Almighty God, why art thou so concerned that we should obey thee? Why dost thou not close thine hand upon us, and return us to the earth? Thou dost stoop down to us, and care for us as though we were of consequence to thee. The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee. The angels thou dost charge with folly; the heavens are not clean in thy sight. Yet thou dost look down upon the children of men, and shed blood for them, thou dost call for them as loving hearts would call for those who are hungry, and offer them bread. Yea, thou dost seem to stop the universe in its way that some poor lost lamb may be gathered up again. The Son of man came, to seek and to save that which was lost. Why came he? We can be of no consequence to the Eternal. Surely we are but as insects in the sunbeam, living a moment, and quickly dying in the presence of him who made all time and who opens the year as he closes it without sign or token that any great event has occurred to himself. Thou dwellest in eternal time, thou art measured by the unending and unbeginning now. Yet thou dost care for us, thou dost pity us with tears; thine heart grieves over us, as if we could complete thy dominion and enhance thy joy. Like as a father pitieth his children, even so dost thou pity the sons of men. We know it. In no otherwise can we understand the providences which make up our lives. They are not judgments, they are not symbols and pledges of wrath; they are veiled angels, they are messengers of love, tenderness, and redemption. All things are greater than we suppose. When thou art feeding the one bird in the winter time, thou art feeding the whole universe the year round. If thou canst be interested in one of us, then art thou interested in all. The whole earth is thine; the Jew and the Gentile are thine; the uttermost part of the earth is not far from thee: the whole earth in all its points touches the eternal throne. Give us grace, mercy, and peace as a new year token. May we feel that the Lord is still amongst us—the fire that burns but does not consume: a presence that would cheer by suppressing itself rather than a fire that would flame out upon us, and terrify by judgment and penalty. Give us understanding of ourselves that we may have better understanding of others. Open thou our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy law. The Lord be pitiful to us still with tenderness of mercy. The moment the mercy is withdrawn our life is extinguished. We live in mercy, we live in the pity of God; we are preserved by thine heart, else would we be crushed by thine hand. We love the Saviour. His name becomes dearer to us as the years rise and fall, and number themselves with the eternity gone. He is all in all. He is the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star. He is Alpha and Omega; and there is no escape from the line of his love—high as heaven, deeper than any parts of the earth, stretching over every sea, so that the land and the water, and the family and the state, and the market-place and the cemetery, are all under his watch and care. Plant many a flower upon the grave; conceal it with flowers; may they spring so richly and so beauteously that the grave shall be rather a type of the resurrection than a sign of the conquering death. Do for us all we want; or take hold of our hands, and help us to do it ourselves, that we may be pleased for a moment, though never missing the consciousness that our hand is in the hand of God. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—thou dost by these names stand far away from us; God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ—by this sweet name dost Thou come into every house, and touch every heart. Amen.
Almighty God, we bless thee that thou hast sent thy Son to our broken-heartedness, our mourning, our unutterable distress and fear. Thou didst not send him to our greatness and power, but to our littleness and weakness and utter insufficiency. The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost—we bless thee for this, for in that word ” lost” we find our own true state. All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way, there is no man to stand up before thee and challenge thy righteousness—each of us puts his hand upon his mouth and his mouth in the dust, and says, “Unclean, unprofitable, unworthy.” We see Jesus Christ, the Man we need, the Angel of the covenant, the Minister of light and hope, the Priest who offers his blood. Thou dost no longer require at the hands of man the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop—there is a fountain opened in the house of David for sin and for uncleanness, and to that fountain we now repair. Lord, meet us every one, and give us cleansing of heart, sanctification of thought and will and purpose and hope, and make us without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, complete in thine own holiness, beautiful with thine own light. Thou hast been with us in the days that are gone, thou hast given us indeed to see the grave, but the tomb has been in a garden: we would look at the garden rather than at the grave, for all that sleep in Christ are roots that shall blossom and come to great fruitfulness in thine own heavenly harvest. O thou, who dost sow the earth with the dead, thou wilt surely put in thy sickle and reap, and the harvest shall live for ever. Thou hast smitten us sorely, and thou hast mingled some of our cups so bitterly that we shrink from tasting them, for surely they are full of what men call death—but thou hast strengthened us to drink those cups even to the dregs, and in the drinking of them there has been health. Thou hast led the blind by a way that they knew not; thou hast holden our eyes sometimes that we might not know thee, that we might accost thee as a stranger, and tell thee our complaint, in the bitter tone of despair. Thou hast dealt wondrously with us, our hearts have been ungrateful, our eyes have been quick to see the disadvantages of life, but our vision has been slow to discern the beauty of the divine presence, and the certainty of the divine way. We will fill our mouth with mourning because our heart is full of