The churches of the Reformation have historically included forms of prayer alongside their songs and liturgies in their service books. The Church of Geneva, for example, had The Form of Church Prayers and Hymns first published in 1542, and the Church of England had the Book of Common Prayer first published in 1549.
In our particular tradition, the Psalter and service book of Petrus Dathenus (1556) also contained a series of prayers. These prayers were first translated into English and included in the Christian Reformed Church’s Psalter Hymnal in 1934 and were included in the 1959 and 1976 editions. Experience has shown that our prayers are an overlooked part of our liturgical life.
Some of the reasons offered are that they are antiquated and verbose. What follows uses the older versions as a baseline while updating the language, shortening when appropriate, adding more prayers from the best of the broader Reformed tradition (England, Geneva, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, as well as Martin Luther), and considering the liturgical and personal needs of our people. We believe this will enhance the prayer life of our people at home and of those who lead in prayer in public worship.
These prayers are not obligatory, but are for voluntary use. While our Church Order requires the use of liturgical forms and their prayers for certain moments in congregational life (e.g., baptism, Lord’s Supper), nowhere are prescribed forms of public prayer in weekly worship imposed. These prayers are offered as aids and examples for those who are called to lead in public prayer, as well as for the direction and edification of our people in their daily lives. To that end, they are arranged in four major sections (after the Lord’s Prayer):
- Prayers for Lord’s Day Worship
- Prayers for Special Services
- Prayers for Ecclesiastical Assemblies
- Prayers and Meditations for Personal and Family Use
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who is in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory, forever.
Prayers for Lord’s Day Worship
May be said in unison or with the minister praying and the congregation saying “Amen.”
Opening Invocation / Declaration of Dependence
May be said responsively, with the minister saying the first line and the congregation saying the second.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 124:8)
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, from where does your help come?
Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 121:1–2)
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble. (Ps. 46:1)
Prayer of Invocation—1
to whom our hearts are open,
our desires are known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the gracious power of Your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love You
and worthily magnify Your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
Prayer of Invocation—2
Almighty and everlasting God,
You are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,
and to give more than we desire or deserve.
Pour down upon us the abundance of Your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is convicted,
and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,
except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.
Prayer of Confession—1
Dearly loved brothers and sisters,
we are called to examine ourselves in the
light of God’s law.
Let us go to God in public confession:
Prayed in unison:
we are sinful, and You are holy.
We recognize that we have heard in Your law difficult words,
knowing how often we have offended You in thought, word, and deed,
not only by obvious violations,
but by failing to conform to its perfect commands,
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
Apart from Christ, there is nothing in us that gives us reason for hope;
for where we thought we were well, we are sick in soul.
Where we thought we were holy, we are in truth unholy and ungrateful.
Our hearts are filled with the love of the world;
our minds are dark and are assailed by doubts;
our wills are too often given to selfishness
and our bodies to laziness and unrighteousness.
By sinning against our neighbors,
we have also sinned against You,
in whose image they were created.
In this time of silent confession, we bring You our particular sins.
An opportunity for silent confession may be given.
Prayed by the minister:
although You are a holy God, who cannot look upon sin,
look upon Christ our Savior and forgive us for His sake.
You have promised us that if we confess our sins,
You are faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
For if we do sin, we have an Advocate before Your throne,
Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins.
Give us Your pardon by Your mercies, dear Father,
for You have clothed us in Christ’s righteousness.
We ask also that You would give us an increase of the grace of Your Holy Spirit,
so that we may learn the wisdom of Your ways
and walk in Your holy paths,
for Your glory and the good of our neighbor.
Prayer of Confession—2
Brothers and sisters,
the law causes us to acknowledge and confess our many sins and wickedness,
not hiding them from the face of almighty God, our heavenly Father,
but confessing them
with a humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart,
that we may obtain forgiveness by His infinite goodness and mercy.
Therefore, I urge you to join me with a pure heart and a humble voice
before the throne of grace, praying:
Prayed in unison:
Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts,
we have offended against Your holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done,
and so we are helpless without You.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders,
spare us, as we confess our faults,
restore us, as we are penitent,
according to Your promises declared to us in Christ Jesus our Lord,
and grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake,
that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and devout life,
to the glory of Your holy name.
Pastoral Prayer (Long)—1
Almighty and merciful God:
We realize and confess before You that if You should take into account what we have done, we would be unworthy to lift our eyes toward heaven and present our prayers before You. Our consciences accuse us, and our sins testify against us. And yet, in Your fatherly goodness, You have adopted us in Christ and delight to hear our prayers, which we offer through His mediation. Therefore, we look to no other king and seek no other advocate for the help that we need in this world and in the world to come. You call us to seek, not only our own salvation and good, but that of Your whole church and the world, and we do so now.
