Two Prayers from John Owen’s “Overcoming Sin and Temptation”

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I knew upon reading page 16 of the preface that I would thoroughly love this book. In describing Owen’s style, J.I. Packer says,

“He [Owen] wrote, rather, for those who once they take up a subject, cannot rest till they see to the bottom of it, and who find exhaustiveness not exhausting, but satisfying and refreshing…

I read that line and I was like, “YES, that’s ME, I’m gonna LOVE this one!” And I did, of course. Because that’s what this book is: “Exhaustive!” Exhaustive (aka satisfying and refreshing) is the perfect descriptor for this text – If i had to pick just one. And so, it would not do to try to summarize or even highlight the “best parts” because there were too many. Rather, I’ll resign to simply reproduce (only) two of the (many) prayers within the text that took my breathe away. Of course, the prayers are long, and of course, they are worth quoting in their entirety. Enjoy!

This first one, a prayer for being open and sorry before God about our sins: 

“What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace? Do I thus requite [repay] the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, that the blessed Spirit has chosen to dwell in? And can I keep myself out of the dust? What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold up my head with any boldness before him? Do I account communion with him of so little value, that for this vile lust’s sake I have scarce left him any room in my heart? How shall I escape if I neglect so great his salvation? In the meantime, what shall I say to the Lord? Love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, consolation – I have despised them all, and esteemed them as a thing of naught, that I might harbor a lust in my heart. Have I obtained a view of God’s fatherly countenance, that I might behold his face and provoke him to his face? Was my soul washed, that room might be made for new defilements? Shall I endeavor to disappoint the end of the death of Christ? Shall I daily grieve that Spirit whereby I am sealed to the day of redemption?” (Page 105)

This last one is a prayer as we remember how helpless our cause is on our own, and yet what hope we have if Christ works in us through the power of His Spirit: 

“I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of naught. Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succor and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold, the Lord Christ, that has all fullness of grace in his heart [John 1:16], all fullness of power in his hand [Matt. 28:18], he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance. He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conqueror [Rom. 8:37].

“Why do you say, O my soul, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Have you not known, have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:27-31).

“He can make the ‘dry, parched ground of my soul to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water’; yea, he can make this ‘habitation of dragons,’ this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for ‘grass’ and fruit to himself (Isa. 35:7)”

(Page 132)

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