accusation, and each of us will say, “God be merciful unto me a sinner,” for every breath is evil and there is a taint even in our prayers. Keep us evermore at the Cross, bind us to the sacrifice offered thereupon; other hope we have none, out of that great darkness there streams a startling light, and out of that infinite woe there comes infinite reconciliation. Help us to find in the Son of God, God the Son, and all that our hearts ever need. Do thou undertake for us all the remainder of our days. What are they but a handful? We are as a hireling whose day is dying: the Lord help us to count with miserly care all the remaining moments, and may each of them be spent in thy sight and fear. Our grave is already dug, death is waiting for us, behold his sword is lifted up in the air and it awaits thy bidding that it may fall. Spare us yet a little longer, that we may serve thee with a more glowing love, with a more faithful diligence, and with a more joyous success. The Lord help us in all things to be true, honourable, and good, pure and wise—the Lord set his seal upon us that we may be claimed by none other. In the day when the wind is strong, do thou shelter us with thine own hand, in the time when the road is steep and difficult, do thou surround us with thy defenses and encourage us by all thy tender promises, and under all circumstances may thy will be our joy, in thy purposes may we find our soul’s rest, and hiding ourselves in the sanctuary of thy wisdom and goodness, may grace, mercy, and peace fill our hearts with a holy calm. Pity those who have no pity upon themselves, whose life is a daily self-laceration and self-loss: speak to the man who is far away from the light and house of God, and bring him near by the gracious compulsion of love. Send messages to our sick ones, and bid the most timid hope again. Thou knowest what messages to breathe in the ear that is closing to the voices of time, thou knowest what gospel will fall most gently on the failing and sinking heart of man. We commit all our loved ones to thy tender care —whom thou watchest are well watched, thou shepherdly, fatherly, motherly God. Have in Thy holy keeping all for whom we ought to pray: the bereaved and the desolated, those who are spending their first Sabbath as widows and orphans and lonely ones, who are feeling the cold of a great emptiness, the bitterness of all that death can bring to bear upon our poor trembling life. Let thy consolations abound where afflictions have had their way, and let all thy tenderest solaces spread themselves over the lives that have been desolated and blackened by severe bereavement. The Lord speak comfortably to every heart, bring back the old man’s youth, speak to those who are in trouble, saying that afflictions do not spring out of the dust. Hear the glad song of human thankfulness, listen to the bitter reproaches of self-accusation, and hear thou in Heaven thy dwelling-place, and when thou hearest, Lord, forgive. Amen.
– Parker, Joseph. Matthew: The Inner Life of Christ (The People’s Bible)
Almighty God, do thou touch our ear and it shall hear wisely and justly, and shall lose nothing of all the music of thy voice. Our ear is already filled with vulgar noise, so that we cannot hear the goings of the Almighty, and much of the tenderness of thy tone do we lose, because of the uproar which engages our attention. O that our ear might be touched, even circumcised, and blest, and prepared to hear every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Call us now to attention; may every man here listen for his soul’s good; if any have come to listen for aught else may the change take place in the view this moment, and may the supreme inquiry of every heart be, ” What saith the Lord?” and may every soul go out to him saying, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Yea, let a spirit of hearing fall upon the whole congregation, an earnest desire to listen, so that nothing may be lost of all the message which thou dost this night give unto us. We bless thee for thy gospel, so full of tenderness, glowing with light and love, the very utterance of thine heart, the one way to the living God and his everlasting heaven. Help us to listen to it gratefully, with ecstasy of delight and passion of thankfulness, without indifference of heart, but with all ardour and intensity of love. Regard every one of us as each most particularly needs. If any man here is praying his first true prayer, let this be the time of a great answer to his soul. If any man here is vowing to lead a better life, Lord, turn over the page for him on which he means to write his better writing; establish him in the goodness of his oath; may nothing occur to imperil the constancy of his holy resolution, but may he watch unto prayer, and succeed in the great work. If any man is in peculiar circumstances of perplexity and strangeness, blind so that he cannot see, weak so that he cannot stand, dazed and confounded by the infinite rush of life, the Lord himself send his angel or his prophet to give sight, and strength, and comfort, and guidance to such. If any of us are fat of heart, having waxed prosperous and forgotten our early love, the Lord judge us not with his lightning and thunder, but speak to us with rebukes that shall awaken, and not with judgments that shall destroy. If any man is planning the wrong trick and about to play the foul game, and to do the thing which is hateful in the sight of God, the Lord turn his counsel upside down, and cause all the lines of his life to tremble in confusion. And if any man is endeavouring now to serve the Lord with his whole might, to live a complete and unbroken life in Christ, send more than twelve legions of angels to help him to carry out his purpose. We want the spirit of hearing now, we want the prepared ear, we want our hearts to be at peace, and our whole attention to be on the alert. Blessed Christ, come to us, speak thine own word to our quickened ear. We bless thee for thy life, thy teaching, thy atoning sacrificial blood, thy whole priesthood, thy mighty, prevalent mediation. O, if thou dost open thy wounds again, may it be to give us room in thine heart. Amen.
