A good hymnal: I most often use the Broadman hymnal or Celebration hymnal, but there are really an abundance of choices. Used ones aren’t too hard to find these days. Some hymn lyrics focus on encouraging each other in the Lord, but many are prayer poems set to music. “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come, Thou Fount” are two favorites, but I won’t get to my other choices if I start listing favorite hymns in detail.
📚Valley of Vision: This is a collection of Puritan prayers. It is not written in simple language, but it is beautiful and true and theologically rich. I really like the way the editor formatted the prayers to highlight parallel structure and visually break up long sentences. For me, that makes them more accessible and understandable than prose formatting would have. Banner of Truth has recently added genuine leather and goatskin editions to their catalog if you want a copy to treasure for a lifetime and pass along to future generations.
📚31 Days of Praise: A wise older woman, tempered and beautified by suffering, gave me this book along with 2 reference books from her library when I entered seminary. This really trained me in praying Scripture back to God and began bending the pessimistic warp of my natural mind toward praise and gratitude. This is a collection to cycle through every month, and it allows blank space at the end of each prayer to note life circumstances connected to the prayer or specific applications of the prayer. The “Your Basic Act of Worship” prayer is worth the cost of this book, and the missionary authors have written about praise in a section following the 31 prayers of praise.
📚Every Moment Holy: This recent collection is also beautifully written and theologically profound. The prayer topics run the gamut of daily and yearly occasions: birthdays, lighting the first fire of the season, the ritual of morning coffee, and beginning or ending a book are among the topics. Volume 2 is due to release this year and will focus on lament prayers. The first volume helps the reader practice the sacrament of the ordinary, consciously embracing the presence of God throughout what might seem meaningless and earthbound daily tasks.
Do you have a favorite collection of written prayers not on this list? If you try or have tried any of these, I’d welcome your thoughts. May the Lord bless these to the enrichment of your walk with Him.
(I am initially posting this without links to the listed books. When time permits, I will try to update it for your convenience.)