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I noticed in a school a plan for assemblies up on the wall. The theme for the half term was ‘perseverance’.

Great topic, and as I scanned down the titles it looked quite good – ‘Perseverance… with the truth’ (Jeremiah), ‘perseverance…to finish the job’ (Nehemiah).

And then I came to the last one: ‘perseverance…and self belief’. What Bible passage would they use for this? …’the hare and the tortoise’.

It was quite striking. It’s not surprising that they aren’t using a Bible text for this since the Bible never gives self-belief as a ground for perseverance.

In fact, quite the opposite. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul gives a surprising basis for perseverance – the resurrection. It’s the fact that we will be raised from the dead that we can keep going, even when that means dying every day as Paul says he does in the same chapter.

Self-belief? More like God-belief.

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The Great God

This prayer speaks to a great God. But to truly recognise how great God is, we need to see how rubbish we are. The first few lines might seem strange to our modern ears, but that’s because we think happiness is found in self-esteem. The Puritans knew what humans are really like, and ask God to help us to see that, to get rid of pride and see how awful we are. But does that leave them in misery? Far from it, because that prepares us for ‘God to live in us’! And there is no better place to be, because with him living in us we are completely safe, as the prayer goes on to say.

And what a great last line…

 

O fountain of all good,
Destroy in me every thought of my own greatness,
Break pride to pieces and scatter it in the wind,
Wipe out each clinging shred of self-righteousness,
Implant in me true humility of spirit,
Bring me down to self-loathing and self-abhorrence,
Open in me a fountain of repentant tears,
Break me, then bind me up;
Then my heart will be prepared for living for my God;
Then the Father can take up his home in me,
Then the blessed Jesus can come with his healing touch,
Then the Holy Spirit can descend with transforming grace;
O Holy Trinity, three persons and one God,
Live in me, a temple given over completely for your glory.

When you are with me, evil cannot live in me;
In your fellowship is the fullest joy,
Beneath your smile is a peaceful conscience,
By your side no fears can disturb me,
Apprehension cannot get rid of rest of mind,
With you my heart shall bloom with fragrance like a flower;
Make me ready for you to live in me, through repentance.

Nothing is bigger than your power,
Nothing is too great for you to do,
Nothing too good for you to give.
Your might knows no ends, and boundless is your love,
Limitless is your grace, and glorious is your saving name.
Let angels sing for sinners repenting, for prodigals restored,
backsliders reclaimed, Satan’s captives released,
blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up,
the down cheered, the self-righteous stripped,
the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
the ignorant enlightened,
and saints built up in their holy faith.

I ask great things of a great God.

God the Source of all Good

Sometimes we can be very discontent with life. But when we are discontent with life we are discontent with what God has given us. He promises to work for the good of those who love him, and so if we are discontent with what God has given us we are saying he doesn’t work for our good. We’re doubting his word.

This prayer addresses that. It thanks God (the opposite of discontent) for all he gives us. And when we do that again we’re taken down ‘to the valley’. We’re humbled as we realise that we’re not as great as we thought (which is often why we’re discontent – we think we deserve better). But the writer has to ask God to remind us that we need salvation every day, that we are sinful, that we need mercy. This doesn’t come naturally, so we need to keep asking God for it.

O Lord God, who lives in eternity,
The heavens declare your glory,
The earth declares your riches,
The universe is your temple;
Your presence fills everything,
Yet you have created life because it pleases you, and you have given happiness;
You have made me what I am, and given me what I have;
In you I live and move and have my being;
Your providence, your ordering of things for my good, has set the bounds of my life,
and has wisely organised all my affairs.

I thank you for your riches to me in Jesus,
for the clear revelation of him in your word,
where I see his Person, character, grace, glory,
humiliation, sufferings, death and resurrection;
Help me to know my need of salvation every day,
and to cry with Jacob ‘I’m horrible’,
with Peter, ‘I die’,
with the sinner, ‘Be merciful to me, a sinner’.
Control the love of sin in me,
Let me know my need to be changed as well as forgiven,
in order that I might serve and enjoy you for ever.
I come to you in the everlasting name of Jesus,
with nothing of my own to offer,
no works, no worthiness, no promises.

