Prayer

Preparation for Worship

iStock_000004625291MediumToo often when we gather for worship we miss out on a vital part of worship: Confession of sin and need for God. Of course confession is all too often left out of our worship gatherings but that is our great loss. It is only when we allow ourselves to be humbled at our desperate condition that we can rejoice most fully in God’s gracious salvation. The stars are seen and enjoyed most when the darkness around us is greatest.

So to help you prepare to worship God with other believers tomorrow, here is a possible prayer of confession. It is loosely based upon one of the prayers from the little book Valley of Vision.

Father,

You are good beyond all our thought, but we are defiled by sin, wretched and miserable in our sin, and blind to the awfulness of our sin.

Too often our lips are ready to confess but our hearts are slow to feel our need and our ways relunctant to change.

We bring our souls to You; O, Father. Break us, wound us, bend us, mold us. Unmask to us our sin’s deformity and ugliness, that we may hate it, abhor it, and flee from it.

Our thoughts and senses have been weapons of rebellion against you. And as rebels we have misused our strength and served the adversary of your kingdom.

Give us grace to hate and mourn our senseless and foolish sin! Grant us to know that the way of sinners and rebels is hard; that evil paths are wretched paths; that to depart from You is to lose all good.

We have seen the purity and beauty of Your perfect law, the happiness of those in whose hearts it reigns, the calm dignity of the life to which it calls us, yet we daily violate and break its precepts for us.

Your loving Spirit strives within us, he brings us warnings from Scripture and he speaks to us in startling ways. Yet we choose to live life on our own terms and to our own hurt. In pride we grieve and provoke your Spirit to abandon us.

All these sins we mourn, lament, and cry pardon for them.

Work in us a more profound and abiding repentance;

Give to us the fullness of godly grief:

–         A grief that trembles and fears,

–         Yet A grief that always trusts and loves you alone,

–         A grief that is powerful and yet confident in your grace.

Grant to us through the tears of repentance that we may see more clearly the brightness and the glories of the saving cross of our Savor and King, Jesus Christ.

In whose name we pray,

Amen.

The Surprising Need of the World (and what to do about it)

Yes, we urgently need more and better evangelism. But we must candidly come to grips with several alarming facts. To what extent do those who profess faith at world-class evangelistic meetings actually persevere, over a period of five years from their initial profession of faith? When careful studies have been undertaken the most commonly agreed range is 2 percent to 4 percent; that is, of faith at such meetings are actually persevering in the faith five years later, as measured by such external criteria as attendance at church, regular Bible reading, or the like.

Even such frightening statistics do not disclose the immensity of the problem. Many who profess faith seem to think that Christianity is something to add to their already busy lives, not something that controls, constrains, and shapes their vision and all their goals. The Princeton Religion Research Center, which studies religion in America, has demonstrated that the slight increase during the last ten years in Americans attending church must be set against the marked decline in professing American Christians who think that there is an essential connection between Christianity and morality. The sad truth is that much American Christianity is returning to raw paganism: the ordinary pagan can be ever so religious without any necessary entailment in ethics, morality, self-sacrifice, or integrity.

In short evangelism – at least the evangelism that has dominated much of the Western world – does not seem powerful enough to address our declension.

Perhaps what we most urgently need, then, is disciplined, biblical thinking. We need more Bible colleges and seminaries, more theologians, more lay training, more expository preaching. How else are we going to train a whole generation of Christians to think God’s thoughts after him, other than by teaching them to think through Scripture, to learn the Scriptures well?

I am scarcely in a position to criticize expository preaching and seminaries: I have given my life to such ministry. Yet I would be among the first to acknowledge that some students at the institution where I teach, and some faculty too, can devote thousands of hours to the diligent study of Scripture and yet still somehow display an extraordinarily shallow knowledge of God. Biblical knowledge can be merely academic and rigorous, but somehow not edifying, not life-giving, not devout, not guileless. (more…)