A Prayer for the Middle-Aged

The following prayer has been attributed to any number of ministries and religious writers, a member of British royalty, a sea captain, and a medieval nun. One newspaper account claims it was written by none of the above, but by Alta Becker of Dayton, Ohio, in 1956. She used it in her Lenten Lectures at the Dayton Women’s Club and was asked each year for copies. The Duchess of Windsor used it in her New Year’s resolutions with no credit cited. The Reader’s Digest credited it to Thomas E. Dewey in 1952. Although there are several different versions, and the origin remains uncertain, I find the words well worth pondering:

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know

myself, that I am growing older and will, some

day, be OLD.

Keep me from getting loquacious, and particu-

larly from the fatal habit of thinking I must say

something on every subject and on every occa-


Release me from craving to try to straighten

out everyone’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful, but not moody, helpful

but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it

seems a pity not to use it all. But Thou knowest,

Lord, that I want a few friends at the end – at

least enough for pallbearers, with a mourner or

two. Do not let the editor head my obituary with

the words, “Old Crab Dies as Last: Everybody


Keep my mind free from the recital of endless

details. Give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are

increasing and love of rehearsing them is becom-

ing sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for

grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains,

but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a

growing humility and a lessening cocksureness

when my memory seems to clash with the mem-

ory of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally

I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be

a Saint – some of them are so hard to live with.

But a sour old woman is one of the crowning

works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unex-

pected places and in unexpected people. Give me

the grace to tell them so. Amen.