I have really come to love the Puritan prayers in the book, the Valley of Vision. So often they express hopes and desires that I have in such thoughtful and constructive ways. They are balanced in a way that I think my prayer life and personal thought life rarely is. There is never too much "hell fire and brimstone", but there is an acute awareness of our own sinfulness, and the grace that is never far off. I'd like to share one of these prayers this morning.
O Thou That Hearest Prayer,
Teach me to pray.
I confess in religious exercises that the language of my lips and the feelings of my heart have not always agreed,
that I have frequently taken carelessly upon my tongue a name never pronounced above without reverence and humility,
that I have often desired things which would have injured me,
that I have depreciated some of my chief mercies,
that I have erred both on the side of my hopes and of my fears,
that I am unfit to choose for myself,
for it is not in me to direct my steps.
Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I ought.
Let him produce in me wise desires by which I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate* for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity.
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude**.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.
May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities, vexations of the spirit, and desire to depart from it.
And may I seek my happiness in thy favour, image, presence, service.
* importunate means to obnoxiously ask
** solicitude here means concern
There are so many things to grab ahold of here, but I really love the prayer of confession at the beginning. I think coming out of a Sunday service experience, it is good and right for us to confess our unbelief and the contradictions that we live with internally. Confessing those to God and to each other is a valuable way to press in to God.
The other section that I really love is towards the end and it talks about our connection to God. The writer asks that he be poor, afflicted and despised with God's blessing, rather than admired and rich and thereby forgetting God. It is easy to get caught up in trying to please other people, or trying to gain their admiration. Our main goal and focus should be nearness and closeness to God. May we continue to seek that.