‘O Lord, increase our faith’

Last night at choir rehearsal we practiced ‘O Lord, increase our faith’ by Henry Loosemore (d 1670). In it, we prayed for ‘wisdom, charity, chastity and patience’. The printed edition used by one of my first choirs omitted ‘chastity’ and instead repeated ‘charity’, but the choirmaster told us to sing ‘chastity’ anyway.

Praying for something generally means that you aren’t or don’t have it now. You may well give thanks for what you are or have now, but you don’t need to pray for it. Chastity seems to be an ‘all or nothing’ sin; either you are chaste (‘refraining from sexual intercourse that is regarded as contrary to morality or religion’) or you are not. It is possible to be a little bit unwise, uncharitable or impatient, but it’s not possible to be a little bit unchaste.

We pray/sing ‘endue us with wisdom …’. It is very easy to turn ‘endue us’ into ‘endure us’. And it may well be very appropriate to pray ‘O Lord, endure us with patience’.

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