(Adapted from ‘Confidence in His Will’ a retreat address that Bishop Frank Weston gave in 1914)
Lord, You are so close to me, and yet so entirely other too. But sometimes, Your otherness feels somewhat distant and overwhelming, I find myself beginning to lose confidence in Your ability to save and provide for me. Let me demonstrate more confidence in Your Divine Power, Father, to carry me through every trial and test. Let me remind myself of this in my darker hours.
Whenever I start thinking along the lines that if only You had given me more of some particular quality, or had opened up some specific opportunity for me, that then I would fare so much better, I soon I find myself on the brink of becoming despondent – not to mention making things hard for the people I live and work with.
Jesus, You are the very embodiment of God’s divine will. You grip me firmly by the hand and walk with me through all I have to face. Your abundant grace is always at hand, urging me to co-operate with You at all times, especially when the going gets tough and the temptation is strong to settle for something less than You really have in mind for me.
In spite of whole millennia of selfishness and rebellion against You, Lord, You don’t look upon the human race as creatures to be rebuked or beaten down. You see us rather as possessing high potential, and those who have placed their faith in You as Your chosen ones, made in Your image to partner with You in Your work.
You came and lived among us, and for thirty-three years, You lived in perfect obedience to Your Father’s will in every detail of Your life. As Jew and Gentile took part in the events that led up to Your crucifixion, You offered Your own obedience to the Father on our behalf. There on the cross You hung, the One and only truly obedient man in all human history. How vital that was for the human race – and how much it cost You.
Lord, You established spiritual laws whereby the human race dies in soul and body as the result of our sins. You who knew no sin were willing to live under the law in order to bear our sin and to receive the death sentence for us, carrying our guilt in the sight of God and doing away once and for all with our disobedience. And as death overtook You in obedience to the law, You cried out in the darkness, “My God, My God! Why have You forsaken Me?”
Risen Lord, only begotten Son of God, You satisfied the claims of God for us. You paid for us the debt none other could have paid. You dealt with the penalty of sin for all time – and You invite us to come home to the God who loves and desires us. You are looking at us and loving us, and as we look up at You, the Light of the World, despair is dispelled. And darkness has no place. If You are for us, who shall be against us?
Because You have made Yourself one with us, there is no Divine Will to punish or dismiss us. You are on the side of all who desire to be on Your side. You have paid the debt and offered up the obedience that we by ourselves could not offer. So beautiful and so glorious have You made Yourself – and so tender has Your love been for us that the damage our sins cause strikes deeply home within our hearts.
As You look down on us from Your throne in Heaven, there are times when You pierce our hearts with the awareness of the sin that slew You. When you confront us with our faults and failings, may we not be so quick to look down into ourselves, or outwards to some diversion, or even inward in pointless introspection in a bid to escape this process.
To our shame we confess that all too many of us, yes, even among the devout, choose to keep some portion of their lives marked off for ourselves, guarding it jealously from anyone else’s sight, as if we thought we could hide it from You. With one hand we hold fast to You and give the appearance of loving, faithful service; and yet, deep down, we may still be serving ourselves.
The moment You seem far away they take the reins of control back into their own hands and decide for themselves what they want in accordance with their own whims and passions. Your desires are the last thing on their minds. How can they expect the spirit of prayer to thrive when their strongest efforts are bent on pandering to these desires and emotions and indulging in self-willed acts? What room are they leaving You to work when they have chosen their own will over Yours? Effectively they have driven You out!
It is not that You ever give up on us, Lord, it is just that we allow ourselves to become undisciplined. You don’t desert us but wait quietly in the background, watching for the first signs and stirrings that we want to look to You instead of to ourselves, and our own human solutions. You wait to be gracious, and to rise to show us once more the fullness of Your favour and deep compassion, calling us back once more into living fellowship. (cf Is. 30:18-19)
Lord, keep me from knowing the right but choosing the wrong, as Pilate did. Such self-will is deeply hurtful to You and harmful to others. Yes, keep me from fighting against You, driving You out by my self-will.
Lord, show me rather ways to grow in love and to become more like You. When I am annoyed by someone else’s actions, or hurt by their attitudes, show me something from Your Word, and especially from Your life and Passion, Jesus, so that I can find in Your example the means to overcome my selfishness. Lord, I want to offer myself in prayer to You on behalf of the person who irritates me. I gladly place every part of my life into Your hands, and I yield to the purifying work of Your Spirit.
Lord, there are so many times when I hurt one of my friends, and make life uncomfortable for them, because, yet again, I have acted without sufficient forethought, and I’ve made it hard for them to trust me. As a result, barriers are now developing between me and my friend.
If it proves hard to restore the friendship, the fault is likely to be largely mine – and this wall that has developed between my friend and myself has also served to set up a barrier between You and me that not even You love can overcome until I am willing to deal with it.
Let me not be a stumbling block in their pilgrimage, Lord. Still more I pray there be no lasting barrier that develops between myself and You. Bless each one of my friends and all those who love You deeply and are in need of a special touch from You today. For true it is that those who love You most deeply are often the ones who suffer most fully.
These barriers are only there because there is something within me that needs purging out before Love and I can meet in true joy and peace. Point these things out to me so that I can see that they are there, and what they really consist of. Give me the determination to face up to them, and to overcome every single thing that hinders You from breaking through into the depths of my soul.
Dismantle my barriers, and show me where I must change. If that means waiting and being patient for others to trust me again, is that not what You have to do all the time with us? And then, wherever possible, make good the many occasions where I have failed my friend, who trusted and believed in me. Restore and rebuild this precious relationship, and grant me the power and ability first to develop true and lasting friendships – and then to sustain them.
Father, if I do not take care to attend to these matters now in this life, how will I dare to look into Your face? Whether it be near or far off, I know that the moment will someday come when I shall see You as You are. Because I cannot undo all that I have said and done that has hurt and wounded others, my conscience will burn with shame and blind my eyes.
Yet Your ears are still open to my cry, and You will find ways to redeem all that can be redeemed as I humble myself and seek Your mercy.
In Your mercy, may this deeply convicting awareness of my selfishness burn strongly and deeply enough to purge me, like the hot coal on Isaiah’s lips. But for now, I must hasten to withdraw myself from the lure of the world and cast myself afresh at Your feet and attend to these matters while there is yet time. And then send me forth, cleansed and burning with a pure and fragrant flame.
Am I prepared and courageous enough to let You do this? Of course I am – and of course I have every reason to place all my hope and confidence in You. It is Your Will to save and Your great joy to redeem.
Here and now, in this quiet and solemn moment, I open my heart to You who are ever ready to welcome me back into Your fold; You who understand me so entirely and whose mercy is so great. May it be that my love, which is such a small and faltering stream, becomes caught up in the depth and breadth and length of Your great river of mercy. That is why it behoves me to repent now of all these things.
Then, as repentant as I can be, You empower me with fresh joy and grace and send me out again for You. I lift my heart and rejoice with a strong, robust joy as I join with Your people everywhere in taking Your message of hope wherever You send me. You have shown me the way to know and love You, and it is a gift that everyone needs to hear about!
Linda Entwistle: Let nothing disturb you
Pepusch: 3rd Mvt. for 2 recorders, 2 violins and cello, Op. 8:1
Robert Weston: Cantus (Instrumental Version)
Linda Entwistle: It is finished
Dusseck: 2nd Movt, Sonata in C minor, Op. 2, Fontane Liang, Harp
Robert Weston: Beyond Silver Lining
If you would like to read Frank’s original version, click here.