Daily Prayer At Saint Laika’s

* Nicholas Ferrar *


Lord, take my lips, and speak through them; take my mind, and think through it; take my heart, and set it on fire. Amen.

( William Hay Hunter Aitken )


From "The Song of the Obedient (Cur Mundus Militat)"
translation ascribed to Nicholas Ferrar:

Why doth this world contend for glorious vanity?
Whose wealth so subject is to mutability?
As earthly vessels fail through their fragility:
so standeth worldly force unsure and slippery.

Characters raised in ice think rather permanent,
then earthly vanities wasting incontinent.
Shadowed with virtue pure, but false in recompense;
at no time yielding us true trust and confidence.

To men more credit give, who want fidelity,
then trust in worldly wealth, whose end is misery.
Falsehood is fond delight, pleasure is franticness,
desired vanities of fleeting fickleness.

Where now is Solomon, sometime in royalty;
or Samson with his great invincibility;
or gentle Jonathan, so praised for friendliness,
or fairest Absalom, so rare in comeliness?

Where now is Caesar gone, highest in authority,
or Dives with his fare and sumptuosity?
Tell now where Tully is, clearest in eloquence;
or Aristotle fled with his intelligence?

O silly vermin's food, O mass of dustiness,
O dew, O vanity, whence is thy loftiness?
To-morrow for to live thou hast no certainty;
do good therefore to all whilst thou hast liberty.

This worldly glory great how short a feast it is,
and like a shadow here, lo, how it vanishes,
taking rewards away of long continuance,
and leads us in the way of erring ignorance.

This earthly glory most which here is magnified,
in scripture termed is as grass that withered.
And as the lightest leaf the wind away doth blow,
so light is life of man for death to overthrow.

Think that which thou mayst lose is not thine certainly.
This world will take again her gifts of vanity.
Think, then, on heaven above, thereon thy mind address,
contemn all worldly wealth for endless blessedness.

MEDITATION by Tim Madsen

Nicholas Ferrar: deacon, spiritual explorer

Today Saint Laika’s remembers Nicholas Ferrar, the founder of one of the most remarkable experiments in Christian community living in the history of Anglicanism. An English academic, courtier and businessman, he gave up his successful careers, was ordained a deacon and retreated with his extended family to the manor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, where they lived in community.

Nicholas Ferrar was born in London on the twenty-second of February 1593.

His family was wealthy, having gotten involved in the London Virginia Company, which oversaw the commerce and trade with the Virginia Colony in North America. He had an aptitude for learning. He was brought up in a devout Anglican home.

After college, at what was then Clare Hall in Cambridge, Nicholas travelled to Europe, taking a position as a courtier to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. When he left her service he continued to travel for a while before returning to England in 1618. He set to work as one of the directors of the Virginia Colony, but when the Company was forced to dissolve in 1624, Nicholas made a life-changing decision.

At the age of thirty-three, Nicholas abandoned his successful political and commercial career to move to found a community of prayer. He bought the deserted manor and village of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, a few miles off the Great North Road, with the support of his mother, Mary Ferrar, and his brother John.

Mary Ferrar and the extended family and household (about thirty to forty people) moved into the manor house, and Nicholas became the leader and spiritual director of the community. In 1626 he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England.

In contemporary Anglican life, religious communities are fairly common, but this was two hundred years before the Oxford Movement would attempt to restore pre-reformation practices to the English Church. The offices of morning and evening prayer are two of the greatest contributions of the Anglican Church to the English Language and Ferrar’s community prayed them each day. Someone from the family was engaged in prayer continuously, and so the entire "Book of Psalms" was prayed in the course of each day.
They fasted with great rigour and, in other ways, embraced voluntary poverty, so that they might have as much money as possible for the relief of the poor. They also looked after the health and education of the local children.

Ferrar died on the fourth of December, 1645.

Civil unrest in England brought the Puritans to power. The king was killed and Oliver Cromwell ruled as regent. Unfortunately, the Puritans broke up the community shortly after Ferrar’s death and their experiment in Anglican community came to an end.

Scripture. In the "Letter to Galatians," chapter six, verses nine and ten we read:

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.


We pray...

... for peace in the world.

... for those who pray and that we may be drawn to pray more often and more fervently.

... for the retreat house and church at Little Gidding and all those committed to keeping the memory and example of Nicholas Ferrar alive.

... on this World AIDS Day, for the success of those working to find a cure for the disease; for those who have died as a result of contracting AIDS and all those who are living with the illness.

... for the people of the Central African Republic and the people of Romania, who celebrate their national day today.

... for the people of Zimbabwe as it becomes apparent that they have swapped one corrupt and violent dictator for another.

... for those facing redundancy from work.

... for those killed or injured when gunmen, disguised in burkas, stormed the Agriculture Training Institute in the Pakistani city of Peshawar this morning. DETAILS

... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.

... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.

... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.

... for ourselves.


Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.


"For Nicholas Ferrar" by Malcolm Guite

You died the hour you used to rise for prayer.
In that rich hush beneath all other sounds,
you rose at one and took the midnight air
rising and falling on the wings and rounds
of psalms and silence. The December stars
shine clear above the Giddings, promised light
for those who dwell in darkness. Morning stirs
the household. From the folds of sleep, the late
risers wake to find you gone, and pray
through pain and grief to bless your journey home;
those last glad steps in the right good old way
up to the door where Love will bid you welcome.
Love draws us too, towards your grave and haven
we greet you at the very gate of Heaven.


Lord God, make us so reflect your perfect love; that, with your deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our saviour and lord. Amen.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.


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Daily Prayer At Saint Laika’s — 2 Comments

  1. I’ve long been fascinated by the Littld Gidding community and by Nicholas Ferra. Thanks so much for this!

  2. I find the liminality of Little Gidding far more interesting and intense than that on Lindisfarne or Iona, for example.