We pray especially for Your benediction on Your holy gospel, that it may be faithfully proclaimed and that the world may be filled with the knowledge of Your truth. To that end, please send workers into Your field to plant, water, and harvest a people for Your name. But frustrate the work of those who would sow weeds of heresy and discord. Pull down all the strongholds of Satan in this world, and establish Your kingdom throughout the earth. Please give fatherly attention to Your servants who suffer persecution for the sake of the gospel and strengthen them in mind and body by Your Spirit, through the means of grace.
Specific prayers may be added for the peace, purity, and progress of the gospel throughout the world.
We pray also for those who serve our common welfare in temporal affairs. Grant those whom You have ordained to govern us wisdom and integrity. Give them a restraining fear of You to keep them from abusing authority, and give them the knowledge that they stand under Your final judgment. We ask that You would use them to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to You. May they restrain wickedness and vice, promote justice and virtue, and remove every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and divine worship, so that the Word of God may have free course, the kingdom of Christ may progress, and every anti-Christian power may be resisted. Dear Father, who sends rain upon the just and the unjust alike, give to us also, we pray, such humility of conduct and faithfulness in our worldly callings, that we may contribute to the good of our neighbors and live peaceable lives in all godliness and honor.
Specific prayers may be added for civil authorities.
We remember also all who suffer from physical dangers, temptation, doubts, illnesses of mind or body, or financial distress—and especially those who are near death. Comfort, we pray, all widows and orphans, and be to them a father. Show Your mercy to prisoners, to those in the military, and to those whose business takes them great distances. Guard their families and bring them back safely, we pray. May the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Your Son, refresh Your people in their trials and give them the grace to bear the difficulties You send them for their good. Give also to us the grace to share in their suffering and provide for their needs as we are able.
Specific prayers may be added for members of the congregation.
Bless the land with fruitful harvest, and give us wisdom and patience to be good stewards of it and of the resources You graciously give us for our callings. Keep us from exploiting Your good gifts for our own selfish accumulation, and grant that we may be ever mindful of our duties to each other and to Your creation. Order our priorities and interests, so that our callings in life will promote, rather than hinder, our love for You and for our neighbor. We ask that You would deepen the bonds between us as spouses, and as parents and children, and resolve conflict and strife according to Your wisdom and grace. To those among us who are single, give gifts for building up the communion of saints, as well as faithfulness in the face of temptation, and grant that Your people may build them up in the most holy faith. Strengthen us through Your means of grace, that we may worship You, not only with our words, but also with our lives, and so build us up into one body, a city in the world whose light cannot be hidden. Make each of us, we pray, a living sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, pleasing to You. For this is our reasonable service in view of that sacrifice which alone has reconciled us finally and forever to You.
We bring to Your throne these intercessions on behalf of each other through that intercession of our elder brother at Your right hand, even Jesus Christ, Your eternal Son. Amen.
Pastoral Prayer (Short)—2
O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind:
We humbly intercede on behalf of all people, that You would be pleased to make Your ways known to them, Your saving grace to all nations. [Specific prayers may be added for missions / missionaries and church plants / church planters.] More especially, we pray for the universal church, that it may be so guided and governed by Your Holy Spirit, that all who profess to be and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth and embrace the faith in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
Finally, we commend to Your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed in mind, body, or any other way. We especially pray for [specific needs are mentioned]. May it please You to comfort and relieve them, according to their particular needs, giving them patience in their sufferings and a blessed deliverance out of all their afflictions.
All this we ask for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Prayer before the Sermon—1
who has spoken in various times and in various ways to Your people in the past,
but in these last days in Your Son, the incarnate Word,
we pray that You will open the mouth of Your servant to proclaim that Word in the power of the Spirit.
And we pray that this same Spirit will open the hearts of its hearers here assembled to receive Your holy gospel and write on their hearts Your holy law, even as You have promised.
All of this, gracious Father, we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father …”
Prayer before the Sermon—2
Blessed Lord, who has caused Holy Scripture to be written for our learning,
grant that we may hear, read, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that through the comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer after the Sermon—1
Our merciful God, who is pleased to condescend to speak to us through Your Word,
grant us all grace that we may not be mere hearers of Your Word, but doers also.
Give us the grace of Your Holy Spirit that we may believe what has been proclaimed to us.
May we bring glory and honor to Your name in all that we do, as You conform us to the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
All of this, gracious Father, we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father …”
Prayer after the Sermon—2
Almighty God, graciously grant that Your Word, which we have heard, may be inscribed inwardly on our hearts.
As we receive Your Word meekly with pure affection, may our hearts be filled with love and reverence for You.
Cause us to bear the fruit of the Spirit and to live in holiness, diligently following Your commandments.
And may it please You to use us to lead those who are lost, wandering, and confused into the way of truth.
