Stoic Prayer

Edward Vernon Arnold, Roman Stoicism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), pp. 235-236 (footnotes omitted):

The whole problem of prayer is so fully and admirably treated upon Stoic lines by Juvenal in his Tenth Satire, that nothing can be added to his exposition but the evidence that his teaching is in fact Stoic. Let us then enter the temples and listen to men’s prayers. First they beg the doorkeeper for admission, though the deity is equally near to them outside; then they raise their hands to the sky, or press their mouths close to the ear of an image. To the unlistening deity they pour out wishes so shameful that they could not let a fellow-man share their secret. Decrepit old men babble prayers for long life, and make themselves out younger than they are. Another prays for riches, or for some other thing that will do him harm. Undertakers pray for a busy season. Parents and nurses (and these are the nearest to innocence) pray for the success of their children in life. They may be excused, but the thoughtful man should know that the advantages for which friends have prayed have often in the end proved a man’s destruction. He should examine his own heart, and recognise that his prayers till now have been unworthy and foolish. Since the gods wish us well, let us leave it to them to choose what is best for us. ‘Look up to God, and say: deal with me for the future as thou wilt: I am of the same mind as thou art. I am thine, I refuse nothing that pleases thee.’ ‘Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things that happen to be as they are: and you will have a tranquil flow of life.’

Prayer so regarded becomes not merely an act of resignation, in which a man ceases to battle against a destiny that is too strong for him; it is a daily examination of his soul, to know whether it is in tune with the purposes of the universe. This examination is a religious exercise, never to be omitted before sleep. It is inculcated both by Seneca and Epictetus. ‘How beautiful’ says Seneca, ‘is this custom of reviewing the whole day! how quiet a sleep follows on self-examination! The mind takes its place on the judgment-seat, investigates its own actions, and awards praise or blame according as they are deserved.’

I have been thinking about putting together a cheap and handy edition of the most popular Stoics, say a 5×7 paperback that includes both the Enchiridion and Discourses of Epictetus, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca’s Letters.

As far as I know, no one else has published such a thing… Should I set it in Doves Type?

Rembrandt, Old Man in Prayer (1630)