The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘confession

A way to pray

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Although it seems a long time ago, it was less than a week back that I suggested a day to pray: Sunday 22 March 2020. Since then, much has changed, and church members are now largely distanced if not entirely isolated from each other, at least physically. If you were and still are hoping to embrace this opportunity, let me suggest—under these particular circumstances—a way to pray.

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With some possible and slim exceptions, this will not be the gathered church at prayer. That does not stop us praying, because—while it may be particularly sweet and profitable to gather for prayer—we are not hindered by being in or out of any particular place, nor by being few or even one. That said, and acknowledging again that we are not heard because of our many words, nor because of many voices, there are particular encouragements in knowing that others are gathering together at the throne of grace to express, with one heart and one voice, the hopes and desires of our souls.

If you are a preacher, and wish to stir the hearts of the saints, might I suggest a sermon that is intended, under God, to direct us toward God with zealous faith. If you are a hearer or a reader, listen to something or read something that will, under God, have the same effect. I know that I have often preached on prayer, so I am confident that the saints I serve can easily find something along those lines, and I trust that the same will be true for you with your pastors. Likewise, there is such a wealth of excellent printed material on prayer that I hesitate to make any specific recommendations, but let it rather be briefer and warmer than longer and cooler.

Then, while it would be good to spend much of the day with an eye and heart heavenward, I also recommend setting aside particular times and finding a particular place, alone or with others, where you can give yourself to prayer. My intention is to be praying at the hours of our morning and evening worship (because I currently anticipate being at our church building at that time, I will incorporate it in the labours of the moment). If it helps, for me that will be about the hours of 11am and 6pm (GMT).

Find somewhere you can minimise unnecessary distractions; gather as a family if you can, or if you have friends willing and able to do so. If alone, it may be helpful to pray aloud, simply as a help to maintaining your focus and keeping your heart from wandering. If you are not accustomed to protracted seasons of private or communal prayer, then it will be better to pray briefly and often, occasionally and fervently, rather than to meander and struggle and feel as if you are making no progress. Expect prayer under these circumstances to be as much of a battle as it usually is, or more so.

If you choose to add fasting to your praying, then I would recommend reading this little piece by Samuel Miller, valuable particularly for its brevity and clarity and spirituality. It may help to know how to make the most of such an investment.

And how should we pray in substance? I am wary of over-regulating this, not least because there will be not only far more general petitions than I could begin to suggest, but also countless local, specific needs that will need to be brought before the Lord. However, if you are looking for a starting point, here are some suggestions, arranged around five points of adoration, humiliation, confession, appreciation and supplication.

Adoration

  • To the God who dwells in heaven and who does whatever he pleases (Ps 115:3).
  • To the Lord who kills and makes alive, who brings down to the grave and brings up (1Sam 2:6).
  • To the Lord who has, in mercy, not dealt with us as we deserve (Ps 103:10; Jon 4:11; Ezr 9:13).
  • To a God who is ready to hear the cry of his saints, and who is able to bring good out of evil (Ps 50.15; Gen 50.20).
  • To a God willing able to save all who call upon him, delivering from sin, death and hell (Ps 86:5; 145:8; Rom 10:8-13).

Humiliation

  • Because we are feeble and frail creatures who have forgotten our weakness (Ps 103:14-16).
  • Because it has taken such a season as this to bring us to God in this way.
  • Because we have imagined ourselves self-sufficient when we are utterly God-dependent.
  • Because we have placed too much trust and found too much satisfaction in the passing things of this passing world.
  • Because we are now utterly exposed in our need, and have no other recourse but to God.

Confession

  • That we deserve far worse than we receive, being sinful in nature and sinners in deed.
  • That we belong to cultures and societies who deserve the fiercest judgments, and that often our sins and our failings as God’s people are reflective of those around us.
  • That we have too often relied upon the arm of flesh rather than the Lord our God, and will be tempted to do so again.
  • That we struggle with sinful doubts and fears concerning the government and goodness of God.
  • That we have not been faithful as we should have been in warning and urging our neighbours as we should have done concerning their perilous condition outside of Christ.

Appreciation

  • That God, our God, remains in absolute control of all these events, and that we are safe in him, and can urge others to run to him to be safe.
  • That God has granted so many gifted people who are doing so much to hold back, treat, or cure this disease, and for the means we have at our disposal to survive and even thrive, spiritually and physically, during this season.
  • That, in large measure, our children are being spared death, and that so many people seem likely to recover.
  • For the common grace behind the courtesy and kindness which still characterise parts of our culture.
  • For the distinct opportunities we have been given to point men beyond what can be seen to what is unseen, and beyond what is temporary to what is eternal.

Supplication

  • That the Lord would be pleased to hallow his name, advance his kingdom, and secure his glory by all these events, and in mercy turn back the judgments he is sending on the nations of the world.
  • That he would grant grace to his saints to this end during this season, and that this experience would recalibrate our priorities not just for this season, but for all our days.
  • That we would be delivered from a spirit of fear, and rather know a spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2Tim 1:7), being characterised by genuine faith, manifesting a calm confidence in the God of our salvation.
  • That any time in which we are laid aside, whether well or ill, would be of lasting profit to our souls, rather than a season of decline and drift.
  • That believers who may, in addition to being in isolation, be genuinely isolated, might also be kept in good heart by the Lord, not least through his people’s love, and that Christians in difficult family situations, especially with unconverted family members, might bear a gracious and effective testimony during these days.
  • That Satan might be kept from sowing seeds of spiritual distance, discord and division among church members over any period of extended absence from one another, and keep our love for God and for one another bright and strong.
  • That the Lord would be pleased to spare the lives of his people, or to supply all needed grace that we might die well, and to spare those outside his kingdom who otherwise would be ushered into hell.
  • That he would give particular wisdom to the civil authorities and all those under their direction, concerning all the measures for control and eventual prevention and cure of this disease.
  • That our country might be spared panic and disorder during this time.
  • That this would be, in particular, a means of convicting, convincing and converting many who would otherwise have had no regard to their undying souls.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 19 March 2020 at 08:37