– Sunday Morning Prayer by Dr. Joseph Parker
Almighty God, we come to thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour, and not ours only, but the Saviour of the whole world, who by his precious blood answered all the accusation of thy law. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and there is none other, and we now accept him as thy gift, the very utterance and expression of thine own infinite love. We rejoice to know that there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus; we come therefore to thee, through him alone: in him is our worthiness, in him is our strength, and if we are dumb before thee, it is that he himself may pray for us. We thank thee that we still have an interest in the affairs of thy kingdom. Time doth not charm us, and all the earth with its fulness and all the sea with its music cannot content us. We declare plainly that we seek a country; our eyes are lifted up, and we seek a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Thou hast stirred us by a Divine ambition, thou art moving us by heavenly impulses, the unrest which disturbs our heart is itself a blessing, calling upon us to arise and work and serve and wait and suffer until the end, which is full of light, shall come. Wherein we have done wrong in thy sight do thou now exercise thy mercy, that the miracle of thy forgiveness may exceed the marvel of our guilt. Thou hast an answer to us in Christ Jesus: he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. Lo, this is thy gospel, to our heart when it smites itself with accusation, and to our conscience when it rises threateningly and demands our life. Help us to find rest in Christ, refuge in the cross, and peace in the holy blood—then let thy word dwell in us richly as a new life and a new light, the very glory of Heaven, the very peace of God. So shall we have an answer to every tempter, a refuge in the time of every tempest, and our peace shall be complete, because it is of the nature of the tranquillity of God. Help us to use our time well: may no talent be wrapped up and laid aside, may we be living at every point of our character, yea, may there be no death in us at all; even now may we lay hold upon our immortality and bring to bear upon the things of the dying day the power of an endless life. Where there is sorrow of heart this day, surprise the sorrowful with new joys: where there is a sense of blankness and emptiness because of the visitations of thy bereaving providence, do thou fill up such blankness with thy presence more fully than ever thou hast yet done. When the tears are in the eyes and the sob is suppressed in the heart, bring thy gospel in all its tender solaces and infinite consolations to bear upon the bruised and heavy laden. Interpret unto us the meaning of the grave that is dug under our own hearthstone—show us why death is a continual guest at our table, and do thou thus interpret unto us the mystery of life and give unto us the piety which sees the bright view, the far and celestial outlook, that anticipates the resurrection, the utter and lasting destruction of death. Then shall our voices mingle with the sweet hymn in thy house that gives thee praise for all thy dispensation, and the psalm that adores thee shall have in it the utterance of our love.
