Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another Gem

I finally received my copy of Starck's Prayer Book: Revised Concordia Edition yesterday.  I already love it.  Wow!

Originally published in English in 1921, this gem contains the rich devotional writings of Johann Friedrich Starck (1680-1756), faithful Lutheran preacher, pastor, and author.  This new edition was revised and edited by Pastor Weedon and is simply fantastic!  Thanks, Pr. Weedon, for all the work you did on this.

The prayer book is divided into five books, and each book contains several devotions around the given theme.  The devotions begin with a Scripture passage, followed by an Exhortation, then Prayer, and rounded off by a hymn (from LSB, no less).  Here's a sample, which happens to be the first devotion in the book, to whet your appetite:


One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:  that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple.  Psalm 27:4

Immediately after the fall, God, in His wisdom, directed Adam, the first man, to offer sacrifices.  Adam's children, Cain and Abel, were, in turn, directed by their father to do the same.  (Their sacrifice is expressly mentioned in Genesis 4:3-4.)  These sacrifices were not offered in silence!  In fact, at such sacrifices they praised God for the benefits received from Him, and also proclaimed the name of the Lord.  Those offering the sacrifices confessed their sins, prayed to God for forgiveness, and declared their faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, who was to shed His blood for humanity like the animals offered in sacrifice.  The patriarchs retained this form of worship until in the wilderness God commanded the ark of the covenant to be erected, which afterward furnished the pattern for Solomon's temple.

Further, in the Old Testament, God singled out the seventh day as a day of rest and commanded that day to be kept holy.  In its external meaning this commandment does not apply to Christians.  Just like other laws in the Old Testament having to do with particular practices, persons, seasons, and locations, this, too, is an entirely external affair; in the New Testament, Christians have been given freedom by Christ regarding all such matters.  Still, in the exercise of our Christian freedom, we Christians in the New Testament also keep festival days and days of rest, especially Sunday, so we have time and opportunity to attend the Divine Service, to gather with fellow Christians to hear and study God's Word, to receive the Sacraments, and to praise God with our hymns and prayers.

On the arrival of a day of this kind, a believing Christian should free the mind from earthly matters and stop working, prepare by prayer for the coming Sunday or holy day, praise God for the many blessings received during the past week, and look up in the Bible or hymnal the assigned readings for the Feast or Sunday and meditate on them, thus being prepared for reverently hearing the Word.

Gracious and merciful God, I come before Your holy face today with praise and thanksgiving.  You have graciously kept me during the past week and bountifully blessed the work of my hands.  You have preserved my going out and my coming in.  You have kept me in all my ways and have shown me so much kindness in body and soul.  For all of this I praise and magnify You with my whole heart!  I will forget what is past, lay down the burden of all my labors and callings, turn my mind to heaven alone, to my God, that I may rejoice in You.

O gracious God, grant that I may spend the coming Sunday [or Feast] in Your fear and grace.  Keep me from evil company, lest Satan by his wicked attacks keep me from attending the Divine Service.  Help me refuse to follow his enticements.  Guard me, lest I spend this day in idleness, wastefulness, immorality, or sinful amusements, and thus inflict great harm on my soul.  Grant me Your Holy Spirit that I may gladly hear and learn Your Word this day.  When Your Word is being preached, open my heart that I may listen to it and receive it within me as a precious treasure.  Help me to build myself up in my Christian faith and to grow in the knowledge of the truth.  Grant that the Word I hear at church may change and sanctify me.  As I grow in years, grant that I may also grow inwardly, in faith and piety.  Grant me grace to become a new creature and to be and remain a living member in the Body of my Lord Jesus.  Grant that I may reverently close my worship and carefully treasure up what I have learned.  Grant me grace to be constantly mindful of the Word that I have heard, so that I may walk, speak, live, and act according to it, and thus prove not to be a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the Word.  Grant me to keep the Sabbath always in this manner until You bring me to the unending joys of heaven, to the Sabbath that never ends, through Jesus Christ, my only Redeemer and Savior.  Amen.

Lord, open now my heart to hear,
And through your Word to me draw near;
Let me Your Word e'er pure retain;
Let me Your child and heir remain.

Your Word inspires my heart within;
Your Word grants healing from my sin;
Your Word has pow'r to guide and bless;
Your Word brings peace and happiness.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Shall glory, praise, and honor be
Now and throughout eternity. 
LSB 908:1-3   

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