Many Christians have memorized the Glory Be Prayer. It is a beautiful prayer with an ancient history that packs a powerful message. If you memorized it as a child, it’s time to rediscover it as an adult.
There are many different ways to pray, from memorized prayers to conversational prayers and even imaginative and contemplative prayers. Prayer is just like having a conversation with God. And I believe that God takes great delight every time one of His children comes to Him in prayer.
I love saying memorized prayers because of the amazing way that they connect me to believers across time and space. Do you know that when you say a memorized prayer like the Glory Be or the Our Father, you are saying the same words that millions of others have prayed before you? It’s like your voice is joining with people from other centuries and other continents as you all praise God. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring!
However, I also struggle with memorized prayers sometimes. I fall into this trap of saying the words without really engaging my heart or mind. It’s like I’m just praying to fulfill a duty. That’s not the way that I want to talk to the Lord because I believe that every word of every prayer is important and deserves my full attention.
So, instead of rattling off my prayers from memory, I started researching them so I could understand them at a deeper level. And I’ve been amazed by how much more meaningful and rich my prayers feel now. I hope that learning about the history and the meaning behind the Glory Be Prayer will strengthen your faith as well.
The History of the Glory Be Prayer
Truly understanding this prayer starts with exploring its history. This prayer was first used by monks in the fourth century. Then in 1608, Bishop Francis de Sales ended his book, Introduction to the Devout Life, with this prayer: “Glory be to Jesus, to Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, now and ever, and to all Eternity. Amen.” This is very similar to our modern version of this prayer.
Did you notice that the bishop ended his book with this prayer? That placement is very intentional because the Glory Be Prayer is a doxology. A doxology is a short prayer of praise that sums up all of the intentions of a longer prayer. So, it usually appears at the end of the prayer.
There are many examples of doxologies in the Bible, including:
- “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).
- “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12).
- “To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:27).
So, the Glory Be is an ancient doxology that is usually said at the end of a prayer.
Understanding the Glory Be Prayer
Now that we know a bit more about the history of this beautiful prayer, let’s go through it line by line to deepen our understanding. Here is the full prayer:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Now, we will break it into four sections:
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
The very first word of this prayer is “Glory.” We use this word a lot, but what does it mean? Glory comes from a Hebrew word meaning “weight” or “value.” According to Christianity.com, “Just as gold’s value is measured by weight, God’s glory is an indicator of his value. Throughout the Old and New Testament, evidence of God’s glory is seen in miracles. A natural response to seeing miracles was to praise God and give him glory.”
The first line of this prayer also summarizes the basic Christian belief about the Trinity: that God is one God in three persons. It is common for the trinitarian belief to show up in doxologies. For example, the book of 2nd Corinthians ends like this: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
“As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be…”
God’s glory has always been and always will be. Just as He deserved praise in ages past, He is worthy of all our worship today and forever more. Nothing can change that. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
This reveals God’s eternal nature. It is an echo of God saying, “I am the first and the last” (Isaiah 44:6). Or another popular way to express this idea is to call God the Alpha and Omega, which are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (Revelation 1:8).
“…world without end.”
The end of this prayer used to really confuse me. Then I learned that the original phrase in Latin can also be translated as “from age to age.” And I know that repeating the word is a way to emphasize its importance. So, basically, this is saying that God will be praised forever and ever and from now into eternity.
We say this at the end of most prayers. It’s a way to say, “So be it,” “truly,” or “surely.” It ends the prayer with a strong affirmation of belief. May it be so!
Now that you understand more about the Glory Be prayer, I hope that it takes on greater depths of meaning for you. May it remind you of God’s all-surpassing, never-ending, praise-inducing glory every time you say it!