Glory Be To God On High

I remember singing this ancient hymn of praise regularly in church while growing up. I knew that it was part of the traditional liturgy and old enough to have a Latin name (“Gloria in Excelsis Deo”), but I had no idea how ancient these words were. According to the article on it in Wikipedia.org, one form of the song dates back to at least the third century, if not to the first. I was singing words that had been said or sung by Christians practically since the church began! What an incredible thought!

Originally in Greek, then translated into Latin, this version is from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It’s a wonderful example of praise, in any language.

Glory be to God on high,
and on earth peace, good will towards men.

We praise thee, we bless thee,
we worship thee,
we glorify thee,
we give thanks to thee for thy great glory,
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father,
have mercy upon us.

For thou only art holy;
thou only art the Lord;
thou only, O Christ,
with the Holy Ghost,
art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

– ancient doxology

Need of Jesus

I recently found a wonderful book called The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. I love the prayers in it because they express passionate devotion to God, honest confessions of failure and need, and deep dependence on God’s grace. Unfortunately, even though the editor lists sources (John Bunyan, David Brainerd, Charles Spurgeon, Isaac Watts, Richard Baxter, and others), he doesn’t note which prayer comes from which source, so the author of the following prayer will have to remain anonymous.

Lord Jesus,
I am blind, be thou my light,
    ignorant, be thou my wisdom
    self-willed, be thou my mind.
Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit's voice,
    and delightfully run after is beckoning hand;
Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,
    make it alive to evil's slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds,
    and there cease to tremble at all alarms.
Be my good shepherd to lead me into the green pastures of thy word,
    and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.
Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales
    may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.
Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,
Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,
Thy death occurred to give me a surety,
Thy name is my property to save me,
By thee all heaven is poured into my heart,
    but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.
I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel,
    but thy cross has brought me near,
        has softened my heart,
        has made me thy Father's child,
        has admitted me to thy family,
        has made me joint-heir with thyself.
O that I may love thee as thou lovest me,
    that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord,
    that I may reflect the image of heaven's first-born.
May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith,
    and feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart,
    for unless he move mightily in me
    no inward fire will be kindled.

– Puritan prayer, from The Valley of Vision.

Arise, My Soul, Arise

This hymn by Charles Wesley is one I don’t remember ever hearing until Twila Paris set it to a new tune and recorded it on her 1991 album Sanctuary. (It had been unfamiliar to her, too, according to the liner notes.) I was immediately moved to worship by the powerful images that speak of what Christ’s death accomplished for me.

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

Come As You Are

Do not keep back from Christ under the idea that you must come to Him in a disinterested frame, and from an unselfish motive. If you were right in this thing, who could be saved? You are to come as you are; with all your bad motives, whatever these may be. Take all your bad motives, add them to the number of your sins, and bring them all to the altar where the great sacrifice is lying. Go to the mercy seat. Tell the High Priest there, not what you desire to be, nor what you ought to be, but what you are…He wants you to come to Him exactly as you are, and not to cherish the vain thought that, by a little waiting, or working, or praying, you can make yourself fit, or persuade Him to make you fit.
– Horatious Bonar (1808-1889), God’s Way of Peace

Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar wrote this to people who were holding back from becoming Christians because they thought they had wrong motives for doing so. But I also see how this applies to people who are already Christians. How many times have I avoided meeting with the Lord in prayer or Bible study because I think I have to clean up my act first? I know that when I came to Christ for salvation, I came “as is,” knowing that I could not cleanse myself of the spiritual filth in my life; in fact, that’s why I came to Him, so He could cleanse me, because only He could. So why do I think it’s any different when I come to him now? As Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia,

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:1-3, NIV)

Whether I’m coming to Christ for the first time or the thousandth time, I must come as I am to the cross, trusting in His sacrifice alone to cleanse me from my sin. He doesn’t expect me to clean up my own act, because I am incapable of doing so, just as incapable as I was when I first received Christ as my savior over 35 years ago. And He is still able and eager to do it for me when I come in faith to Him.

A Prayer of Repentance

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of Thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ’s sake, Amen.
– Ambrose of Milan (c.339-397)

St. Ambrose’s prayer echoes the words God spoke through Ezekiel to the Jewish exiles:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, NIV)

When I repent, it is God in His mercy who cleanses me from sin, who softens my hard heart, and who gives me both the desire and ability to live for Him through His Holy Spirit. This was true when I trusted Christ for my salvation, and it is true again every time I confess my sin with a repentant heart, surrender myself to God, and rely on Him to direct and empower me with His Holy Spirit.

Repentance, surrender, trust; simple concepts, really, yet applying them is hard work! And though they are simple, I never outgrow my need for them. They brought me to Christ, and they keep me close to Christ, for as the apostle Paul said, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him” (Galatians 2:6, NIV)

(These concepts are at the heart of the Spirit-filled Life, as taught by the late Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ and explained here. God used this teaching powerfully in my life, and still does.)

Posts navigation

1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 10
Scroll to top