Actiones Nostras, Direct Our Actions, Lord—Our Daily Prayer As We Exit the Upper Room

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | Jun 01, 2018

In my last post (my dear Theophilus...) the Church was concluding Lent and entering into Holy Week. I mentioned that migraines and eye problems were interfering with computer and writing time. The problems improved in time for my “busy season” at school and the atrium and the extra events in my family, including a Confirmation and 8th grade graduation, leaving still less time for writing.

I have many posts brewing in my mind, but I’m putting them all aside because of a conversation I had this week with one of my co-teachers (I’m a CGS catechist and assistant working in the elementary of a Catholic Montessori School.). She shared a prayer that our faculty has been praying together in the morning before the school day begins:

Lord,
may everything we do
begin with your inspiration,
continue with your help
and reach perfection under your guidance.
We ask this our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I have been enjoying praying this every morning, and wondering where my co-worker found it. I thought the structure has similarities to a Collect or Opening Prayer at Mass. I decided to search on my own. I discovered that it is an ancient and liturgical prayer, often referred to by the first Latin words, Actiones Nostras:

Actiones nostras, quaesumus Domine,
aspirando praeveni et adiuvando prosequere:
ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat,
et per te coepta finiatur.
Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Amen.

I don’t understand how I have missed this treasure of a prayer all these years! It is a prayer of the Church’s liturgy. It is part of the Roman Ritual (Book of Blessings), and part of the Roman Missal as a Collect included in the Propers of Mass on Thursday after Ash Wednesday for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and used in the Second Week of Lent in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is also included in the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office, Week 1, Monday, Morning Prayer and part of the concluding prayer in the longer and older version of the Litany of Saints.

Outside of the Church’s liturgy, it is a beautiful prayer to begin and have Our Lord direct all our actions. The Handbook of Indulgences or Enchiridion of Indulgences includes this prayer as the first one in the book, with a partial indulgence applied to anyone who prays it. I have found a few different translations, and have included these and the original Latin in the prayers entry of Catholic Culture.

In my search, I also found that Pope Benedict XVI mentioned this prayer in one of his weekly General Audiences in 2012. He was continuing his study of the Acts of the Apostles, with this talk in particular about Acts 6, “concerning pastoral charity to lonely people and those in need of assistance and help.” In context, Pope Benedict emphasizes that we must have a balance of prayer and action, always with God’s direction:

The passage from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us of the importance—without a doubt a true and proper ministry is created—of devotion to daily activities which should be carried out with responsibility and dedication and also our need for God, for his guidance, for his light which gives us strength and hope. Without daily prayer lived with fidelity, our acts are empty, they lose their profound soul, and are reduced to being mere activism which in the end leaves us dissatisfied. There is a beautiful invocation of the Christian tradition to be recited before any other activity which says: “Actiones nostras, quæsumus, Domine, aspirando præveni et adiuvando prosequere, ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat, et per te coepta finiatur”; that is, “Inspire our actions, Lord, and accompany them with your help, so that our every word and action may always begin and end in you”. Every step in our life, every action, of the Church too, must be taken before God, in the light of his word.

The entire Audience is short but worthwhile reading. Pope Benedict gives the perfect reminder of having balance (like Martha and Mary) and how every single thing we do must be through God.

I bring up this prayer now because it especially fits into this Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Year. We have just celebrated the feast of Pentecost and concluded the Easter season. After celebrating the Paschal events of the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus into heaven, this is the time we are given to fulfill our mission (the Great Commission): “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Pentecost is the feast of action. Even though the Apostles were given this Great Commission at the Ascension, they waited, huddled in fear until the Holy Spirit conferred His gifts at Pentecost. Only at the reception of the Holy Spirit were the Apostles ready to be disciples, going from the Upper Room to spread the Good News. The house could no longer hold them. They were compelled by the Holy Spirit to share the Good News, but balanced in both to prayer and sharing God’s Word.

I always see Pentecost not just as a conclusion of the Easter season, but the beginning of our hard work and perspiration. We can no longer just contemplate the Paschal Mystery. It is time to leave the safety and security of the Upper Room and to share the Good News, but always through balancing our contemplation and action.

I love that I now have a name, context and value to this prayer Actiones Nostras, especially thanks to Pope Benedict. As I step out and do the work of evangelization, all my activity needs to be directed to and by God. What better way than by praying this ancient liturgical prayer of the Church?

For Further Reading:

See Actiones Nostras in the Prayers section of Catholic Culture for versions of this prayer.

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jvob5058 - Jun. 03, 2018 9:58 AM ET USA

    Thanks, Jennifer, for taking the time to research this article. I have forwarded it to my daughter for consideration by her first grade teaching team and have included it in my own morning prayer digest. Jvo

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jun. 01, 2018 10:27 PM ET USA

    Thanks, that is just what I need.