A confession

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In The Marrow of Modern Divinity, teacher of truth Evangelista explains the requirements of the fifth commandment to some of those discussing the Scriptures, and what follows is the confession of Neophytus, the young Christian, together with the response and confession of Evangelista himself.  I have been using this section of The Marrow as a help to self-examination in my private devotion, and could really only echo the confessions that the author puts in the mouths of these men, and be thankful for the cleansing blood and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.  As Evangelista says, “Assure yourself, neighbour Neophytus, this is not your case alone, but the case of every man that has stood in all these relations to others, as it seems you have done, as I am confident any man that truly knows his heart will confess.”

Neophtyus: Well, sir, I cannot tell what my neighbour Nomologista hath done, but for mine own part, I am sure, I have come far short of doing my duty in any relation I have had to others; for when I was a child, I remember that I was many times stubborn and disobedient to my parents, and vexed if I might not have my will, and slighted their admonitions, and was impatient at their corrections, and sometimes despised and contemned them in my heart, because of some infirmity, especially when they grew old; neither did I pray for them, as it seems I ought to have done; and the truth is, if I did yield any obedience to them at all, it was for fear of their corrections, or some such by-respects, and not for conscience towards God. And when I was a servant, I did not think so reverently, nor esteem so highly of my master and mistress as I should have done, but was apt to slight and despise them, and did not yield such humble, reverent, and cheerful obedience as I should have done; neither did I patiently and contentedly bear their checks and rebukes, but had divers times risings and swellings in my heart against them; neither was I so careful to maintain their good name and credit as I ought to have been; neither did I pray unto the Lord for them as I ought to have done; and the very truth is, all the obedience and subjection which I yielded unto them, was for fear of their reproofs and corrections, or for the praise of men, rather than in conscience to the Lord’s commandment.

And when I entered into the married estate, I was not careful to choose a religious wife; no, I aimed at beauty more than piety; and I have not dwelt with my wife as a man of knowledge; no, I have expressed much ignorance and folly in my carriage towards her; neither have I loved her so as a husband ought to love his wife, for though it be true I have had much fond affection towards her, yet I have had but little true affection, as it hath been evident in that I have been easily provoked to anger and wrath against her, and have not carried myself patiently towards her; neither have I been careful to maintain mine authority over her, but have lost it by my childish and indiscreet carriage towards her; neither have I lived so cheerfully and delightfully with her as I ought to have done, but very heavily, discontentedly, and uncomfortably have I carried myself towards her; neither have I been careful to instruct and admonish her as I ought; and though I have now and then reproved her, yet for the most part it has been in a passion, and not with the spirit of meekness, pity, and compassion; neither have I prayed for her either so often or so fervently as I ought; and whatsoever I have done, that has been well done, I have been moved thereunto, in former times especially, rather by something in her, or done by her, than by the commandment of God. And since I became a father and a master, I have neither done my duty to my children nor servants as I ought, for I have not had such care, nor taken such pains for their eternal good, as I have done for their temporal. I have had more care, and taken more pains to provide food and raiment for them, than I have to admonish, instruct, teach, and catechize them; and if I have reproved or corrected them, it has been rather because they have some way offended me, than because they have offended God; and truly, I have neither prayed for them so often, nor so fervently as I ought. In a word, whatsoever I have done by way of discharging my duty to them, I fear me, it has been rather out of natural affection, or to avoid the blame, and gain the good opinion of men, than out of conscience to the Lord’s will and commandment.

And if I have at any time carried myself well, or done my duty either to magistrate or minister, it has rather been for fear or praise of men, than for conscience sake towards God; so far have I been from keeping this commandment perfectly: the Lord be merciful unto me!

Evangelista: Assure yourself, neighbour Neophytus, this is not your case alone, but the case of every man that has stood in all these relations to others, as it seems you have done, as I am confident any man that truly knows his heart will confess, yea, and any woman that is well acquainted with her own heart, I am persuaded, will confess, that she has not had such a reverent esteem and opinion of her husband as she ought, nor so willingly yielded herself to be commanded, governed, and directed by him as she ought, nor loved him so truly as she ought; nor been so helpful to him any way as she ought, nor prayed either so oft or so fervently for him as she ought; and I fear me, most women do all that they do rather for fear of their husband’s frowns, or to gain his favour, than for conscience to the Lord’s will and command.

And where is the magistrate that is so careful to establish in his dominions such good and wholesome laws as he ought, or to see them executed or put in practice as he ought, or that is so careful to uphold and maintain the truth of religion as he ought, or that is so careful to provide for the peace, safety, and welfare of his people as he ought? Or where is the magistrate that does not do what he does for some other cause, or some other end, rather than because God commands them, or to the end he may please him?

And where is the minister that does his duty so in his place as he ought? I am sure, for mine own part, I have neither so diligently nor faithfully preached the pure word of God as I ought; nor so fully nor truly expounded it and applied it to my hearers as I ought; nor so poured out my soul to God for them in prayer as I ought; neither have I gone before them as a pattern of imitation in holiness of life and conversation, as I ought: the Lord be merciful to me!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 20 April 2010 at 12:13

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