All this we pray for the honor and praise of Your name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayer before the Explanation of the Catechism—1
Almighty and everlasting God, our heavenly Father, we acknowledge that we are sinners, conceived and born in sin, unable of ourselves to do any good.
But we do repent of our sins, and seek Your grace to help us in our remaining weaknesses.
Through the teaching of Your Word, which we confess with the church throughout the ages, satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst with Your refreshing truth, that we, with all our hearts, may love and serve You,
with our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the one and only true God, who lives and reigns forever. Amen.
Prayer before the Explanation of the Catechism—2
Our heavenly Father,
we ask You to look upon us in grace,
as we look away from ourselves into the face of Your Son, whom You have appointed our Mediator and Savior.
As all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Your Son, guide us by Your Holy Spirit into the true understanding of the doctrines of Christ.
May our meditation upon His truth produce in us the fruit of righteousness to the glory and exaltation of His name, the instruction and edification of this congregation, and the salvation of the lost through our witness.
We pray this in the name and favor of Your well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in dependence on His Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayer after the Explanation of the Catechism—1
Gracious and merciful Father,
we give You thanks for having established Your covenant with believers and their children. For, as You have told us, “the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
This promise You have not only signified and sealed by holy baptism, but daily prove by perfecting Your praise through the mouths of children, and so putting to shame the wise and understanding of this world.
Continue to establish Your saints in this faith throughout their lives.
So give us the grace to inwardly digest the food You have given us and to instruct our children in Your knowledge and fear until they have reached complete maturity.
All of this we ask in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, who taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father …”
Prayer after the Explanation of the Catechism—2
Our gracious God,
You build Your church on the foundation of the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone, and so we pray that You would bless our congregation to grow in their teaching.
Assist us in meditating with joy on Your mighty acts, enlighten our minds more and more with the light of the everlasting gospel, kindle in our hearts a love of Your truth, nourish us with the full counsel of the Word of God, enable us to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and defend us from the sins of heresy and schism.
And as we have heard the true doctrine proclaimed to us, by Your great blessing may it be preserved among us and propagated through us by our lips and lives to the glory of the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we, Your unworthy servants, do give You most humble and hearty thanks for all Your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all people.
We bless You for our creation, our preservation, and all the blessings of this life,
but above all for Your inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we ask You,
give us that due sense of all Your mercies,
that our hearts may be sincerely thankful,
and that we may show forth Your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to Your service,
and by walking before You in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You have given us grace to offer our common prayers with one heart.
You have promised to grant our requests when we ask You in Jesus’ name.
Fulfill now the desires of our hearts and the petitions of our mouths, as is most beneficial for us, Your servants,
and grant us in this world knowledge of Your truth, and in the world to come life everlasting;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is eternally praised. Amen.
who has promised to hear the petitions of those who pray in Your Son’s name,
we ask You mercifully to incline Your ear to us, who have now made our prayers and supplications to You.
Grant that those things that we have faithfully asked, according to Your will, may be obtained, to the relief of our needs and to the setting forth of Your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayers for Special Services
These prayers are offered for the special services that the Church Order says may be called in the churches: the five evangelical feast days of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, as well as a day of prayer, the national Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and services in times of great distress or blessing.
Merciful Father, You so loved the world that You gave Your only begotten Son. He who was rich became poor for us, the eternal Word made flesh, a great Light shining in the darkness. Only because of Your Word and Spirit have we seen that Light and been drawn into its brightness. Give us the grace humbly and joyfully to receive Your Son, even as the shepherds and princes who welcomed Him, and to look no further for our redemption than to this child lying in a manger. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Our Father, who so loved the world that You gave Your only begotten Son, we acknowledge and marvel at Your mercy. Even while we were enemies, You reconciled us; even while we were strangers, You made us fellow heirs with Christ of all eternal blessings; even while we stood condemned, You redeemed us; even while we were imprisoned, You delivered us from the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil. On this solemn occasion, we loathe our miserable estate and celebrate Your marvelous grace. Beneath the cross of Christ, we come to know that ours is the guilt, but Yours the forgiveness; ours the condemnation, but Yours the gift of justification; ours the bondage, yet Yours the freedom of adoption and new obedience. Even the faith with which we confess our dear Savior’s sacrifice was won for us by His death. Therefore, we cry out to You in sorrow for our sins and in thanksgiving for Your gift. Give us the grace, we pray, to receive again this word of the cross, which alone can refresh us on our pilgrim way, and send us out again into the world as witnesses to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.
