A Prayer for Good Friday

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once adopted us, and continuest to confirm this thy favour by calling us unceasingly to thyself, and dost not only severely chastise us, but also gently and paternally invite us to thyself, and exhort us at the same time to repentance,—O grant that we may not be so hardened as to resist thy goodness, nor abuse this thine incredible forbearance, but submit ourselves in obedience to thee; that whenever thou mayest severely chastise us, we may bear thy corrections with genuine submission of faith, and not continue untameable and obstinate to the last, but return to thee, the only fountain of life and salvation, that as thou hast once begun in us a good work, so thou mayest perfect it to the day of our Lord. Amen. – John Calvin

Luther: On Prayer

luther_glass“When we pray we have the advantage [of the promise] that what we ask will be granted, although not according to our wish. If it weren’t for the promise I wouldn’t pray. God does well, moreover, that he doesn’t give us everything as we wish, for otherwise we’d want to have everything on our own terms.

That our Lord God is the same in life and death I have often experienced. If our prayer is earnest it will be heard, even if not as and when we wish. This must be so or our faith is vain. Consequently it’s difficult to pray. I know well what a prayer requires of me. I haven’t committed adultery, but I’ve broken the first table against God’s Word and honor. On account of my great sins [against the first table] I can’t get to the others in the second table.” — Martin Luther

‘Prayer Changes Everything’… Um, No, It Doesn’t

People, even well meaning preachers and theologians, will sometimes repeat phrases that sound good but when thought over aren’t all that good, or true, after all.

For example, people say, quite regularly- ‘prayer changes everything’, or in a variant form, ‘prayer changes things’.  Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true.

God changes things, prayer, as a human act, as an act of approach to God, and petition to God, can only REQUEST change.  It itself CHANGES nothing.

Furthermore, you’d be hard pressed to find any passage at all in the Bible which suggests that prayer changes anything.  The closest you’ll come is a passage like Ex 32:11-14 (where Moses prays for Israel and God changes his mind and doesn’t wipe them out).  Even there, though, it is God who changes his mind.  Moses doesn’t change it- or the impending disaster.

God is sovereign.  He changes whensoever he wishes whysoever he wishes and then He himself changes what he wills.  Prayer isn’t a magic talisman that can be waved and things changed thereby.

When someone tells you ‘prayer changes things’ gently correct them by reminding them that it is God who holds power, not a human act.  And if that doesn’t work, remind them that Jesus taught us to pray ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.

A Prayer for Refugees


wir können sie kaum noch ertragen,
die täglichen Bilder vom Flüchtlingselend,
von den verzweifelten Familien
und weinenden Kindern.
Die vielen Berichte von Einzelschicksalen
gehen uns nach – manchmal bis in die Träume.
Wir sehnen ein Ende des Schreckens herbei,
und möchten helfen.

Aber in uns wächst auch Furcht,
weil es so viele sind,
die bei uns Schutz suchen,
weil so viel Hass aufbricht in unserer Gesellschaft
und so viel kaltschnäuzige Abwehr
selbst in unseren Kreisen.

Vor dir, Gott, können wir auch nicht verbergen,
dass auch uns Vorurteile umtreiben
und Sorgen um die eigene Zukunft,
wenn wir sie mit den Fremden teilen müssen.

Wir bitten dich:
Nimm dich der Verzweifelten an,
wehre aller Feindseligkeit,
und erfüll uns mit dem Geist der Kraft, der Liebe und der Besonnenheit. — Sylvia Bukowski

A Prayer

Grant, Almighty God, since we are all lost in ourselves, that we may desire to obtain life where it is laid up for us, and where thou dost manifest it, namely, in thy Son: and grant that we may so embrace the grace which has been exhibited to us in the sacrifice of his death, that we may be regenerated by his Spirit; and thus being born again, may we devote ourselves wholly to thee, and so glorify thy name in this world, that we may at length be partakers of that glory which the same, thine only-begotten Son, has acquired for us.—Amen. – John Calvin


What is Prayer?

Prayer is the manifestation of trust. We don’t pray because God doesn’t already know: we pray in order to exercise faith. The more we exercise the stronger we become.

The Free Book of the Month from Logos: ‘The Doctrine of Prayer’ by Hastings

Another good one.

Hastings addresses the complicated issue of prayer. He explores the nature, principles, types, and value of prayer. Hastings also gives practical encouragement and advice for those beginning in prayer, as well as for seasoned prayers. Included are bibliographies, lists of books for further reading, examples, and a detailed table of contents.

