Jun 5, 2024

Ignatius of Loyola


Generosity originates in the heart of God. Consider what God has made. The Lord didn’t cut corners in Genesis. The world God has fashioned is lavish and teeming with extravagant abundance. God’s ultimate act of generosity is sending his one and only Son to save us from our sins. “God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3.16).
Today’s prayer of generosity is often attributed to Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1566), although there are no references to the prayer in his writings. The first written record of the prayer dates to 1897. Soon thereafter, Jacques Sevin adopted this prayer as his organizing principle in introducing scouting to the French people. More likely, the prayer was composed by an anonymous Jesuit (Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus that came to be known as Jesuits) who ascribed it to Ignatius. Although he didn’t write it, Ignatius would have heartily approved since he was well-known for his generosity and selfless acts of service. While there is much to commend in the prayer, dare I mention that it could be perceived as overly romantic and unrealistic. The language “to give without counting the cost” seems to fly in the face of Jesus advising his disciples to count the cost (Luke 14.28-29). Isn’t it irresponsible “to fight heedless of wounds?” And how do the words “to labor without seeking rest” square with the Biblical injunction to honor the Sabbath? The point of the prayer is hardly to ignore health, rest, and counting the cost. Rather, the problem lies in the opposite direction. Our giving is far too miserly and calculating. Lord, give us more extravagance. Help us become glad and joyful givers. Give us your heart for generosity:

Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give without counting the cost,
to fight heedless of wounds,
to labor without seeking rest,
to sacrifice myself without thought of any reward,
save the knowledge that I have done your will.

Jack Mahoney, “A Mysterious Ignatian Prayer,” Thinking Faith, 2012.

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.