Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You Have Loved Us First (Prayers by Søren Kierkegaard)

"You Have Loved Us First"

(Prayers by Søren Kierkegaard)

Father in heaven! 
You have loved us first; 
help us never forget that you are love 
so that this sure conviction 
might triumph in our hearts 
over seduction of the world, 
over the disquiet of the soul, 
over anxiety for the future, 
over the fright of the past, 
over distress of the moment. 
But grant also that this conviction 
might discipline our soul 
so that our hearts might remain 
faithful and sincere, 
in the love which we bear 
to all those whom you have 
commanded us to love as we love ourselves.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

I found this in on my iPod today in a rather random place in my notepad.  I'm not sure where I saw it originally last year, but it speaks to me this morning right where I am.  There is so much going on in our lives, it is easy to fret.  I need to find that calm conviction.

Here is another Kierkegaard prayer that I found...

You have loved us first, O God, alas! 
We speak of it in terms of history 
as if You loved us first but a single time, 
rather than that without ceasing. 
You have loved us first many times 
and everyday and our whole life through. 
When we wake up in the morning 
and turn our soul toward You – 
You were there first – You have loved us first; 
if I rise at dawn and at that same second 
turn my soul toward You in prayer, 
You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first.

When I withdraw from the distractions of the day 
and turn my soul toward You, 
You are there first and thus forever. 
And we speak ungratefully as if 
You have loved us first only once. 

The other day while traveling in North Carolina on our way home from vacation, I purchased the book A Brief Guide to Ideas by William Raeper and Linda Edwards.   As a mom trying to be a good example to her kids, I believe in stretching my brain and learning new things, and I figured that a taste of philosophy from a Christian perspective might do me some good.  I'm glad to see there is a chapter on Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian philosopher who believed in experiencing God by faith and continually choosing to renew that trust.  I know I wouldn't agree with much of what he wrote discounting the value of reason.  Yet I am touched by his childlike faith expressed in these prayers, especially in light of the fact that his own childhood in a pietist home is described as "isolated and unhappy" and "deeply affected by the guilt and religious gloom of his father."  (See how American naturalist John Muir responded to the same kind of upbringing: The Fruits of Harsh Parenting.)

I want my children to experience joy and liberty in their faith in Jesus, rather than rigid duty and a sense of spiritual failure.  I want them to be who God uniquely created them to be. I want us all to be in a close relationship with God. I can't choose faith for my children, but I can model it as I "withdraw from the distractions of the day" and overcome "the disquiet of the soul." That is a challenge for me. I need God's help, the reminders of his love that I find in Kierkegaard's prayers. "Grant that conviction might discipline our soul" so that I, too, can be faithful, sincere and loving - as God is and wants me to be.

What about you?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. The zinnia and butterfly photos in this post were also taken on our way home, the same afternoon as I bought the philosophy book. You can see more of my botanical photos from Sarah P. Duke Gardens in North Carolina.


  1. Thank you for sharing this Virginia. I would be interested in comparing Soren Kierkegaard's other writings with these poems. This has my interest because I remember him as an existentialist who rippled the spiritual philosophies of his day. I remember him being a favorite conversation with many of my friends.

    Thank you for sharing these poems over at WholeHearted Home.

  2. This whole post is beautiful! I love both of those prayers!


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