A Pastor’s Sunday Prayer

Dearest Lord,

It’s almost 10 and time is short before I have to stand before your people and deliver your word. I’ve toyed with the idea of preaching on repentance, but I have seen too often the stony face of the unrepentant adulterer staring back blankly without ever seeing a Christian glimmer of repentance in his eyes. I’ve seen the tax cheat glibly grin at such urgings, and never seen him walk the aisle. I’ve seen the fornicating teen unmoved by all such calls and that same girl rush out after they’ve been uttered to the arms of her fornicating teen partner.

I’ve also, gracious Father, played around with once more calling your congregation to constancy and faithfulness in worship only to be greeted at the exit with encouraging words of ‘that was a great sermon, pastor’ followed by empty pews on Sunday night and emptier on Wednesday. Knowing, full well, by the look in their eyes, that they’ve already planned their evening delights.

Love, too, came to mind, dear Father but when I read such texts I see the smirking face of the man who would prefer to see my decomposing corpse hanging from the Bell Tower and I can hardly utter them without feeling sick to my stomach – knowing that they, along with all the others, will descend on ears closed and deaf and hearts hard and necks unbendable.

So what should I preach, dear Lord- that your people may actually heed?

And then I heard a voice from heaven, answering my prayer!

Preacher, go, ascend your pulpit with boldness and greet my sheep in my name. And then tell them, if you truly wish a hearing and a positive response, to rush from this place and follow their favorite sporting team. Attend every game and buy every trinket and spend every free moment talking with your friends and families about that team. Center your life in that team, and the game it plays. Make haste, tell them, to their child’s every extra-church activity and then take their rest when the hour of worship comes. They must, after all, be well rested for the sporting contest which consumes their every day. And the lesson they must teach their young ones is that all must precede devotion to me.

Deliver this message, simply and plainly put: ‘live for yourself’ and all will applaud you. Except, of course, me. I, for my part, will condemn you for bowing the knee to Ba’al and feeding the sheep the poison they prefer instead of the bread of Life which I have myself delivered to you.

Now, Cassandra, stand up and go. Prepare to plow the seashore. Deliver my word to them and then go in peace. You have done your part; if the sheep refuse to heed the Chief Shepherd, why do you imagine they will give any thought to you, a mere underling?

Calvin’s Prayer Pre-Lecture Compared to Zwingli’s

Here’s what Calvin prayed (most of the time) at the commencement of lectures:

MAY the Lord grant, that we may engage in contemplating the mysteries of his heavenly wisdom with really increasing devotion, to his glory and to our edification.—AMEN.

It’s good, but it isn’t as good as Zwingli’s prayer before he commenced lecturing:

Omnipotens sempiterne et misericors Deus, cuius verbum est lucerna pedibus nostris et lumen semitarum nostrarum, aperi et illumina mentes nostras ut oracula tua pure et sancte intelligamus et in illud quod recte intellexerimus transformemur, quo maiestati tuae nulla ex parte displiceamus: per Jesum Christum dominum nostrum. Amen.

Though sometimes he would pray

O Herr Ihesu Criste, erleuchte mein verstentnus und thue mir uff mein sinne, das ich ersten müg die hailige geschrift, und das ich darauß seye enpfahn war reu und laid aller meiner sünde, und müge entzündt werden in rechter andacht. Und lerne mich, das ich alle lesungen der Hailigen geschrift ker(e)n und wandlen müg in das andechtig gevett, in guete betrachtung und beschenlichait; dann selig ist der mensch, den du, Herre, underweisest, und den du lernest von deinem gesetze. Amen.

O Herr Ihesu Criste, lerne mich ersten das, das ich lese, das ich dasselbig mit dem herzen und mit den werken wahrhafftigklich verbringen müge, Amen.

O Herr Ihesu Criste, dich diemüetigklich bitte ich, das du mir deinen Hailigen gaist wöllst diemüetigklich mitteilen.

O Herr, eröffne meine äugen, so wird ich erchennen wunderwerliche ding uß deinem gesetze; ich bin dein diener, gib mir, Herr, den verstand.

O Herr Ihesu Criste, offne mir meine sinne, damit ich verneme(n) müg die hailige geschrift und dardurch entzündt werd und auß liebe gotts und des negsten dieselben crefftigklich mit denselben vervringen mug. Amen.

O Herr Ihesu Criste, brich mir das brot der Hailigen geschrift, uff das ich dich in der grechung des brots erchennen müge, Amen.

Summa Summarum: erbarm dich über mich armen sünder. h. p(ate)r n(oste)r,aue maria.

A Prayer Worth Praying

John Calvin Deutsch: Maße: 41 x 29,5 cm, Johan...