Holy Father, giver of all perfect gifts, we join the heavenly choir to herald the news that You have defeated the powers of sin, death, and condemnation by the victory of Jesus Christ, Your Son, over the grave. We confess that the circumstances of this present age often rise up to testify against the promise that You have declared in Your Word. Nevertheless, we bring the experience of our hearts under Your judgment. You have raised Jesus Christ from the dead as the firstfruits of the whole harvest at the last day. As in His resurrection You have brought the new creation into this passing evil age, by faith may we know in this life that we have been raised up with Christ and seated at Your right hand, and by sight may we know in the life to come the resurrection of our bodies. All of this we pray, with joy and thanksgiving, in Christ’s name. Amen.
although we could not ascend to Your holy place,
Your Son descended to save us.
After He won our redemption,
He ascended to the seat of all authority and dominion at Your right hand
to plead our cause before Your throne,
to guarantee our place in heaven by taking our own flesh there in Him,
and to rule over all of His and our enemies.
He did all this for our salvation and the glory of Your holy name.
Help us to receive and to make known throughout the world this good news that Christ Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.
And fill our hearts with longing expectation for His return in power and glory to restore all things.
This we pray in the name of Christ our King. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, we give You thanks, especially on this day, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Just as You sent Your Son to redeem us, You sent Your Spirit to renew us after His image, and to begin even now the new creation that awaits us fully and finally at the last day. Forgive us for grieving the Spirit, forgetting the great work that he performed at Pentecost and continues to perform as He makes Your Word effectual for the justification and sanctification of sinners. We give You praise for sending Your Spirit of adoption into our hearts, so that we may call You Abba, Father. We thank You for His ministry of testifying to Christ, convicting the world of sin and judgment, and opening our hearts to receive the gospel of Your Son. Even now, through the gospel, He is gathering from all nations a church to declare Your goodness. May we be filled again with marvelous wonder at this saving operation of the Holy Spirit, who, together with You and the Son, is worshiped and glorified, one God, world without end. Amen.
Day of Prayer
O God of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, we have assembled to pray to You. Though we are fully persuaded that we are unworthy to enter into Your presence, we are confident that You will certainly hear our prayer for the sake of Christ our Lord, as He has promised in His Word.
We acknowledge You as the Creator of all things in the heavens above, in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth. We adore You for the grandeur and beauty of all Your works. We adore Your lovingkindness, in having made all things in service to the needs and happiness of Your children. What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him? You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands—the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea. You have given to us for food every moving thing that lives, the green plant yielding seed, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You have crowned us with steadfast love and mercy.
We adore You for Your gracious promises of old to sustain Your precious saints by Your providence. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. You visit the earth and water it. You make springs gush forth in the valleys and flow between the hills. You cause the grass to grow for livestock, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, wine to gladden his heart, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen his heart. You make the fields soft with showers; You bless their growth. The meadows are clothed with flocks; the valleys are decked with grain; they shout and sing together for joy. You crown the year with Your bounty. O Lord, how manifold are Your works; in wisdom You have made them all.
Our Father, we also confess that Your providence is, in all circumstances, not only in the riches of Your bounty and compassion, but also in Your righteous judgments. You open Your hand, and we are filled with good; You hide Your face, and we are troubled. But we know, O God, that in Your wrath You remember mercy; and we acknowledge Your long-suffering and Your loving-kindness. Give us grace to believe that whom the Lord loves He chastens, and make us ever ready to offer to You, in spirit and in truth, the prayer of the holy prophet: though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, yet we will rejoice in the Lord, we will joy in the God of our salvation. For we are sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
O gracious God, we give You thanks that despite our many transgressions of Your holy laws, You have constantly done good to us for the sake of Christ, Your Son. You have given us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. These have been among the witnesses of Your great goodness, and, for those who believe, assurances that You are the living God. Teach us to believe with a strong faith that You are Lord of the seasons—that You cause the earth to bring forth, and it obeys You. Accept our thanksgivings for all Your blessings; fill our hearts with humility and love, with gratitude and trust. [Specific thanksgiving may be offered.] Gracious God, continue Your loving-kindness to us and assist us to show forth the fruits of grace in a sincere obedience to Your will, through whom all blessings flow, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
National Day of Thanksgiving
Our Sovereign God, who created all things for Your pleasure and who gives to all life, breath, and every good thing, we thank You for our creation, our preservation, and all the blessings of this life. For rain and sunshine, in abundance and in lack, we acknowledge that our times are in Your hands. You supply all of Your creatures with Your good gifts, the just and the unjust alike. Nevertheless, we especially give You praise for the surpassing greatness of Your saving grace, which You have shown to us in Christ Jesus our Savior. For our election in Him before the foundation of the world, for our redemption by Him in His life, death, and resurrection, for our effectual calling, justification, sanctification, and all of the blessings of our union with Him, we give You our heartfelt thanks. And we look with great anticipation toward that day when You will raise us to life everlasting, glorified and confirmed in righteousness, so that we may sing Your praises without the defilement of our present weaknesses, distractions, and sins. As You have given us these gifts, we ask that You would give us grateful hearts, so that we may serve our neighbors in love. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, who taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father …”
New Year’s Eve
Almighty and most gracious God, as we close the year with this day, we thank You for all Your tender mercies bestowed upon us during the whole course of our lives, and especially during this past year. Accept our thanksgivings for all Your blessings; fill our hearts with humility and love, with gratitude and trust. [Specific thanksgiving may be offered.] For all these blessings we offer to You the sacrifice of our praises, and we acknowledge that through Your great goodness and help we are enabled to live our lives in peace, even though we have offended You in countless ways. O merciful God, pardon all who sincerely repent of their sins. Grant that, while our years are passing away, we may work out our salvation with fear and trembling in the time You give to us. Enable us to press onward, always towards the end of our heavenly calling, even that blessed eternity, which Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Lord, has prepared for us. Amen.
