Prayers of the Earliest Christians

JESUS, my feet are dirty. Come even as a slave to me, pour water into your bowl, come and wash my feet. In asking such a thing I know I am overbold, but I dread what was threatened when you said to me, “If I do not wash your feet I have no fellowship with you.” Wash my feet then, because I long for your companionship. 

—Origen (c. 185–254) 

Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.” Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. 

—Acts of the Apostles (1st c.)


We pray and we entreat God, whom those men [persecutors] do not cease to provoke and exasperate, that they may soften their hearts, that they may return to health of mind when this madness has been put aside, that their hearts, filled with the darkness of sin, may recognize the light of repentance, and that they may rather seek that the intercession and prayers of the bishop be poured out for themselves than that they themselves shed the blood of the bishop. 

—Cyprian (d. 258)


O Educator, be gracious to thy children, O Educator, Father, Guide of Israel, Son and Father, both one, Lord. Give to us, who follow thy command, to fulfill the likeness of thy image, and to see, according to our strength, the God who is both a good God and a Judge who is not harsh. Do thou thyself bestow all things on us who dwell in thy peace, who have been placed in thy city, who sail the sea of sin unruffled, that we may be made tranquil and supported by the Holy Spirit, the unutterable Wisdom, by night and day, unto the perfect day, to sing eternal thanksgiving to the one only Father and Son, Son and Father, Educator and Teacher with the Holy Spirit. 

—Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215) 

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! 

—The Revelation of John (c. 95) 

Ruins of a Fourth-century Church on the island of Cyprus overlook the Mediterranean Sea.

Do not think of the sins we have committed or of those we still commit. Put out of your mind the failings we give way to night and day. Do not impute our offenses to us, whether we did them on purpose or whether we could not help them. Remember, Lord, that men are apt to make slips; we are a spineless race, given to blundering; think of our build, our limitations. Our skins may be sound, but there are sores underneath.

O God, you are well disposed to us; give us the strength of your support. Give us encouragement, give the light that goes with it. Make us live by the dogmas of the faith preached by your holy apostles and the high teaching of the Gospels of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

—Ouchmounen Papyrus 

The radiance of the Father’s splendor, the Father’s visible image, Jesus Christ our God, peerless among counselors, Prince of Peace, Father of the world to come, the model after which Adam was formed, for our sakes became like a slave: in the womb of Mary the virgin, without assistance from any man, he took flesh. . . .

Enable us, Lord, to reach the end of this luminous feast in peace, forsaking all idle words, acting virtuously, shunning our passions, and raising ourselves above the things of this world.

Bless your church, which you brought into being long ago and attached to yourself through your own life-giving blood. Help all orthodox pastors, heads of churches, and doctors [theologians].

Bless your servants, whose trust is all in you; bless all Christian souls, the sick, those tormented by evil spirits, and those who have asked us to pray for them.

Show yourself as merciful as you are rich in grace; save and preserve us; enable us to obtain those good things to come which will never know an end.

May we celebrate your glorious birth, and the Father who sent you to redeem us, and your Spirit, the Giver of life, now and forever, age after age. Amen. 

—A Syriac Christmas liturgy 
(late third or early fourth century)


Be off, Satan, from this floor and from these four walls. This is no place for you; there is nothing for you to do here. This is the place for Peter and Paul and the holy Gospel; and this is where I mean to sleep now that my worship is done, in the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [God] send me your Spirit; instill the wisdom of your Holy Spirit into my heart; protect my soul and body, every limb in my body, every fiber of my being, from all possible harm and all traps the Devil may set for me and every temptation to sin. Teach me to give you thanks, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Euchologium Sinaiticum


We ask you, Master, be our helper and defender. Rescue those of our number in distress; raise up the fallen; assist the needy; heal the sick; turn back those of your people who stray; feed the hungry; release our captives; revive the weak; encourage those who lose heart. Let all the nations realize that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your Child, and that we are your people and the sheep of your pasture. 

—1 Clement (c. 96)
By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #37 in 1993]

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