Tomorrow we celebrate Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem as king. What an exciting day that must have been for the people. And what a troubling day for the Pharisees, who rejected Jesus as king. This day marks the beginning of Holy Week, when we recall the suffering and death of Christ, leading to Good Friday and Easter. On Palm Sunday we are invited to worship the Lord as King, but also to examine ourselves. Whom do you serve? Who is your king? The King has come and will come again. So how will you respond to him? Will you reject him like the Pharisees or embrace him like the disciples?
I find written prayers a great source of help and blessing. Some people think they’re not as authentic, as they were written by someone else. But I’ve found that as I’ve prayed written prayers over the years, the words, although not originally mine, become mine as I pray them over and over again. The first source of written prayers for me are the Old Testament Psalms. They are Israel’s prayers and ours, and they’re more than enough as far as written prayers are concerned. But happily there are many other written prayers to use. The following one is by William Barclay, and is from his book, Prayers for the Christian Year (as recorded in Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants [Upper Room, 1983], 127). I invite you to pray it with me today, and perhaps for the next few days and weeks.
O God, our Father, we know that the issues of life and death are in your hands, and we know that you are loving us with an everlasting love. If it is your will, grant to us to live in happiness and in peace. In all our undertakings, grant us prosperity and good success. In all our friendships, grant us to find our friends faithful and true. In all bodily things, make us fit and healthy, able for the work of the day. In all the things of the mind, make us calm and serene, free from anxiety and worry. In material things, save us from poverty and from want. In spiritual things, save us from doubt and from distrust. Grant us in our work satisfaction; in our study true wisdom; in our pleasure gladness; in our love loyalty. And if misfortune does come to us, grant that any trial may only bring us closer to one another and close to you; and grant that nothing may shake our certainty that you work all things together for good, and that a Father’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear. Hear this our prayer, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
On the Third Sunday of Lent we will emphasize the patience of God via Luke 13:1-9. I will also give this helpful summary of the gospel that was first articulated by J. I. Packer, but which I recently read in Timothy Keller’s book, Center Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).
“God saves sinners.”
“God—the triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of the Father and Son by renewing.
“Saves—does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
“Sinners—men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot.
What a gem! We will also pray a communal prayer of repentance after the sermon that I find very meaningful, as we seek to respond to God’s Word and repent of our sins and follow Jesus. May the Lord bless our Lenten worship!