New Year’s Day
Eternal and almighty God, we humble ourselves in Your presence to dedicate to You the beginning of this year by adoration, prayer, and praise.
We come before Your Supreme Majesty and acknowledge with gratitude the manifold blessings which You have freely bestowed upon us through the whole course of our lives. We thank You that, having preserved us to the present time, You have permitted us to enter upon a new year. You have not ceased, O most gracious God, to give to us the abundance of Your loving-kindness. But You have especially sustained us with every spiritual blessing by keeping in our midst the light of Your gospel. You have granted us repentance through Your mighty help, through Your great goodness, and through the warnings of Your Word and Spirit, and have mercifully given to us favorable opportunities to grow in grace. Despite our unworthiness, for the love of Jesus Christ, take not away from us Your protection and favor.
Moved by Your grace, we devote ourselves to You at the beginning of this year, desiring to employ it better than we have done in the years that are past. And since this day also warns us that our years pass away like a flood, like a dream, give us grace that we may seriously number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom, that we may discern the vanity of this life, and that we may aspire to that better life, when days and months and years shall be counted no more, forever. While we continue in the flesh, may we more and more live, not according to its desires, but according to Your will. And grant, O God, that when our years shall come to an end, and the day of our death arrives, we may depart in the peace that passes all understanding and in the sure hope of life everlasting. Favorably hear us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayers for Ecclesiastical Assemblies
Opening Prayer for Ecclesiastical Assemblies
Heavenly Father, eternal and merciful God, it has pleased You according to Your infinite wisdom to gather a church to Yourself out of the nations of all the earth, and to govern it through weak servants. Called by You to watch over Your flock, purchased by Your Son’s precious blood, we call upon Your name now for this solemn assembly, gathered here according to the example of the apostolic churches. Faced with many weighty issues concerning the care of Your people, we ask that You would make us truly mindful of Your purposes for Your church. Draw our minds and hearts away from vanity and pride, discord and pettiness, and do not let these sins that still cling to us distract us from advancing Your great cause in this world. Refresh us, we pray, in the joyful commission of bringing Your good news to the ends of the earth. Make us more faithful stewards of the mysteries of the gospel and more zealous ambassadors of reconciliation. We ask that Your Spirit would be present among us to guide us into all truth, bringing us to agreement on the matters before us. May Scripture reign in our hearts, just as the living Word reigns over Your church, for we acknowledge only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. All of this we ask because Christ is our Mediator and Advocate, who, with You and the Holy Spirit, the only God, deserves eternal praise and glory. Amen.
Closing Prayer for Ecclesiastical Assemblies
Lord God, our heavenly Father, we give You heartfelt thanks for gathering a church in our land and for using us as the ambassadors and guardians of Your kingdom. As those who are receiving Your kingdom, make us ever mindful that it is not our labors, but Your electing, redeeming, justifying, and sanctifying grace alone, that renders Your church indestructible and victorious against all adversaries. We give You praise for Your providence in preserving liberty in this land for the free proclamation of the gospel and ask that You would, by Your Holy Spirit, fill us with joy to make diligent use of such opportunity. Your Spirit, who leads Your church into all truth, has been present in our assembly, giving us wisdom in our deliberations. We pray that He would also give us strength to bless the efforts that we purpose to put forth and finish the work that He has begun. Continue to draw the remnant of the nations to Your heavenly Jerusalem that is coming down out of heaven, and maintain the peace and purity of Your church, we ask. Strengthen us with a mighty zeal for the ministry of Word and sacrament, as well as for the care of Your flock in body and soul. As You hold Christ Jesus ever above and before us as the Mediator for sinners, may our churches faithfully proclaim this good news to those who have never heard it. Give strength, humility, and boldness to Your undershepherds, we pray: to ministers, elders, and deacons. We also ask that You would give prudence to our civil rulers, so that they may act with justice and wise restraint. Grant that their rule may contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to You. Through their labors, may every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and divine worship be removed. May it be given to us to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honor. As You have promised to be present with us even to the end of the age, we ask You to enlighten, guide, awaken, convict, and console us by Your Word and Spirit. Hear us, dear Father, through Your Son, who, with You and the Holy Spirit, the only true God, is worthy of eternal praise and glory. Amen.