Grant, Almighty God, that as we so abuse thy forbearance, that thou art constrained by our depravity to deal sharply with us, — O grant, that we may not be also hardened against thy chastisements, but may we with a submissive and tractable neck learn to take thy yoke, and be so obedient to thy government, that we may testify our repentance, not for one day only, and give no fallacious evidence, but that we may really prove through the whole course of our life the sincerity of our conversion to thee, by regarding this as our main object, even to glorify thee in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen. — John Calvin

Luther: On True Prayer

….Take note that a prayer is not good and right because of its length, devoutness, sweetness, or its plea for temporal or eternal goods. Only that prayer is acceptable which breathes a firm confidence and trust that it will be heard (no matter how small and unworthy it may be in itself) because of the reliable pledge and promise of God. Not your zeal but God’s Word and promise render your prayer good. This faith, based on God’s words, is also the true worship; without it all other worship is sheer deception and error.  — Martin Luther

Following Up on the Doctrine of Prayer

The previous post on the Archbishop’s call for children to be taught the Lord’s Prayer seemed to strike a chord- so, as a little followup, let me direct folk to the fullest treatment of the ‘theology’ of prayer in the Reformed tradition:  John Calvin’s Institutes, III.20.  In particular (though the entire section is stunning in its brilliance) do note III.20.4-

Engraved from the original oil painting in the...

Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God. This we shall accomplish in regard to the mind, if, laying aside carnal thoughts and cares which might interfere with the direct and pure contemplation of God, it not only be wholly intent on prayer, but also, as far as possible, be borne and raised above itself. I do not here insist on a mind so disengaged as to feel none of the gnawings of anxiety; on the contrary, it is by much anxiety that the fervor of prayer is inflamed. Thus we see that the holy servants of God betray great anguish, not to say solicitude, when they cause the voice of complaint to ascend to the Lord from the deep abyss and the jaws of death. What I say is, that all foreign and extraneous cares must be dispelled by which the mind might be driven to and fro in vague suspense, be drawn down from heaven, and kept groveling on the earth. When I say it must be raised above itself, I mean that it must not bring into the presence of God any of those things which our blind and stupid reason is wont to devise, nor keep itself confined within the little measure of its own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God.

What’s he on about?  He wants readers to know that prayer must first and foremost be a purposeful engaging with the Divine.  Purposefulness, it has to be admitted, lies outside the grasp of those devoid of faith.  Faith is the first factor of prayer and without faith there is no prayer.  None.

From Asking for Prayer to Dropping the F Bomb: The Saga of Giselle

“You have to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot [expletive deleted] throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”

It’s a bit incongruous to one day be ‘spiritual’ and ask for prayer for your husband and the next drop the f-bomb because the game didn’t go as you wished.   But that’s what Giselle Brady (Tom’s wife) did today.

If one is a person of prayer one is a person who places matters in God’s hands and awaits the outcome in faith and trust.  If one simply wants to appear spiritual however one uses prayer as some sort of mystical talisman and when one doesn’t get what one wishes one is angry and strikes out at the closest target.

The pseudo-spirituality which parades itself these days is genuinely sickening.    At any rate, God doesn’t care who wins a ballgame.  Better to ask him to keep everyone safe and uninjured than to ask him to let your hubby win and then demonstrate yourself to be a vulgar common potty-mouth if he doesn’t.

Whoever has instructed Giselle in theology needs to do a refresher on the theology of prayer.  Maybe she’ll pay attention this time.

If You’ve Run Out of Things To Pray…

You could always pray Psalm 109… with an enemy in mind.

7 When the sentence is passed,
let him be found guilty—
let his prayer be found sinful!
8 Let his days be few;
let someone else assume his position.
9 Let his children become orphans;
let his wife turn into a widow.
10 Let his children wander aimlessly, begging,
driven out of their ruined homes.
11 Let a creditor seize everything he owns;
let strangers plunder his wealth.
12 Let no one extend faithful love to him;
let no one have mercy on his orphans.
13 Let his descendants be eliminated;
let their names be wiped out
in just one generation!
14 Let his father’s wrongdoing
be remembered before the LORD ;
let his mother’s sin never be wiped out.
15 Let them be before the LORD always,
and let God eliminate the very memory of them from the land.
16 All because this person didn’t remember to demonstrate faithful love,
but chased after the poor and needy—
even the brokenhearted—
with deadly intent!
17 Since he loved to curse,
let it come back on him!
Since he didn’t care much for blessing,
let it be far away from him!
18 Since he wore curses like a coat,
let them seep inside him like water,
seep into his bones like oil!
19 Let them be like the clothes he wears,
like a belt that is always around him. ”  (CEB)

Oh, does that make you uncomfortable?  Is it disconcerting to find such a text in Scripture?  Among the prayers of the faithful?  It shouldn’t  And if you want to know why it shouldn’t read Gordon Wenham’s upcoming volume– especially chapter 9.

