How Praying through the Nicene Creed Can Strengthen Your Faith
You might have heard the Nicene Creed in church as part of a worship service, or been taught the words in a confirmation or Sunday school class. But what is the Nicene Creed, and can praying through it help us grow stronger in our faith?
Indeed, praying through this powerful affirmation of who God is — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — can enable us to focus on our core beliefs in a world filled with chaos, foster unity, and develop into stronger and more focused Christians.
Here, let’s explore how to pray through the Nicene Creed.
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What Is the Nicene Creed?
The Nicene Creed, or more accurately, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, is an overall statement expressing the most-important basics of the Christian doctrine. It is typically read aloud as a congregational body during church worship services as a way to affirm our collective and individual faith in Jesus Christ.
The Nicene Creed was created in AD 325 at the Council of Nicaea, which was an ecumenical gathering of Christians convened by the Emperor Constantine in the city of Nicaea, in what is today northwest Turkey. A later ecumenical gathering, the Council of Constantinople in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in AD 381, further revised the creed crafted by the Council of Nicaea, and the final product is what we use today.
Its creation settled longtime heated debate about the divinity of God and God’s triune nature as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; it set forth the essential beliefs of Christianity. The Council of Nicaea, under the leadership of then-Bishop Alexander, settled debate at the time led by a clergyman named Arius, who was arguing that Jesus was not God at all. The Nicene Creed effectively settled the matter, and the beliefs proffered by Arius were regarded as heresy from then on.
It is the second oldest creed of Christian faith, though the first — the Apostles’ Creed — is not accepted by all churches. The Nicene Creed, however, is considered the only fully ecumenical creed because of its acceptance by the major Protestant churches as well as the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches.
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What Does the Nicene Creed Say?
A modern translation of the Nicene Creed follows:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
(Note that the word “catholic” in the creed means universal, not specifically “Roman Catholic.”)
What Are the Parts of the Creed?
There are four primary parts of the Nicene Creed:
First is the declaration of belief in God the Father, who made all things.
The second part proclaims that Jesus is the only Son of God and is fully divine and a part of God — that is, one with God and, therefore, creator of all things. The second part also confirms that Jesus came from heaven and was born as a human as the product of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary specifically for our salvation. He was executed for our sake but rose from the dead and now reigns in heaven.
The third part affirms belief in the Holy Spirit as a part of the triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit, three in one.
The last part is an affirmation of the universal church, including baptism and our ultimate resurrection.
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How Can We Pray through the Nicene Creed?
Praying through the Nicene Creed is a powerful way to acknowledge our core beliefs as Christians. Here are a few ways we can pray through the Creed:
1. Pray Aloud with Meaning
Sometimes reciting the Creed in church can feel rote or mechanical. But it shouldn’t. One suggestion is to speak each word from the heart as though you are saying these words directly to God. Focus on the four parts of the creed and the truth within those words. Claim them afresh in your soul.
When you say God the Father made heaven and earth and all that is seen and unseen, reflect on that. Imagine the stars and this planet itself, bursting forth at God’s own command. Imagine the layers of spirit all around us, and bask in the miracle of it all.
When you say Jesus is “Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made,” meditate on that. Imagine that shared light, that God so magnificent and powerful He explodes our concept of what God is, and instead is God so inconceivable, so mighty, we cannot even begin to grasp His ways. All we can do is claim our faith in this mighty triune God and hold profound gratitude in our hearts that we humans are precious to Him.
2. Write the Words
Another way to pray the Nicene Creed is to slowly hand-write the words, taking time to let the magnitude of each belief transform our hearts anew. After each line, pause to let the affirmation settle in your soul. Reflect on what this means to you personally.
3. Get Artistic
Even if you feel you have zero artistic talent, sometimes if can be helpful to focus on the visual and symbolic aspects within the Creed. Pick up a paintbrush or a sketchpad, or grab a legal pad and a ballpoint pen. Begin reciting the words, and for each main statement of belief, allow yourself to draw or otherwise visually record the image in your heart inspired by those words. Sometimes, we are so tied to the actual words of a statement that our brains focus on the details instead of the core truth. Let your spirit free to express your faith visually.
4. Ponder in Nature
Pray the Nicene Creed as you walk or otherwise reflect out-of-doors. Take yourself as far away from the creature-comforts of home as possible and bask in the open air. Notice the wonders of creation all around you, permeating all five of your senses. Feel the breeze upon your skin, hear the chirping of the bird in the treetops, marvel at the dance of sunlight through the leaves, smell and taste the fragrance of the mountains or the seashore, the valleys or the plains. Let yourself open to the beauty of creation as you acknowledge every aspect of the Creed.
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Why Is It Helpful to Pray through the Creed?
In what can be a chaotic world filled with distractions and spiritual warfare, praying through the Nicene Creed is an excellent way to focus on what really matters above all: God. Sometimes the busy-ness of life can drown out the critical truths of our faith, but praying the Creed pushes all that aside so we can profess, once more, the essence of our soul: we belief in God as Father, Son, and Spirit, and we are part of a universal church and saved because of this belief. Acknowledging our faith strengthens us and weakens the power of the devil, whose lies and distraction divide.
Praying through the Creed is also a good way to foster unity in the church. Different churches often have different beliefs about certain things, such as how often to take communion or whether one should be baptized as an infant or an adult. But focusing on the critical truths, our core doctrinal Christian faith says that despite our different styles, we are one in the Lord, and we stand together.
It's also a way to remind ourselves of what it truly means to be a Christian. All of us are at different stages in our walk with God, and while many are daily Bible readers, attend church regularly, and are quite mature in their faith, others have never read Scripture or are brand-new believers. Praying through the Creed helps bring much-needed clarity about the most important aspects of faith for anyone at any place in their faith journey.
In spite of its origin being nearly 2,000 years ago, the Nicene Creed is a powerful statement of faith that is helpful to the spiritual foundation of all Christians. It reminds us of the core truths we all share as Christians, breaking down the Gospel so the message is clear and concise, not only in our hearts, but in our efforts to share the Gospel throughout the world.
For in the end, despite our personal divisions and differences, we are all one in the Lord. The Nicene Creed helps underscore that truth in a mighty and transformative way.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Her newest release is an Advent daily devotional for those seeking true closeness with God, which you can find at https://www.jessicabrodie.