I have used the following to guide an evening of prayer. Much help was derived from members of that remarkable band of Christians who came to be known as ‘the Puritans’. In particular, some of the prayers and devotions from The Valley of Vision (edited by Arthur Bennett) were adapted and used.
Let us lift up our hearts unto God in the heavens.
Let us stir up ourselves to take hold on God, to seek his face, and to give him the glory due unto his name.
Unto you, O Lord, do we lift up our souls.
Let us now with humble boldness, enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, in the new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through the veil.
Let us now attend upon the Lord without distraction, and let not our hearts be far from him when we draw nigh to him with our mouths, and honour him with our lips.
Let us now worship God, who is a Spirit, in spirit and in truth; for such the Father seeks to worship him. (M. Henry)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psa 22:1; Mt 27:33-46; Mk 15:34)
‘This verse contains the fourth memorable saying of Christ upon the cross; words able to rend the hardest heart in the world: it is the voice of the Son of God in an agony: his sufferings were great, very great before, but never in that extremity as now; when this heaven rending and heart melting out-cry brake from him upon the cross?…It is not of the cruel tortures he felt in his body, nor of the scoffs and reproaches of his name; he mentions not a word of these, they were all swallowed up in the sufferings within, as the river is swallowed up in the sea, or the lesser flame in the greater. He seems to neglect all these, and only complains of what was more burdensome than ten thousand crosses; even his Father’s deserting him, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is a more inward trouble that burdens him, darkness upon his spirit, the hidings of God’s face from him, an affliction he was totally a stranger to till now; here he lays his hand in this complaint. This was the pained place, to which he points in this dolorous outcry.’ (Flavel)
1. Prayers of access and adoration (communion with God as a blessing to be valued and sought);
God forsook Christ upon the cross, and our Lord viewed this as unspeakably painful. It therefore follows, that for us to feel that God is present to bless us must be unspeakably wonderful.
Let us, then, offer our prayers of adoration and access.
O God, may Thy Spirit speak in us that we may speak to Thee. Lord Jesus, great high priest, Thou hast opened a new and living way by which a fallen creature can approach Thee with acceptance.
Help us to contemplate the dignity of Thy Person, the perfectness of Thy sacrifice, the effectiveness of Thy intercession.
O what blessedness accompanies devotion, when under all the trials that weary us, the cares that corrode us, the fears that disturb us, the infirmities that oppress us, we can come to Thee in our need and feel peace beyond understanding!
The grace that restores is necessary to preserve, lead, guard, supply, and help us. And here Thy saints encourage our hope; they were once poor and are now rich, bound and are now free, tried and now are victorious.
Every new duty calls for more grace than we now possess, but not more than is found in Thee, the divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells. To Thee we repair for grace upon grace, until every void made by sin be replenished and we are filled with all Thy fullness.
May our desires be enlarged and our hopes emboldened, that we may honour Thee by our entire dependency and the greatness of our expectation.
Do Thou be with us, and prepare us for all the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity, the losses of substance, the death of friends, the days of darkness, the changes of life, and the last great change of all. May we find thy grace sufficient for all our needs.
2. Penitence (communion with God as an experience shattered by sin and unbelief);
God forsook Christ upon the cross, and this was as a punishment for our sins. It therefore follows, that as often as we have sinned, so often have we deserved to be forsaken of God. This is the just recompence and demerit of sin. And, indeed, here lies the principal evil of sin, that it separates betwixt God and the soul.
Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,
all the sins of my life,
sins of early, middle, and advanced years,
of omission and commission,
of morose, peevish and angry tempers,
of lip, life and walk,
of hard-heartedness, unbelief, presumption, pride,
of unfaithfulness to the souls of men,
of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ,
of deficiency in outspoken zeal for His glory,
of bringing dishonor upon Thy great name,
of deception, injustice, untruthfulness
in my dealings with others,
of impurity in thought, word, and deed,
of covetousness, which is idolatry,
of substance unduly hoarded, improvidently squandered,
not consecrated to the glory of Thee, the Great Giver;
sins in private and in the family, in study and recreation, in the busy haunts of men,
in the study of Thy Word and in the neglect of it,
in prayer irreverently offered and coldly withheld,
in time misspent,
in yielding to Satan’s wiles,
in opening my heart to his temptations,
in being unwatchful when I know him nigh,
in quenching the Holy Spirit;
sins against light and knowledge,
against conscience and the restraints of Thy Spirit,
against the law of eternal love.
Pardon all my sins, known and unknown, felt and unfelt,
confessed and not confessed, remembered and forgotten.
Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.
3. Thanksgiving (communion with God lost for a while by the Son of God for our salvation);
God forsook Christ upon the cross, and this was as a punishment for our sins. He suffered for our sake, and in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God. It therefore follows, that we owe an immense debt of thanksgiving and gratitude to God.
Let us then offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for his unspeakable gift.
Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,
supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,
made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man, thy fellow;
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was endured.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell’s worst
that I might attain heaven’s best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
expired that I might forever live.
O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
my every step buoyant with delight, as I see
my enemies crushed,
Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross,
mighty to subdue, comfort and save.
4. Petition/intercession (for restored communion with God for ourselves and others).
God forsook Christ upon the cross, and this was as a punishment for our sins. It therefore follows, that God is well-disposed towards this ungodly world, and desires us to do good to all in his name.
‘We have greater work to do here than merely securing our own salvation. We are members of the world and Church, and we must labour to do good to many. We are trusted with our Master’s talents for His service, in our places to do our best to propagate His truth, and grace, and Church, and to bring home souls, and honour His cause, and edify His flock, and further the salvation of as many as we can. All this is to be done on earth, if we will secure the end of all in heaven.’ (Baxter)
May I never be a blot or blank in life,
Cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of,
Or make my liberty an occasion to the flesh.
May I by love serve others,
And please my neighbour for his good to edification.
May I attend to what is ornamental as well as essential in religion,
Pursuing things that are lovely and of good report.
May I render my profession of the gospel not only impressive,
But amiable and inviting.
May I hold forth the way of Jesus with my temper as well as my tongue,
With my life as well as my lips.
May I say to all I meet, I am journeying towards the Lord’s given place, come with me for your good.
May I be prepared for all the allotments of this short, changing, uncertain life,
with a useful residence in it, a comfortable journey through it, a safe passage out of it.
May I be in character and conduct like the dew of heaven, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and fullness of the fountain.
May I never be ashamed of Jesus or his words,
Never be deterred from fulfilling a known duty through fear,
Never be discouraged from attempting it through weakness.
May I see all things in a divine light so that they may inform my judgement and sanctify my heart.
And by all the disciplines of thy providence,
And all the ordinances of religion,
May I be increasingly prepared for life’s remaining duties,
The solemnities of a dying hour,
And the joys and services that lie beyond the grave.