June 25, 2011

Whether We Succeed or Fail

A friend and fellow church planting wife recently gave me a book of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision. The prayers often speak what I have trouble articulating to God, especially regarding my inward spiritual battles related to ministry. It's also comforting to read written prayers of the saints who have come before us in ministry so that "since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" we can "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and run with the endurance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1) Here is one such prayer:

Blessed Spirit of God,

Four evils attend my ministry--
The devil treads me down by discouragement and shame arising from coldness in private meditation.
Carelessness possesses me from natural dullness and dimness of spirit;
because in the past I have met with success and been highly regarded, so that it does not matter if I have now failed.
Infirmities and weakness are mine from want of spiritual light, life, and power,
so that souls have not been helped, and I have not felt thee to be near.
Lack of success has followed even when I have done my best.

But thou hast shown me that the glory of everything that is sanctified to do good
is not seen in itself,
but in the source of its sanctification.

Thus my end in preaching (or serving or whatever it might be) is to know Christ,
and impart his truth;
my principle in preaching is Christ himself, whom I trust,
for in him is fullness of spirit and strength;
my comfort in preaching is to do all for him.

Help me in my work to grow more humble,
to pick something out of all providences to that end,
to joy in thee and loathe myself,
to keep my life, being, soul, and body only for thee,
to carry my heart to thee in love and delight,
to see all my grace in thee, coming from thee,
to walk with thee in endearment.

Then, whether I succeed or fail, nought matters but thee alone.