The Universal Prayer
Father of all! in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
And binding Nature fast in fate,
Left free the human will.

What conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do,
This, teach me more than Hell to shun,
That, more than Heaven pursue.

What blessings thy free bounty gives,
Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives,
To enjoy is to obey.

Yet not to earth’s contracted span,
Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round:

Let not this week, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land,
On each I judge thy foe.

If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, oh teach my heart
To find a better way.
Save me alike from foolish pride,
Or impious discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
Or aught thy goodness lent.

Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.

Mean though I am, not wholly so
Since quickened by thy breath;
Oh lead me wheresoe’er I go,
Through this day’s life or death.

This day, be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun,
Thou know’st if best bestowed or not,
And let thy will be done.

To thee, whose temple is all space,
Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
One chorus let all being raise!
All Nature’s incense rise!

Alexander Pope’s “The Universal Prayer” offers a neoclassical take on the Lord’s Prayer. The second stanza confesses that God, the “Great First Cause,” is good, if not well understood. By the fourth stanza the speaker finds motivation in his conscience more than the desire to avoid punishment or pursue reward.

Finally, we arrive at the bolded stanza that Mary Holdsworth Butt chose for three sites in the Frio Canyon. The speaker asks God to give him the gift of empathy—”to feel another’s woe.” These words appear in Linnet’s Wings, Singing Hills, and the Cody Center, and they closely parallel the petition of Jesus that God forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.

The poem concludes with the discovery of God in nature. In a similar way, many final gatherings at Laity Lodge see guests reorienting themselves in the Great Hall, literally turning their chairs around to look across the Frio River. Seeing God’s grandeur in altars of cypress and temples of limestone, Lodge guests, like readers of the poem, raise a chorus to the Creator’s work.

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