Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Prayer for Courage

Artist: Abbott Handerson Thayer

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
But to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
But for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life's battlefield,
But to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,
But hope for the patience to win my freedom.
Grant me that I may not be a coward,
feeling your mercy in my success alone,
But let me find the grasp of your hand in my failure.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

I am particularly moved by the very last line of this prayer. I know that I, myself, am not able to be fearless - at least, not yet. Nor am I able to stop myself from looking for allies. I must admit that I don't deal particularly well with pain. And, I'm sad to say that anxiety and I are old traveling companions. But, oh, that last line! I know what it is to find the grasp of God's hand in my failure - yes, I do - and for that I am grateful beyond expression.


  1. Hi Ellie,

    Thanks for this, and I agree the last line is a wonderful thing to pray for and to know. But, on the other hand, what's wrong with looking for allies in life's battlefield? We can't do it all alone, nor is that necessarily a healthy aspiration (IMHO).

    And fear is a natural part of being human, isn't it? If we had no fear, we wouldn't need courage. I don't know if you can do anything about feeling fearful, but you can be courageous in the face of fear, at least with God's help...



  2. Hello, Damian. How lovely of you to comment here!

    Well, here's what I think. I think this prayer is kind of on the order of the one attributed to St. Francis -- you know, the one that says something like, "May I not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love." Of course, there's nothing wrong with being understood or consoled or loved and it's completely natural to want such things.

    I think that comparative approach is, in both prayers, a rhetorical devise meant to strengthen a person when (back to the other prayer now) he or she doesn't have allies, for example, and that's just the way it is.

    I agree that this prayer may not be the most theologically perfect (!) but I was drawn to it because it counteracts what I consider to be the truly heretical brand of religion we have over on this side of the pond known as the "prosperity gospel". This teaches, essentially, that if you really have faith everthing will always turn out all right. I see a lot of people harmed by that when their lives are NOT turning out all right at all. They then think God has abandoned them and they are not able to feel that "grasp of God's hand in their failure."

    And, as you know, I've had my own failures to contend with and to accept lately and so the prayer appealed to me if only for the last five lines.

    Bless you, Damian.

    Lots of love,

  3. The last line resonates with me a lot too, Ellie. The rest of it makes perfect sense too. I'm maybe bringing a slightly different meaning to the line about allies.


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