A Prayer in Time of Affliction – John Knox (It’s harder than you think!)

Just and righteous art Thou, O dreadful and most high God, holy in all Thy works and most just in all Thy judgments – yea, even then when as Thou punishest in greatest severity. We have before, O Lord, felt Thy heavy hand on us, and when we cried on Thee in our calamities and afflictions, most mercifully Thou inclined Thy ears unto us. But, alas, O Lord, we have not answered in our lives glorifying Thy holy name as Thou answered us when we called in our distress, but we did return unto our accustomed sin and so provoked Thee through our misdeeds unto displeasure.

Therefore hast Thou most justly turned Thyself to punish [read as chastise] us again in bringing among us this troublesome and destroying pestilence, according to the threatening of Thy law, because we have not made our fruit of Thy former corrections. Our repentance, O Lord, hath been like the dew that suddenly vanisheth away; yea, the great multitude remained hardened in heart through their own pride and, walking in the lusts of their own hearts, confidently despised Thy blessed ordinances. For who hath mourned for the universal corruption of this blind age? …Yea, Lord, where could the man be found that sought not himself, even with the hurt of others and defacing of Thy glory? So universally did and presently doth that root of covetousness reign throughout this whole country. Yea, Lord, they to whom Thou granted worldly blessings in greatest abundance have been and are possessed with this unclean spirit of avarice. The more Thou gave, the more insatiably thirsted they to have, and they ceased not till they did spoil Thee of Thy own patrimony; yet in this matter they will not know themselves to sin and offend Thy majesty. Therefore cannot Thy justice longer spare, but it must punish and strike us as Thou threatenest in Thy holy law.

Now we know, Lord, that Thy judgments commonly begin at Thy own house, and therefore hast Thou begun to correct us, albeit yet in Thy mercy and not in greatest severity. Wherefore, good Lord, either else in the multitude of Thy mercies remove this bitter cup away from us or grant us Thy grace patiently and obediently to drink the same as given out of Thy own hand for our amendment.

We acknowledge, O Lord, that afflictions are disturbing, vexing, and hard to be borne with of fragile flesh; but Christ Jesus hath suffered heavier torments for us, and we have deserved more than we sustain who so oft have merited the very hells. If it shall please Thy Majesty to continue our punishment [read, chastisement] and double our stripes, then let it please Thee in like means to increase our patience and make our corporal afflictions serve to our humiliation, invocation of Thy name, and obedience to Thy holy ordinances. Or if of a fatherly pity it shall please Thee to be content with this gentle correction, let the calm appear after this present tempest that in respect of both the one and the other we may glorify Thee, in that first Thou hast corrected to amendment lest we should have slept in sin to our destruction and, secondly, that Thou hast taken away the bitterness of affliction with the sweetness of Thy comfortable deliverance, in Thee first having respect to the necessity and in the last to our infirmity.

…But, O Lord, now it is Thy own inheritance, for the which we sigh and groan before Thy Majesty. Look on it, therefore, from the heavens, and be merciful to Thy people; let Thy anger and Thy wrath be turned away from us, and make Thy face to shine lovingly on Thy own sanctuary. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, consider, grant our requests, for Thy own sake, O our God, and that in the name of Thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ, our only Savior and Mediator, in whose name we pray unto Thee…. So be it.

collected-prayers-jknox-2019Taken from The Collected Prayers of John Knox, edited and introduced by Brian G. Najapfour (Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), pp.37-39. This is the first prayer in the section “Supplication in Times of Difficulty,” and when I read it last week, it struck me as so relevant for the present time. This prayer of Knox is prophetic.

And yes, it smote my own conscience. How fitting for our age, our country, our churches, yes – but, especially for my own heart and life, as we have sat in such prosperity, lusting for more and trusting in our idols to deliver us. And now the Lord is judging us, unmasking the vanity of our false gods and calling us to true repentance and full faith in Him alone.

Can we pray these words of Knox? Yes, as children of God we can, and we must. But will we? May God humble us to do so, and work genuine repentance in us in this time of affliction.

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