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St Ignatius

DAVID ADAMS takes a look at a prayer that’s all about putting others ahead of ourselves…

Lord Jesus,
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to seek reward
except that of knowing that I do Your Will.

St Ignatius

AUTHOR? St Ignatius of Loyola, here depicted in a 17th century artwork by Francisco Zurbaran, is generally viewed as the prayer’s author. But some say that might not be the case. PICTURE: Via Wikimedia Commons.


“A prayer that charts a life-changing course for our life as we press in to what it is being a follower of Christ calls us to.”

Often attributed to Spanish Catholic priest St Ignatius of Loyola – founder of the Jesuit Order, this short but powerful prayer (and it comes in various, slightly tweaked, versions) is a cry of the heart that reflects our difficultly in coming to terms with the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God; a kingdom in which the self is subjugated to the cause of Christ.

Generosity and pouring oneself out for others can be a hard ask and this prayer represents the battle that goes on inside of ourselves as we are called to serve as Christ calls us to without expectation of anything in return. That’s an even harder task in the age of ever-present social media when it’s all too easy to take to Twitter and Facebook and share with others the good works we have been doing (and sure, that can be about encouraging and inspiring others but it also may carry the mixed motivation of self-aggrandising).

And as Lisa Kelly, in an article written as part of a series for the website Ignatian Spirituality on the prayer, notes, being generous doesn’t just mean giving of our excess but giving of our ‘privilege’ as well. “Compared to that of billions of people on this earth, my privileged life was practically embedded in stone by being born into citizenship in a country of freedoms, education, and stability,” she writes, adding later in the article: “Giving my privilege away means not handing down a life jacket to those floundering in the water around me, but actually pulling others up onto my boat. It means advocating for others to have the same privileges I have, even if that means they are no longer, well, privileges for me.”

The prayer’s origins, incidentally, are not clear cut. While many have held St Ignatius to be its author (in fact, it’s been said it the most famous prayer associated with the theologian), there are apparently no references to it yet found prior to 1897 (It has been suggested it was actually created as a prayer for French scouting movement and was composed for that purpose by Jesuit Fr Jacques Sevin in about 1910 but the 1897 version predates that).

Regardless of who the author is, this is a prayer that charts a life-changing course for our life as we press in to what it is being a follower of Christ calls us to.



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