Opening Prayer for the Meetings of Deacons
Merciful God and Father, You have not only declared that there will always be those in need among us, but have also commanded us to bear their burdens with them. For this reason, You have established the office of deacon. We ask that You would give us wisdom to faithfully discharge the duties of our office. We acknowledge that in Your kingdom each member supplies what is lacking in the other, so that Your name may be exalted and Your people drawn together with ever-stronger cords of love and affection. Equip us to stir up Your people to such love and good deeds. And since we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from Your mouth, help us to assist our brothers and sisters in such a way that they may look to these offerings and services as tokens of Your covenant faithfulness. May they, together with us, give You everlasting thanks in this age, until that age when our trials will end and we will enter the everlasting rest that You have prepared for us from the foundation of the world. In the name of Christ our Savior, we ask this. Amen.
Prayers and Meditations for Personal and Family Use
Merciful God, thank You for keeping watch over us last night. As we face a new day, may we fix our eyes on Christ as our only hope and Your glory as our only aim. You alone are worthy of this glory because You are the very author of our life, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. The heavens declare to all Your wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness. Yet our highest praise is reserved for the great deeds of redemption that You have worked for us poor sinners. Bound in our sin, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, by nature children of wrath even as the rest, we have nevertheless heard the good news that You have delivered us from slavery, freed us from the condemnation of Your just law, and brought us new life from above. Even as we face our ordinary tasks this day, recall to our hearts the extraordinary comfort of Your promise. Grant also, we pray, the strength of Your Spirit to live out the callings You have given to us and all people as creatures made in Your image. Make us fit vessels for Your work in this world this day—a sacrifice of thanksgiving, well pleasing in Your sight and a light that shines before our neighbors. All of this we ask in the name of Your Son, who taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father …”
Merciful God, we come to You now at the end of this day in the name of our Savior, that Light shining in the darkness, dispelling the night of our sins and the blindness of our hearts. Lord of our labor, now be Lord of our rest. Free us of doubts, anxieties, and temptations, and continue to work Your sanctifying grace in us even as we sleep. Remembering that we are not only frail but sinful, we ask You to defend us from all dangers, but especially from the assaults of the world and the devil, as well as from the disease of our own hearts. We confess that we have not spent this day without grievously sinning against You, to whom all hearts are open and no wickedness is hidden. Yet, clothed in the righteousness of Your dear Son, we call on Your name and claim Your salvation. Give us repentant and believing hearts that delight in following Your ways. We ask also that You would be with those who are afflicted with grief, pain, temptation, doubts, and especially for [specific requests]. Together with them, preserve us all in one communion and body until we enter at last Your everlasting rest. This we ask in the name of Christ our Savior. Amen.
A Child’s Prayer at Bed—1
adapted from Luther’s Small Catechism
Dear heavenly Father, I thank You for protecting me today. Please forgive all my sins. Preserve my body and soul tonight, and give me rest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A Child’s Prayer at Bed—2
using the following hymn
All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
for all the blessings of the light:
keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
beneath Thine own almighty wings.
Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
the ill that I this day have done;
that with the world, myself, and Thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.
O may my soul on Thee repose,
and with sweet sleep mine eyelids close;
sleep that shall me more vigorous make
to serve my God when I awake.
Prayer before Meals
Our gracious heavenly Father, the eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing. You attend to our every need through the creatures You have made, especially through our neighbors, whose vocations serve to bring these provisions to our table, and so we ask a special blessing on those who have prepared it for us. If not even a sparrow can fall from the sky or a hair fall from our head, apart from Your fatherly care and wisdom, we cannot fail to look to You alone for security in this life, as also in the life to come. So give us grateful hearts as we pray, saying: “Our Father …”
A Child’s Prayer before Meals — 1
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest,
and let these gifts to us be blessed.
May our souls by You be fed,
ever on the living bread. Amen.
A Child’s Prayer before Meals — 2
Johann Habermann (1516–1590)
Jesus, bless what You have given,
Feed our souls with bread from heaven;
Guide and lead us all the way,
In all that we may do and say. Amen.
Prayer after Meals
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, who gives food to all flesh, for His steadfast love endures forever. We thank You, Lord, for Your good gifts of food and drink. We thank You for Your providential care that causes the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate. And so we give thanks for all those who have served us by preparing what we have just enjoyed. And as we give thanks for the gift of this food, we praise You above all else for Your greatest gift, Your Son, Jesus Christ, who is the food and drink of our souls. [Specific prayers may be added.] Amen.
