A Prayer for Friends

By Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)


Jesus Christ, my dear and gracious Lord, you have shown a love greater than that of any man and which no one can equal, for you in now way deserved to die, yet you laid down your dear life for those who served you and sinned against you. You prayed for those who were killing you that you might make them just men and your brothers and restore them to your merciful Father and to yourself. Lord, who showed such love to your enemies, you have also enjoined the same love upon your friends.


My good Lord, with what affection should I think of your love which is beyond measure? What return shall I make for your boundless gifts? For your loving kindness is beyond all telling, the greatness of your gift surpasses all return. Then what return shall I make to him who created me and re-created me? To him who has had mercy on me and redeemed me? O God, you are my God, my goods are nothing unto you, for the whole world is yours and all that is in it.


Then what shall I, a beggar and poor, a creeping thing of dust, what return can I make to my God, except to obey his commandment from my heart? For this is your commandment, that we love one another. Good man, good God, good Lord, good friend -- you are whatever good there is. Your humble and contemptible slave desires to obey your commandment. You know, Lord, that I prize this love which you command, I hold this love dear, and long for this charity. This I ask, this I seek. For this your poor man, your beggar, beats and clamours at the gate of your mercy. And now, insofar as I have already received the sweet alms you freely give, I love all men, in you and for your sake, though not so much as I ought or as I desire. I pray your mercy upon all men, yet there are many whom I hold more dear since your love has impressed them upon my heart with a closer and more intimate love, so that I desire their love more eagerly -- I would pray more ardently for these.


My good Lord, as your servant I long to pray to you for my friends, but as your debtor I am held back by my sins. For I am not able to pray for my own pardon, how then can I dare to ask openly for your grace for others? I anxiously seek intercessors on my own behalf, how then shall I be so bold as to intercede for others? What shall I do, Lord God, what shall I do? You command me to pray for them and my love prompts me to do so, but my conscience cries out against me, saying that I should be concerned about my own sins, so that I tremble to speak for others. Shall I then leave off from doing what you command because I have done what you have forbidden? No, rather since I have presumed so greatly in what is forbidden, all the more will I embrace what is commanded. So perhaps obedience may heal presumption, and charity may cover the multitude of my sins.


So I pray you, good and gracious God, for those who love me for your sake and whom I love in you. And I pray more earnestly for those whom you know love me and whom I do most truly love. I am not doing this, Lord, as being righteous and free from sin, but as one urged on by some kind of love for others. So love them, you source of love, by whose command and gift I love them; and if my prayer does not deserve to avail for them because it is offered you by a sinner, let it avail for them because it is made at your command. Love them, Author and Giver of love, for your own sake, not for mine, and make them love you with all their heart, all their soul, and all their mind, so that they will speak and do only what pleases you and is expedient for them.


My prayer is but a cold affair, Lord, because my love burns with so small a flame, but you who are rich in mercy will not mete out to them your gifts according to the dullness of my zeal, but as your kindness is above all human love so let your eagerness to hear be greater than the feeling in my prayers. Do this for them and with them, Lord, so that they may speed according to your will, and thus ruled and protected by you, always and everywhere, may they come at last to glory and eternal rest, through you who are the living and reigning God, through all ages.