Prayer

Photograph by Steve Burling, My Shot

Photograph by Steve Burling, My Shot

Grace. I am so undeserving of grace. Why me, oh Lord?

Consider not I, who would at a young age feign faith yet know you not, rejecting your daily mercies. Consider not I, who at my core am nothing but a lying, thieving, adulterous, man-hating, selfish, prideful and covetous man. For what reason am I deserving of your grace and mercy? Why would you, while I am consciously rejecting and blaspheming your very name, choose to open my eyes and ears to see the beauty of the gospel? “Oh wretched man that I am! Who can save me from this body of sin and death?”

Surely there are others more deserving. Consider instead the social worker who fights daily for justice for children, yet she remains far from you. Consider instead the politician who gives their life towards advocating peace, yet he does not know you. Consider instead those who give up everything to bring relief to people in need, yet they have not experienced your love. Consider instead the doctor serving in low-income areas, who provides medical care to the neglected, yet remains entirely resistant to the very idea of your existence.

Why me, oh Lord? Why would you choose me as your “vessel of mercy”, while I was running farther and farther from you? How could you bring me so near to your holy throne, a filthy and stained sinner like me?

Is it true, as your Word says, that the heart of man is entirely wicked and that we have all gone astray? Is it true, my God, that there is “not one who does good” and that our righteous deeds are like “filthy rags” to you? Who then is worthy to receive your grace?

Indeed my God and Savior, there is not one who is deserving of your grace. For if we could earn your grace, it would no longer be grace. How could we then be so far from you that we would reject the very idea that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us?”

What love is this, that it would please you to bring filthy and dirty people like myself into your presence? How great a love that shows mercy to those who “act ignorantly in unbelief.” For in us you are pleased to show your goodness and mercy, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

I contemplate then the cost of such grace. For as loving and gracious as you are my God, you are also the unlimited and just judge of all creation. How great are you, that you would consider my soul greater than yourself. What kind of God would love a filthy man like me, to allow my sins to nail your perfect Son to the wooden cross?

What kind of God would sacrifice himself for his rebellious creation? There is only one, our mediator Christ Jesus. And just as you then paid the perfect sacrifice “once and for all”, so now you are continually making propitiation and turning away the wrath of the Father towards our sin.

Your grace, Oh Lord. I am so undeserving of your grace. Yet I am so thankful for giving me “eyes to see, and ears to hear.” How can I not now, after weighing the cost of such love, not live my life entirely for you? Oh Lord, melt the hearts of my fellow men, and if it pleases you to do so, send me out to make you known among them.

Humility is a tricky subject. To say that we’ve ever arrived at being humble would in fact just be pride in ourselves. To try and teach how to become humble without coming off as prideful is an incredibly difficult task. I have no solutions – every day I pray for God to grant me grace and humility towards others, and every day it continues to be a struggle. I think this will always be a thorn for me, as pride and arrogance were a huge problem for me prior to becoming a Christian. Even today, the very doctrines that should humble me – that Christ came into the world to save the worst of sinners like me – creates puffed up conceit and pride over being able to dominate others in discussion. I’ve heard it said that seminaries are often a breeding ground for pride, as we can often tend to academize the faith throughout our studies. Even while I do my basic exercises or readings, I have to consistently stop and pray and remind myself why I am doing these studies.

The Scriptures explicitly warn against teachers who are prideful, arrogant, conceited and think too highly of themselves. Even worse, they teach that such people are not qualified for leadership. I often fear that due to this depravity in my nature I will never be able to lead as I should. My only comfort has been consistently to pray through the following prayer and passage from Philippians 2:1-11. I thank God that he has exposed this pride within me, and now I only know how to continue to ask him to take it from me.

 

Mighty God,

I humble myself for faculties misused, opportunities neglected, words ill-advised, I repent of my folly and inconsiderate ways, my broken resolutions, untrue service, my backsliding steps, my vain thoughts.

O bury my sins in the ocean of Jesus’ blood and let no evil result from my fretful temper, unseemly behaviour, provoking pettiness.

If by unkindness I have wounded or hurt another, do thou pour in the balm of heavenly consolation; If I have turned coldly from need, misery, grief, do not in just anger forsake me: If I have withheld relief from penury and pain, do not withhold thy gracious bounty from me.

