Prayers of St. Augustine
Grant me, O Lord, to know and understand
Whether I must first pray to you before I praise you,
Or whether I must first know you before I pray.
Is it possible to pray without knowing you first?
Those who do not know you could be misled into praying to others
But what if to be known you have to be invoked?
How can people pray to one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe
In one of whom they have not heard?
Those who seek the Lord will praise him
Because he who seeks him finds him,
And he who has found him
Cannot help but sing his praises.
May I seek you, O Lord, as I call upon you,
And call on you as I believe in you,
Because at last we have heard the good news of you.
My faith calls to you O Lord,
The faith that you have given me
And instilled in me,
Through your Son made man,
And thanks to him
Who has preached the good news of you to us. I.1.
I was so slow to love you, Lord.
Your age-old beauty is still as new to me:
I was slow to love you!
You were within me,
Yet I stayed outside
Seeking you there;
In my ugliness I grabbed at
The beautiful things of your creation.
Already you were with me,
But I was still far from you.
The things of this world kept me away: I did not know then
That if they had not existed through you
They would not have existed at all.
Then you called me
And your cry overcame my deafness;
You shone out
And your light overcame my blindness;
You surrounded me with your fragrance
And I breathed it in,
So that now I yearn for more of you;
I tasted you
And now I am hungry and thirsty for you;
You touched me,
And now I burn with longing for your peace. (X.27.)
Here is my heart, O God,
Here it is with all its secrets;
Look into my thoughts,
O my hope,
And take away all my wrong feelings:
Let my eyes ever be on you
And release my feet from the snare. IV.6.
O Lord my God, how eternally great are your hidden depths
And how far have the consequences of my sins dragged me from them!
Heal my vision that I may rejoice with you in the light.
Indeed, if there existed a mind so gifted
In abundant knowledge as to know all things, past and future,
As I know all things, past and future,
As I know all the notes of a song,
It would be wonderful thing and to be held in awe,
Because nothing past or future would be concealed from it;
Just as when I sing
I know how much I have already sung since the beginning
and how much remains until the end.
Nonetheless, I would be in a sorry state if I thought that you,
the creator of the universe, Creator of our minds and bodies,
Had no more knowledge than this of things to come and of those past!
You are far more wonderful, far more mysterious!
For you, who are eternal and unchanging, the everliving creator of our minds,
it is not merely a successions of impressions or prolonged sensations,
As for someone who sings or listens to music.
Just as you knew heaven and earth in the beginning,
without any change in your knowledge,
So you created heaven and earth in the beginning
without any change in your actions.
Whoever understands this exalts you,
but so too do those who do not understand.
How great you are! Even the most humble are part of your family:
You indeed, lift those who have fallen, and those
Whose place their own greatness in you never fail. XI.31