A Child’s Prayer after Meals
Johann Habermann (1516–1590)
We thank You, Lord, for this our food,
We thank You more for Jesus’ blood;
Let manna to our souls be given,
The bread of life sent down from heaven. Amen.
Prayer for All the Persecuted Church
O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, we cry out on behalf of our brothers and sisters who are suffering affliction because of persecution. In particular, we pray for [specific intercessions added here]. We ask, with the church in heaven, how long it will be before You judge and avenge their blood on those who dwell on the earth.Grant them courage to know that You are their refuge and strength, a very present help in time of need. By the ministry of Your Holy Spirit, bring comfort to their hearts, so that they are not left as orphans. Deliver them out of all their afflictions. But should it be Your will that persecuted Christians must by their death witness to Your truth, grant them to know that their trial comes as from Your hand. Permit not the memory of Your name to be removed from the earth, but may the blood of the martyrs be the seed of the church, and thus cause persecutors to become Your people. This we pray in the name of Jesus, the faithful witness, who died but rose again. Amen.
Prayer for All in Civil Authority
Almighty God, whose kingdom alone is everlasting, and whose power alone is infinite, have mercy upon our land. Grant to [specific name mentioned here], and to all others in authority, wisdom, righteousness, and strength to know and to do Your will. So rule their hearts that they, knowing whose servants they are, may above all things seek Your honor and glory. Enable us to know whose authority they bear and therefore faithfully and obediently honor them according to Your blessed Word and ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who, with You and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns forever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Prayer for Missions
adapted from the Book of Common Prayer
O God the Father, whose Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the desire of all nations, and who came down from heaven to seek and to save the lost; grant Your blessing upon Your missionary servants who are carrying the light of Your gospel into the darkness. We pray particularly for [specific missions / missionaries, church plants / church planters]. Preserve them from every danger to which they may be exposed: from perils by land and sea, from persecution and pestilence, from discouragement in their labors, and from the devices of the adversary. May they see Your work prospering through their words and deeds. Hasten the fullness of Your kingdom, pour out Your Spirit upon all flesh, cause multitudes of those who neglect Your salvation to seek after You and find You, and so gather multitudes into Your church. Hasten the day when those in every land shall be converted to You. Lord Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, we give You all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
Prayer before Communion
Eternal and almighty Father, we commemorate today the death of Your Son in the celebration of the holy Supper. He ordained it as a pledge of His love to us and for our remembrance of His sufferings that have ransomed us from our sins. Although we are sinners, unworthy in ourselves to be partakers of Your holy sacraments, we are invited to this sacred meal, not because we are worthy in ourselves, but because we are clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness. And as we come to You in repentance from our sins and in faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that You would further sanctify us by Your Holy Spirit, that we may serve You acceptably in showing forth with faith and joy the death of our Savior, and that we may glorify You by living holy lives; through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer after Communion
Heavenly Father, we give You eternal praise and thanks that You have granted so great a benefit to us poor sinners, having drawn us into the communion of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. You delivered Him to death for us, and You give Him to us as the food and drink of life eternal. Now grant us this other benefit: that You will never allow us to forget these truths. Having them written on our hearts, may we grow and increase daily in the faith that is at work in every good deed. Thus may we order and pursue all our life to the exaltation of Your glory and the edification of our neighbors; through Jesus Christ, who, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns with You, O God, forever. Amen.
Prayer for the Sick and the Spiritually Distressed—1
Eternal God, the only Creator, Preserver, Judge, and Savior of the world, You alone hold the powers of life and death. Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He had conquered death and hell, announced, “I was dead, but I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades in my hand.” Yet often our circumstances seem to testify against Your promise. What we see does not appear to agree with what we have heard. Yet, even at the cross, where You seemed so absent and Your Son seemed so cruelly and unjustly abandoned by You, we have been taught that He was thereby fulfilling Your purposes to redeem us from the power of darkness. We confess that our hearts are so bound to the realities that we see with our eyes in the moment, that we easily forget the greater realities that we hear with our ears through Your Word.
Teach us through these trials to number our days, recognizing that we are but fading in this age, but will flourish in the age to come. We know that these struggles are not tokens of Your wrath, but are part of Your plan to save us, sanctify us, and glorify Yourself. While we may fear the circumstances, we no longer fear the condemnation of the law, the sting of death, or the sharp arrows of Satan. For we know that Your Son gained victory for us by His death and resurrection. We ask that You would, even through these tests, deepen our confidence to appear before You clothed, not in the filthy rags of our own works, but in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ our Savior. Continue to look upon us in Him, for we pray in His name, who taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father …”
Prayer for the Sick and the Spiritually Distressed—2
Eternal and merciful God and Father, the eternal salvation of the living and the eternal life of the dying, You alone have life and death in Your hands. You continually care for us in such a way that neither health nor sickness, neither good nor evil, can befall us—indeed, not even a hair can fall from our heads—without Your will. You order all things for the good of believers.
