Prayer for the New Year

Almighty Father, we pray Thee graciously to lead us through the uncertainties of this new year of our earthly pilgrimage. Protect us from the dangers of the way; prepare us for the duties, the trials, the joys, and sorrows that await us; and grant that each change the year brings with it may bring us nearer to Thyself, and to the eternal joy and rest that await the faithful in Thy blessed and glorious presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Church of Scotland, 1952

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Grace for the New Year

John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” for a New Year’s service at his church:

[GOD’S PAST GRACE]
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

[GOD’S PRESENT GRACE]
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

[GOD’S FUTURE GRACE]
The Lord has promis’d good to me,

His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

In Jesus’ Name

“Pray in the name of Jesus,” I think means “on the basis of what Jesus has done to make our access to God possible,” namely His blood and righteousness. So when I say, “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer, I mean “because Jesus died for me and rose again, covered my sins, and imparted and imputed righteousness to me, I have access to the Father.” “Because of Him”—that’s what “In Jesus’ name” means.

—John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-it-matter-which-person-of-the-trinity-we-pray-to?hc_location=ufi

Preparing for Worship

Dear Christian,

As we gather for corporate worship tomorrow, we would all do well to remember that it is not a biblical necessity to enjoy the music—though it is not an outright sin to do so either—to which the truths of God’s word are set to melody, harmony and rhythm. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16 ESV) If the music or musical style does not suit your personal and private tastes, make it your spiritual aim to rejoice in message of the lyric, for that is much more important than the music.If you cannot rejoice in the message of the lyric, either the lyric must change, or perhaps your heart.

—Jason French

Real-Life Worship

Worship leaders often feel the pressure to be perfect and holy and put-together at all times–at least on the outside. But keeping up a good front actually works against leadership effectiveness and good worship. Instead, worship leaders have to allow themselves to be “slammed by life,” as one of my students put it. The spiritual life does not always lead us through green pastures and beside still waters. There are valleys of shadows too. Worship leaders have to be open to life—to our own and others’ pain, to events in the world, to people who are especially difficult to deal with, to disappointment and frustration. If preachers and prayers and musicians can show others how to bring those shadows to God through worship, they will demonstrate an authenticity that we all can emulate. Being open to life enables leaders to fill out “empty” technique with solid content, the genuine stuff of real life.

—Ron & Debra Rienstra, Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry, 98

Don’t Lose the Forest for the Trees!

It is wise for all of us who engage in constructive criticism of worship songs to learn to turn down our analytic mode, especially as we worship. Biologists who study butterflies in laboratories do well to step back from (or look through) their scientific precision as they enjoy a nature walk in a national park or read appreciative poetry about the beauty of butterflies. And those who engage with CWM do well to step back from (or look through) their analytical questions to enter, in a biblically childlike way, into the simple joy of God-centered worship.

—Robert Woods and Brian Walrath, eds., The Message in the Music: Studying Contemporary Praise & Worship, 187