Why You Shouldn’t Pray

It sounds shocking doesn’t it- my telling you that you shouldn’t pray. Especially since Paul urges that we ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε   (‘pray without ceasing’) (or in the CEB, ‘Pray continuously’).

But here’s why: every time you neglect prayer you make my own prayers more relevant, more appropriate, more necessary, and more valuable.

So stop praying. That way when I chat with God (which is rather a lot) he doesn’t have to be troubled with you. I enjoy having him to myself and if you’re happy enough to surrender the greatest of human privileges, the personal encounter with God made possible in the fellowship of prayer, why should I be upset? Your indolence in prayer, your indifference to your own relationship to the heavenly Father, they have no bearing on my happiness in prayer and my joy in the presence of God.

So you shouldn’t pray. Go ahead and stop. You alone will be the one to miss out, not I!

My Daily Prayer

Some of you probably think I’m either not very pious or too pious (depending on your view of my views).  So, to prove that I am, in fact, a pious person of the first order, I want to share today’s prayer with you:

Amen, and amen.

Good Samaritans

A church-going couple who were the first to come across Stephen Lawrence as he lay unconscious in the street prayed for him as he bled to death, a court has heard.

Ok fair enough, they prayed while they waited for the police or ambulance to arrive, which they called the moment they found the boy, right? Right.

Conor Taaffe and his wife Louise had just left a church prayer meeting when they saw Stephen and his friend Duwayne Brooks running along Well Hall Road. They saw Mr Lawrence fall to the ground and comforted him until the emergency services arrived. In a written statement read to the court Mr Taaffe said that he said a prayer aloud when he saw how serious the situation was. He said: “I put my right hand on his back and left hand on his head. I could feel he was still breathing as his back was going up and down. Stephen was unconscious. “I was praying over him in a whisper, I said things like ‘bless him Lord Jesus, heal him. Have mercy on him’.

Nice people in the news. What an oddity. Caring people. How refreshing. Thank God it wasn’t a pair from #occupy st. paul’s. They would have passed by on the other side of the street on their way to protest monetary inequality.

‘Preacher, Pray For Me’

She must have been in her 70’s and she was laid up in a hospital bed, terminally ill, when the village Pastor paid her a visit.

‘Preacher, pray for me’.

‘Certainly Madam.  Certainly.  And what would you like me to pray for you concerning?’

‘Oh Pastor, that God would heal me.  I know I’ve not lived a single day for Him and I’ve frittered away my entire life on the lake, fishing every Saturday and avoiding worship every Sunday, but I really want God to heal me.’


‘Whatever do you mean, Pastor??? [her tone was that of a person annoyed]  Why shouldn’t you pray for me to be well?’

‘Frankly, Madam, as a conscientious reader of Scripture I’m aware of that little saying of Jesus which, if memory serves, runs something like this: do not cast your pearls before the swine.  Given that, I have to wonder if your prayer request isn’t based on selfish motives.’

‘Pastor, if that’s what you are, no one has ever spoken to me like that.  I will certainly never visit your church’.

‘Madam, I’m only here to help.  So, if I pray that God make you well, what will you do with your remaining time?  Will you live for yourself, serving yourself, caring only for yourself, and returning to your ways of forgetting God and ignoring him completely?’

‘Why I never.  You’re so rude!’

“But that’s certainly no answer to the question is it?  Why should I pray that God lengthen a life that will contribute not one bit to the betterment of humanity?  Why litter the world with another selfish soul?  Wouldn’t I really be doing our community a disservice if I were to ask God that he allow you to consume resources whilst never caring for anyone or anything beyond the length of your own nose?  We Christians are responsible for more than just ourselves.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.’

‘You have to be the worst Pastor in the world’.

‘I’m certain that you’re correct, Miss, and I refuse to become worse simply to salve your anguished soul.  In my opinion, until you are right with God, you should be restless.  As Augustine put it so rightly so long ago- ‘Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee’.

‘So, Madam, I will indeed pray for you’.  But it won’t be your will that I’ll be seeking, it will be God’s.  And my prayer will be that your heart is restless and you have no peace of soul or mind until you find in Him your refuge.’  “Praying that you enjoy a longer life wherein you simply ignore him… that, I cannot, I will not do.’

‘Take your prayers and go’ she spat.  And he did.

She died that night- only God knowing if she had found eternal solace or not.  No one else could tell.