If I have shunned those who have offended me, keep open the door of thy heart to my need.

Fill me with an over-flowing ocean of compassion, the reign of love my motive, the law of love my rule.

O thou God of all grace, make me more thankful, more humble; Inspire me with a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties, my unimproved advantages, thy commands violated by me.

With all my calls to gratitude and joy may I remember that I have reason for sorrow and humiliation;

O give me repentance unto life;

Cement my oneness with my blessed Lord, that faith may adhere to him more immovably, that love may entwine itself round him more tightly, that his Spirit may pervade every fibre of my being.

Then send me out to make him known to my fellow-men.

-Valley of Vision, “Humility in Service”

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

-Philippians 2:1-11, ESV

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Our Father in Heaven,

You are our greatest joy. When we sing to you, our hearts are lifted towards you in sweet praises. As the great choir around your throne sings “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord!”, so too do we now exalt your name among the earth. For truly you are holy and deserve all glory, honor and praise.

Oh Lord, we come before you on our knees in prayer. Only on our knees are we in our proper position before you, for you are far greater than we can fathom. We come before you not with our own good deeds. Such things are filthy rags to you and cannot be before your throne. We bring only ourselves, pleading the blood of Christ which cleanses us of our sin.

At this time the Church collectively gives pause to remember the sacrifice that was paid on our behalf. For while we were yet sinners, Christ your son died for us. And this is love. When we yet deserved the wrath and curse that our sin brings, Jesus took that for us – for cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree. On that fateful day at Calvary, when darkness crept over the earth and your back was turned on your son, the punishment we deserved was poured out on the only one who never deserved it. And this is love. Truly, “It is finished.” With those words we know now that we rest in your arms. On account of this we cannot help but confess his name. Our very heart sings it.

Only through your son, the great High Priest who was promised to us since eternity past, can we now approach your throne. Through taking on our likeness, Christ’s priesthood was made perfect and we can now approach your throne with confidence. Christ has removed the veil, not only from your majesty’s seat but from our very eyes that were unable to see you. For this you are most deserved of our praise and worship.

Lord Jesus, we are reminded at this time of the reason you were sent into this world to die. We inhabit a lost and dying world, and we daily seek our own desires over you. We are reminded of where we once stood before being adorned in new garments, and we are reminded that countless more remain separated from you. Our prayers now are on their behalf, Oh Lord, that you would open their heart to receive you. Holy Spirit, may you open their ears to hear the most glorious news that any lips have ever uttered.

We repent of the times when we take salvation into our own hands. The arrogant heart is an abomination to you, may you rid such arrogance from our being. May we humbly return to you, for we are scattered in the pride of our hearts. “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” Surely, no heart has ever been won through lofty arguments, philosophical debate or political forum. Remind us that we are only your vessels of mercy, and merely tools in your harvest.

We know this Easter Sunday the pews will be filled with countless numbers of those who seek to fulfill their yearly commitment of attending Easter service. Oh Lord, how we pray that you would awaken their hearts to your beauty and grace. For you did not die that we may check off a box every year, but you died to purchase our whole selves for your glory. And may it be so.

Abba, Father, we lift up to you our pastors whom week in and week out preach your mercies and grace to a world that would reject it. May you fill them with your strength and confidence and speak mightily through them. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” May your gospel boldly be preached; only through repentance and the forgiveness of sins may we be reconciled to you through your son. We pray for the pastors who have wandered from this truth, whom in their words only seek to tickle the ears of those who hear. May they return to you.

We raise up to you the leaders of this nation. We know that it is you who builds up each leader, and you alone who tears them down. You are higher than our desires or our plan, and we now ask your blessing and mercy upon those in office. We pray for peace, both at home and abroad. May our conflicts in this nation be resolved without hate, fear or bickering but in understanding and respect.

We pray for the world, all of the lost and brokenhearted, the widowed and orphans. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” May your mercies be on those who cry out to you.  May your church be empowered to bring the hope of Christ to all those in need.

Gracious Father, our love today rests in you. May we continue to grow in our affection towards you, for as long as our heart beats and we are on this side of eternity.

Amen