Anthony Horneck (1641-1697): A prayer for humility

Anthony Horneck


Anthony Horneck (1641-1697) was a German-born Reformed divine of the Church of England. He studied under Friedrich Spanheim Jr in Heidelberg before furthering his studies at The Queen’s College, Oxford, under the Reformed professor Thomas Barlow, and served at Queen’s for a time as chaplain. Horneck would go on to become a popular preacher in London and a major role player in the early development of the Society for the Reformation of Manners.

Horneck published a number of works, among which is his The Exercise of Prayer (1685), in which the following prayer for humility is found (p. 16-20):

O thou lofty and holy One, who inhabitest eternity, and dwellest in the high and holy place, with him also that is of an humble spirit! Whither shall I go, but to thee who hast the words of eternal life! How shall I get this humble spirit, but by thy power and influence! Ah! How proud is my heart! How loth am I to submit to thy will! How loth to think ill of myself! How loth to bear injuries! How loth to converse with thy poor members! How loth to be sensible of my errors! How loth to acknowledge a fault! And yet all this while, I believe that thou beholdest the proud afar off, and that nothing is more abominable in thy sight! How apt am I to admire myself! How apt to harbour high conceits of my endowments! How apt to hunt after the praise of men! And what is all this but wind? What is it but smoke, and air, and vanity? How suddenly do these things grow, and how suddenly do they die again! How sensual, how carnal must that soul be, that minds such things! How void of a sense of greater beauties! How little affected, how little touched with the honour that comes from God! How weak in grace! How feeble in religion, that hath not learned yet to leap over such straws!

This is my case, O Lord; I am that weak, that empty soul, and yet unwilling to confess that I am proud, and vain, and lifted up: Pity me, O my God; make me sensible how far I am from the kingdom of God, till humility brings me nearer. Crush whatever proud thoughts and desires thou spyest in me. O put me in mind of my duty, whenever any vain thoughts rise in my soul. Pull down in me all imaginations that exalt themselves against Christ Jesus. O let not my heart be haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither let me exercise myself in things too high for me. Give me a sight of mine own vileness. Let me not be cheated with false colours. Let thy greatness overawe my soul. Let the example of my Saviour work upon me. How shall I be his disciple, and think of myself above what I ought to think? Let god arise, and let all my vain conceits of mine own worth be scattered. What am I but a handful of dust! What am I but a beggar, and thy pensioner, and who lives upon thy charity! O let these thoughts subdue my soul. Make me as ambitious of an humble spirit, and lowly mind, as others are of the greatness and admiration of the world.

Humility will make me great and honourable in thy sight. Let that honour content me, let that privilege satisfy my soul. O let a deep sense of my guilt humble me; then shall I with the penitent prodigal be welcome in my Father’s house, and my soul shall live, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.