By Henry Law
Repentance and contrition find vent in confession and prayer. May these holy exercises be the home of our souls!
1. "Unto You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul."
Sweet are the hours of communion with God. At every moment we may draw near. The way stands widely open through the rent veil. Christ's body broken and His streaming blood procure immediate access. But true prayer is not formality. It is soul-work. In it the world and all its cares and vanities are left behind. Faith spreads rejoicing wings and soars above the heaven of heavens. The man of prayer lifts up his soul.
2, 3. "O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me. Yes, let none that wait on You be ashamed; let those be ashamed who transgress without cause."
It is faith's holy privilege to deal unreservedly with God; to open out its real condition; to call Him to witness that all vain confidences are renounced, and that all trust rests on Him. Such may fearlessly supplicate that no disappointments may cause shame; and that no foes may humble them. Those who lift up the soul to God will lift up the head above all the fears of men.
Faith, also, is an expansive grace. Its arms embrace all true believers. It strives that others should share its blessedness. But it well knows that shame must be the sinner's doom. There can be no excuse for sin. No cause provokes it. The sinner sins because it is his nature and his will.
4, 5, 6. "Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth, and teach me; for You are the God of my salvation; on You do I wait all the day. Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old."
Faith is emboldened to ask great things from knowledge of the character and works of God. It can appeal, 'You are the God who willed and wrought salvation for me; it is Your purpose and decree to save me to the uttermost. Hence You have given Jesus for me, and me to Jesus.' It can look back to a long train of tender mercies from the earliest days. It rejoices to count them out before the Lord. It plies the argument, 'You have been very gracious. You are the same. Oh! be gracious now'; and on these cogent grounds it bases the prayer, "Show me Your ways; lead me, teach me." I am blind, and prone to err. Open my eyes clearly at each moment to discern Your will. Take my outstretched hand and guide me safely in salvation's path. All the day I need Your help, and seek it; all the day be my ready guide.
7. "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me for Your goodness' sake, O Lord."
In the case of the ungodly, sins forgotten by him are not sins forgiven. In the case of the believer, sins forgiven by God are not obliterated from his memory. The believer often reviews his course from earliest years; he reads and re-reads the annals of the past. They are dark, and stained with countless sins and countless aggravations. He is humbled to the dust. But he remembers Jesus, and God's boundless love in Him. He flees from the court of justice to the throne of grace. He pleads, nor pleads in vain, that God would deal with him in accordance with the covenant of grace.
8, 9. "The Lord is good and upright; therefore He will teach sinners in the way. He will guide the meek in judgment; and He will teach the meek His way."
When prayer pauses, faith gathers strength in meditation. It reflects that God is love, and faithfulness, and truth. It refreshes itself at this deep well of consolation. God's goodness calls; His promises assure. Therefore no sinner, coming in penitence and faith, may fear rejection. A ready welcome will be granted. The teaching Spirit will guide wisely. All who are truly humbled and thus wear the livery of the chosen flock will tread assuredly salvation's road.
10. "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies."
May grace be ever ours to adhere closely to the everlasting covenant; to base all our hopes on Christ, its surety, in whom all its terms are fully satisfied, and who, by His Spirit, reveals its message to us. May the like grace enable us to study diligently His holy precepts, and to keep our feet most steadily in their path. Then how blessed will be our earthly course! All God's dealings with us, though sometimes dark to sense , will issue from unfailing love, and prove that His Word is immovable as the everlasting hills.
11. "For Your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity; for it is great."
Prayer cannot long be silent. The burden of sin will press again. It will again appear in aggravated colors. Its magnitude deepens the sense of need of pardon. It proves that there is no remedy but in free grace. It clearly sees that God's glory is His forgiveness of all sin through the blood and righteousness of Christ. It therefore descends more lowly in contrition's valley, and importunes more loudly that God would gain glory in the way of pardon. Great, indeed, is our iniquity. May we confess our miserable state, and not remit our cries, that God's glory may be great in blotting all out!
12, 13. "Who is he that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way that He shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and His seed shall inherit the earth."
We do not err when we discern Christ Jesus as the high and full response. In Him each grace was perfect. In His earthly course His holy reverence was supreme. He ever knew by heavenly light His appointed path. His calm serenity was never ruffled. And He looked onward to the blissful time when His seed in countless multitudes should reign undoubted heirs of earth. All His children are conformed to His image. With lowly awe they reverence their God. His fear restrains the movement of their minds. His Spirit guides their steps. Their souls are kept in perfect peace. And in a little while the full delights of the millennial reign shall cause their cup to overflow.
14. "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him; and He will show them His covenant."
There are heights and depths of truth in the everlasting covenant which unaided man can neither reach nor fathom. The Gospel-scheme is a wondrous volume. No eye without God's light can rightly read its pages. But to all who tremble at the Word, the enlightening Spirit comes. He opens out the hidden mysteries. He draws aside the veil and shows the secret transactions in the courts of heaven; and all the wondrous achievements of Christ's life and death. The enraptured soul sees truths which angels ponder with amazement. Who can describe the ecstasies of this knowledge? But all the pupils in this school of light have one mark; they fear the Lord.
15, 16. "My eyes are ever toward the Lord; for He shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted."
When we can realize possession of the true principles of faith, we may claim all its privileges. Faith's eye is fixed on God. It swerves not from its polar star, therefore it reaps the rich abundance of the promises. Deliverance from every snare is pledged. Therefore with eye never turning from God, the believer walks securely through a path beset with snares. As it moves onward it is constant in petition. It often feels that loneliness and trouble depress, that friends are few, and sorrows many; but it faints not. It has firm trust that God will tenderly regard; that mercy will never fail; that no billows will overwhelm true faith.
17, 18. "The troubles of my heart are enlarged; O, bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins."
The believer's day varies, as the surface of the sea. There are periods of lulling calm, then the billows swell and raise gigantic breakers. There is insight that SELF can give no help. There is the immediate cry to GOD, who alone can rescue. But while attention is implored to pains of mind and body, the deepest misery is especially remembered. There is no anguish like the sense of sin. Therefore the constant prayer, 'Forgive all my sin.' We may urge this with all boldness and all hope, for the precious blood cleanses from all sin.
19, 20. "Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. O keep my soul, and deliver me; for I put my trust in You."
The believer might indeed tremble, if he went forth alone to his daily conflict; for many are his foes, and bitter their cruel hate. Nothing can soothe their vengeful hostility. No pity melts within their breasts. But the believer has omnipotent aid beside him. If foes are many, the help is infinite. The humble plea, "I trust in You," will bring all heaven to the rescue. The trusting soul will indeed be kept. "O Lord, increase our faith."
21. "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on You."
No grace was ever perfect but in the holy, harmless Son of God. Integrity was indeed the belt of His loins, and uprightness the sandals of His feet. But hatred of sin, and honesty of purpose, must be the inhabitants of our hearts. These graces prompt and strengthen prayer; but they are no valid grounds, claiming acceptance. For faith instantly looks from them to God, and adds, "I wait on You, from You only comes my help."
22. "Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles."
We may boldly ply this heaven-taught prayer with our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is made unto us redemption from every trouble and from every sin. He has bought us as His own, with His most precious blood. He will keep us, He will bless us, as His purchased flock. Soon shall we know the full blessedness of this redemption. He will claim the purchased kingdom for His purchased flock, and they shall live and reign forever on redeemed ground, beneath the banners of redemption. Blessed Lord, hasten the time! Fully redeem Your Israel!