Dr. Johnson’s “Prayer Before Any New Study”

Samuel Johnson’s “Prayers and Meditations” are not well known, but the new Delphi Complete Works of Samuel Johnson (Illustrated) includes a clean text, along with all of his other works and writings about Johnson by Hawthorne, Lovecraft, Chesterton, and others.

Your cost? $3.

I’ve written before about how much I love the Delphi editions for their good formatting, organization, illustrations, and supplemental materials. Check out the whole series.

Here is a prayer “Before Any New Study,” found in Johson’s prayer journal after his death:

ALMIGHTY God, in whose hands are all the powers of man, who givest understanding, and takest it away; who, as it seemeth good unto Thee, enlightenest the thoughts of the simple, and darkenest the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my studies and enquiries. Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life which Thou hast given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain searches after things which Thou hast hidden from me. Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which Thou hast allotted me; and so further with thy help that labour which, without thy help, must be ineffectual, that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

If that didn’t work, there was always his prayer “After Time Negligently and Unprofitably Spent,” otherwise known as “Something I Have To Say Every Day”:

O LORD, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity. Forgive me, that I have this day neglected the duty which Thou hast assigned to it, and suffered the hours, of which I must give account, to pass away without any endeavour to accomplish thy will, or to promote my own salvation. Make me to remember, O God, that every day is thy gift, and ought to be used according to thy command. Grant me, therefore, so to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from Thee, and pass the time which thou shalt yet allow me, in diligent performance of thy commands, through Jesus Christ. Amen. 

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Alfred Prescott

    He was probably supposed to be studying whilst composing this prayer :). Thanks!

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Thanks for the heads up on the Delphi collection. I just bought W.B. Yeats’ complete works for 99 cents to try it out. Poetry is hard to format on digital readers, but their claim is that they have accomodated for it. I’ll check it out tonight.

  • http://www.parafool.com/ victor

    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll be picking this one up! You can never have too much Johnson!

  • AnneG

    These are really beautiful. I’ll check out the series.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    If you can turn it landscape, it works better.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Thanks Tom.

  • Mark.

    I keep forgetting about Johnson. “Why, Sir, they believe that God is present and wish to do Him homage”: Johnson after Boswell made a crack about Catholic veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, and then he said he’d do the same if he believed the same. Must get the book.


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