I love reading through prayer books and finding prayers that resonate with me. While I typically pray my own prayers, I find that praying the prayers of others (whether from the Psalms or another compilation) adds to my prayer vocabulary and alerts me to things I hadn’t previously thought to pray about. I especially treasure prayers that capture, like delicate insects in amber, the passionate longings of someone whose heart has been truly touched by God.
Augustine is one of those thinkers who truly changed the world. And reading this prayer, it’s clear that the source of his spiritual power is deep intimacy with Jesus.
You may have heard that Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) was a pagan intellectual who did not encounter God’s Spirit and turn to Christ until he was in his thirties. Reflecting on those lost years of his youth, Augustine prayed in his famous Confessions,
Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Now read it again. If you can pray this prayer, pray it for yourself.
Although I, my will, and my mind have been devoted to Christ my whole life, only “late” has my love for him blossomed in the visceral way Augustine describes.
Augustine was an intellectual, and I am basically wired to be one too. But even the most rational academic’s heart is sure to melt at the touch of our beautiful Lord. But not everyone knows the “fragrance” of Christ. Not even life-long Christians. Not everyone has tasted him such that they hunger and thirst and their passion for Christ consumes them. Not all have been “touched.” Not all “burn.” While feelings and experiences like this aren’t necessary for salvation, I believe they unlock the mysterious holy joy of which the Bible often speaks.
My question is, does this prayer resonate for you? Do you feel like shouting YES when you read it, or does it make you uncomfortable? God is in love with us, he tells us throughout his word, and we were designed to love him back. If your relationship with your Savior is cold, not hot, I pray this prayer for you:
Lord, touch my readers. Break through their deafness as you have broken through mine that they might hear your voice. Blaze in their lives, Lord, and melt their chains and their defenses. Banish their blindness as you have banished mine that they might see you in all your inexpressible beauty. Touch their tongues and let them taste you, Lord, that they might hunger and thirst and burn. Let them fall in love. Amen.