I am often going astray,
often knowingly going against your authority,
often abusing your goodness;
Much of my guilt arises from the privileges I have in you,
that I don’t think highly enough of them,
my failure to use them to my advantage,
But I am not careless about your favour, or regardless of your glory;
Stamp on me strongly a sense of your presence everywhere,
that you are with me on my path, my way, my lying down and my end.

God the All

This prayer is another prayer of complete humility. Life really is all about God. He does everything. Does that mean we do nothing? Not at all, says the prayer… but everything we do is because of God working in us. We talk about God being in control of everything, but whenever we worry we’re trying to take control back. The writer of this prayer knows how useless that is, and ‘is pleased with whatever God wants’.

However there’s also a note of realism. He knows he should trust God and always want his will, but he has to put in ‘or at least I should…’ Sometimes its enough to ‘want to want…’ We don’t always trust God enough, but he wants us to want to trust him. This is a prayer expressing that ultimate trust in God’s control (his sovereignty).

O God, whose will conquers all,
There is no comfort in anything,
apart from enjoying you,
and serving you;
You are All in all, and all enjoyments are to me
only what you make them.

I am pleased with what you want, whatever it is,
or at least I should be in everything,
And if you want me to decide for myself in something
I would choose to ask you,
for you are infinitely wise and cannot do anything wrong
as I am in danger of doing.

I rejoice to think that all things are yours to use
and it delights me to leave them with you.
Then prayer is simply about praising you
and all I can do is praise and bless you.

What shall I give you for everything you give me?
I’m caught between two things, not knowing what to do;
I really want to give you something back, but I have nothing to offer,
and can only rejoice that you do everything,
that no one in heaven or on earth shares your honour;
I cannot do anything by myself to glorify your name,
but I can through grace happily surrender my soul and body to you,

I know that you are the author and finisher of faith
that the whole work of redemption, buying us back, is yours alone,
that every good work or thought found in me
is the effect of your power and grace,
that your sole motive in working in me what I should want and do
is for your good pleasure.

O God, it is amazing that men can talk so much
about man’s creaturely power and goodness,
when, if you did not hold us back every moment,
we should be devils in the flesh.
This, by bitter experience, you have taught me concerning myself.

The Trinity

We talk about the Trinity, the ‘triune’ God (God in three), Father, Son and Spirit, but it can be a very confusing thing when it comes to prayer. Who do we pray to? Do we pray different things to different members of the Trinity? Sometimes people make the mistake of saying ‘Father, thank you for dying on the cross…’ but the Father didn’t die on the cross! So how should we pray to the three members of the Trinity?

Here the Puritans show us how. In praying to each member they keep in mind what role each member plays in our salvation and in life. So not only can we learn how to pray to all three members of the Trinity, but through this prayer we can learn a lot about what the different members of the Trinity do. Another good example of this is Shai Linnes rap which you can listen to here. It’s called ‘Triune Praise’.

Three in one, one in three, God of my Salvation,
Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I praise you as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to know you and to be part of your kingdom.

O Father, you have loved me and you sent Jesus to buy me back;
O Jesus, you have loved me and took on my nature as a human being,
you shed your own blood to wash away my sins,
your righteousness covers up my unworthiness;

O Holy Spirit, you have loved me and came into my heart,
you put eternal life there,
you revealed the glories of Jesus to me.

Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise you,
for love that I didn’t deserve, so unspeakable, so wondrous,
so might to save the lost and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank you that through your grace
you have given Jesus to me,
to be his sheep, jewel, inheritance;
O Jesus, I thank you that in your grace
you have accepted, married, bound me;
O Holy Spirit, I thank you that through your grace
you have shown that Jesus is my saviour
you have placed faith within me,
you have conquered my stubborn heart,
you have made me one with Jesus for ever.

O Father, you are seated on your throne to listen to my prayers,
O Jesus, your hand is ready to take my requests,
O Holy Spirit, you are willing to help my weaknesses,
to show me my need, to give me the words, to pray for me,
to strengthen me so that I will not faint in passionately praying to God.

O Triune God, who commands the universe,
you have commanded me to ask for those things
that are about your kingdom and my soul.
Let me live and pray as one baptised into your threefold name.

Michael Tinker is a professional musician and part of the Crowded House which is a church planting initiative in Sheffield and around the world. He's a follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, member of a Gospel Community, Musician and avid follower of fashion...

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