– Sunday Morning Prayer by Dr. Joseph Parker
Almighty God, we come to thee through Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, for he alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and there is none other: he is sent of God to bring us unto the Father, and no man cometh unto Christ except the Father draw him. Herein are wonderful mysteries, which we cannot penetrate, but where we cannot understand we fall down and adore. What are we that we should know aught? We are of yesterday and know nothing: our breath is in our nostrils, and whilst we talk of life, behold we are thrown down and are dead men. It well becometh us, therefore, to hold our peace in thy house, and to listen attentively, with the whole hearing of our heart, lest we miss any tone of thy gracious and living voice. Jesus Christ our Saviour loved us: he gave himself for us; his head, his hands, his heart, his feet, his side, bled for us: it was holy blood—the blood of atonement. Thou art always careful of us, as if we were worth much in thy sight. We cannot understand thy care. We could understand thy crushing us because of the provocation of our sins, but why thou shouldst save us and spare us and love us and mightily redeem us with blood, every day in the year, lo, this is a mystery of love which baffles our mind. Deep is thy design, gracious is thy purpose, immeasurable is thine intent, unknown in its beginning and uncomprehended in its issues—it is enough for us to know that thou doest all things in wisdom and in love. Today is the battle, and tomorrow the mystery, and on the third day dost thou perfect the issue. Help us to fight, to wait, to worship, to suffer, to endure with noble courage and unmurmuring patience, knowing that the end will come as a great surprise of hidden love, a revelation of infinite tenderness. We bless thee for thy word; it is good reading in sandy places, and in wildernesses full of stones and wild beasts: it makes the very wind, when loudest and coldest, music in our hearing. It shows us where the tree is, the branches of which will sweeten the bitter pool; it is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Help us to understand it by our modesty, humility, self-renunciation, utter, child-like, unquestioning trust. Thou dost speak wonderful things to the child-heart—may ours evermore be such. Save us from our own imaginings, deliver us from the temptations of our own sagacity and learning, and help us in all simpleness, with complete trust and love of heart, and with the openness of soul which receives all heaven’s gifts, to wait upon the Lord, yea, to wait patiently for him. Every heart has its own story—of joy, of sorrow, of baffled hope, of dead ambitions, of frustrated purposes and trusts—send a gospel to each soul, that none may feel itself left out on the day of benediction and rest. Speak comfortably unto Jerusalem: send thine angel to cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, yea, let this be the day of jubilee, when silver trumpets shall announce the glad reprieve, the great and universal amnesty and release. Give us a nail in thy sanctuary, give us a standing on the threshold of thy house, bring us quite within the sacred enclosure of the holy temple, and give us rest and peace within its hallowed defences. Amen.
– Sunday Morning Prayer by Dr. Joseph Parker
Almighty God, it is our joy to know that though our sin be great thy grace is infinitely greater. Where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound, as where death abounds, life doth much more abound. This is thy method in thy universe, that life shall always be in excess of death, and that out of death itself shall come elements that shall tend to extend life. Thou movest marvellously; our eyes cannot follow the rapidity of thy movements, nor can our understanding bring within its judgment all thy methods and purposes. But we have seen enough to give us quietness and to deepen our childlike and loving trust. When the mystery is thickest and the cloud is densest, then we say, This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working; in his own due time he will turn these clouds into stars, and all his heaven will be bright with the shining of a great glory. Thou hast done so much in our life that we are able to say this with all the emphasis of unquestioning confidence.
Thou hast trained us when there was no hand to take hold of our little life; thou didst understand us when our prayer was but a dumb sign to our eager mother. Thou hast fed us with food convenient for us; when we have said there was no water, thou has caused the rocks to melt into streams. We have said, we shall die here, for there is no road beyond, and behold thou didst make a way for us in the mountains, and we walked by the feet of the great rocks which we expected to shut up our way. Thou hast dealt wonderfully with us; all thy mysteries are in our own life; we need not be startled or stunned by the mysteries in thy great book, for every one of them is repeated in the living book of our own experience. We have now learned wisdom enough to put ourselves absolutely into thy hands; we do not want any plan or purpose for tomorrow—we do not want to have any tomorrow in our possession or prospect at all. We would crowd our urgent life into the present trembling moment and make it the greatest crisis of our experience. Help us to work with both hands diligently; may we be good and faithful servants, using our talents, few or many, with all industry and with ever-growing zeal.
Thou knowest us altogether as a company of Christian worshippers. The old man is here, to whom life was once a dream; now it is a hope, for its life is not here, it is risen. The child is here who has no history, whose life spreads out like a golden dream, a prospect of glee and laughter exceedingly; the patient heart-broken woman, the sorrowing mother, with a grief she cannot tell; the prodigal who has edged his way in here, hoping not to be seen by reason of the crowd—we are all here; speak to us, thou tender One, and let thy speaking, every tone of it, be a gentle gospel that shall bring light into dark hearts, that shall dry tears from eyes used to great weeping, that shall stimulate every one of us to a higher industry and rebuke us gently for the despondency which comes of our want of faith. If any soul is here in peculiar trouble with a distress it may not put into words, let the Lord himself heal the great wound, lest it end in death.
As for our sin, there stands in front of us the infinite cross, the great sacrifice, the complete atonement, the great transaction never to be explained but always to be felt. The Lord touch every heart with the redeeming blood, and the sin shall be found no more. Pity us, great Father; if we are very tired, take us into thine arms awhile till we get our breath again, and according to the necessity and the pain of every life, command thy gracious blessing to rest upon us all. Amen.