An Independence Day Prayer: Then and Now

From the Book of Common Worship (1946 edition):

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; we humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will.  Bless our nation with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way.  Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.  Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.  In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

2014 Translation (mine):

Almighty God, who has given us this good land: May we strive to be a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our nation with just work, sound learning, and conduct pleasing to you. Save us from needless violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought here out of many diverse and distinct people groups. Give your spirit of wisdom to those who are in government, that there may be justice and peace, both here and abroad. In spite of our many failings, use us for your glory and for the overall good and flourishing of the world. Draw us to yourself and change our hearts, that we may humbly display your praise among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, may we always trust you. We ask all of these things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

On Writing and Praying

Writing begets writing. Once you stop, even for a short duration (in my case a familial stomach virus that eventually made its violent way to me) it’s difficult to get the creative juices flowing. Presently, I don’t feel like writing anything. But I know if I remain inactive, I’ll simply grow stale and eventually my creativity and output will dry up.

Some people ask if I have a writing strategy. If there’s one strategy I can offer its this—write. Don’t wait for inspiration. Don’t wait for the right time. Even when the feelings elude you (and believe me, they will), put your fingers on the keyboard and see what happens. Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should publish it. But you have to start somewhere. And starting, even when you don’t feel like it, is often where the battle is won or lost.

In this way, writing is like praying. The Puritans used to say, “pray till you pray.” They recognized that often we don’t feel like praying. Instead, we wait for the right time or for the desire to pray. The end result is that we don’t pray.

But in order to really pray, or even to begin praying, often you simply must pray till you pray. And as we pray—stumbling, distracted, imperfect, half-hearted prayers—know that you have the perfect intercessor in Christ, who is always interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25).

A New Year’s Prayer

Maker of heaven and earth, space and time, entering this new year I put my hope in you, trusting that you will provide whatever I need for body and soul and turn to my good whatever adversity you send me. Thank you that you are able to do this because you are almighty God, and that you desire to do this because you are a faithful Father. Amen. (HC 26)

—From Seeking God’s Face: Praying With the Bible Through the Year, p. 97

And a guilty pleasure:

Doorbusting Advent: A Prayer From a Dull Heart Not Quite Ready for Christmas

An Advent prayer—

Lord, 

Today begins yet another Advent season.

I know, I know. I should have a sense of anticipation, grandeur, and awe as I prepare my heart, mind, and will for Christ’s coming.

Yet, truth be told (and as you already know!), my heart feels dry, dull, and dead. It especially occurred to me during this past Black Friday. Biking to the store before dawn on a freezing, dark, and brittle Minnesota morning (a fitting metaphor for my heart), my hopes of being one of the 30 doorbusters to cash in on a sweet deal were dim.

Yet as I rounded the corner and approached the storefront, my mood quickly changed. Feverishly scanning the crowd I realized I was among the Fortunate Ones. My heart leaped for joy! Racing, even floating, to the line, I did a head count: I was number 18. 

Standing there with a glad smug satisfaction—“I’m number 18!!” I wanted to shout to the world—I pondered my response. Then it hit me. “Why don’t I doorbust Advent with the same eagerness and determination as doorbusting Black Friday?”

And so, at the beginning of Advent 2013, would you, the Giver of all good things, please forgive me for my dull heart? Would you grant deep repentance where it is needed? And would you gift me with greater childlike wonder, faith, and joy as I ponder Christ’s Incarnation? Would that I freshly experience this “joy to the world!” And so as I read your Word, sing Advent songs, and lift prayers to you—amid all of the good and necessary material Christmas preparations—may my heart be changed to prepare him room. In short, make me an Advent doorbuster.

Do this for your glory and my joy, and the joy of others.

In the name of King Jesus, whom I long to adore both now and forever,

Amen

The Pastor, Prayer, and Possession

John Stott:

It is on our knees before the Lord that we can make the [sermon] message our own, possess or re-possess it until it possesses us. Then, when we preach it, it will come neither from our notes, nor from our memory, but out of the depths of our personal conviction, as an authentic utterance of our heart. So, wrote [Richard] Baxter, ‘a minister should take some special pains with his heart before he is to go to the congregation.’ ‘Get you sermon by heart’ pleaded Cotton Mather, meaning not ‘learn it by heart’ but ‘get your heart suitably touched with what you have prepared.’

Every preacher knows the difference between a heavy sermon which trundled along the runway like an overloaded jumbo jet and never gets airborne, and a sermon which has ‘what a bird has, a sense of direction and wings.’ Which kind any sermon will be is usually  settled as we pray over it beforehand.

We need to pray till our fresh comes freshly alive to us, the glory shines forth from it, the fire burns in our heart, and we begin to experience the explosive power of God’s Word within us.

—-Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today, p. 257  (line breaks and emphases mine).