We ask that You will grant us the grace of the Holy Spirit, that He may teach us to know truly our miseries, and to bear patiently Your chastisements, which, as far as our merits are concerned, might have been ten thousand times more severe. We know that they are not tokens of Your wrath, but of Your fatherly love for us, that we might not be condemned with the world.
Increase our faith by Your Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more united with Christ, to whom You desire to conform us, both in suffering and in glory. Lighten our cross, so that we in our weakness may be able to bear it. We submit ourselves without reserve to Your holy will, whether You leave our souls here in these earthly tents or take them home to Yourself. We have no fear, because we belong to Christ and therefore shall not perish. We even desire to depart from this weak body in the hope of a blessed resurrection, knowing that then it will be restored to us in a much more glorious form.
Grant that we may experience the blessed comfort of the remission of sins and justification in Christ. May we with that defense overcome all the assaults of Satan. May Jesus’ innocent blood wash away our stain, and may His righteousness cover our unrighteousness in Your judgment at last. Arm us with faith and hope, that we may not be put to shame by any fear of death. May the eyes of our soul be fixed upon You when the eyes of our body become dim. When You take from us the power of speech, may our hearts never cease to call upon You. O Lord, we commit our souls into Your hands; do not forsake us in the hour of death. This we pray only for the sake of Christ, who taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father…”
Prayer for the Sick and the Spiritually Distressed—3
O almighty, eternal, and righteous God, our merciful Father: You are the Lord of life and death; without Your will, nothing happens in heaven or on earth. We are not worthy to call upon Your name, nor to hope that You will listen to us, when we consider how we have spent our time in this life. Yet we pray that You will, according to Your mercy, look upon us in Christ, who has taken upon Himself all our infirmities. We acknowledge that on account of who we are, apart from Him, we deserve far more than this affliction.
But Lord, we are Your people, and You are our God. Your mercy, which You have never withheld from those who turn to You, is our only refuge. Therefore, we pray, count not our sins against us, but impute to us the wisdom, righteousness, and holiness of our Savior. For His sake, deliver us from this suffering, in order that the Evil One may not regard us as forsaken by God. And if it pleases You to prolong our trial, give us patience and strength to bear it all according to Your will, and may it in Your wisdom be for our edification.
We would rather be chastised here, Lord, than have to perish with the world hereafter. Grant that we may die to this world and to all earthly things, that we may be renewed daily after the image of Jesus Christ. Permit us never to be separated from Your love, but draw us daily closer and closer to You, that at last we may enter with joy upon the end of our divine calling, which is to die with Christ, rise with Him triumphantly, and live with Him eternally. We also believe that You will hear us through Jesus Christ, who has taught us to pray, saying: “Our Father …”
Consolation of the Sick
A Brief Instruction in the True Faith and in the Way of Salvation, to Die Willingly, by Cornelis van Hille in Norwich, England, 1571
The “Consolation of the Sick,” with the accompanying “Comforting Sayings of Holy Scripture,” certainly does not belong to the Liturgy of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands. It is entirely a private writing, composed and published by Cornelis van Hille, Sr., in (or before) 1579, and was never adopted or approved by any ecclesiastical assembly. But already from the sixteenth century onward, printers and publishers commonly printed it with the church’s liturgical materials. As a result, it received a de facto privilege over similar tracts. That is why the text is printed here as well.
In the publications of the sixteenth century, a preface was included, with the following content:
In light of the great usefulness that the Consolation of the Sick commonly brings, it is both useful and necessary to publish this little book, which is organized better than any published before. It briefly contains all that we need to know unto eternal blessedness: the misery of man; the shortness of his life and death; his restoration through Christ; Christ, our Savior, and all that pertains to him; death and hell; faith, justification, and good works; cross and suffering; the prosperity of the ungodly and the adversity of the godly; the resurrection and eternal life; and more similar points. Everyone should memorize this, in order to strengthen and admonish his sick brother when necessary; so that, even if no minister is present, all may be diligent to do this as a work of charity, according to the Word of God: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting” (Eccl. 7:2); and, according to the words of Christ: “I was sick and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36).
1. The Corruption and Misery of Man
Adam was created right and good, that is, holy, righteous, immortal, and appointed lord over all creatures that God had made. He did not remain in this state for long, but through the trickery of Satan and his own disobedience he fell from this excellent glory. In that way, he brought upon us all the corruption of temporal and eternal death. This is the hereditary sin, of which David speaks in the psalm with these words: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). Likewise, Paul says to the Romans that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
2. Through Adam, All Humanity Is Subject to Death
As soon as Adam fell, he immediately became subject to a certain curse, as we read in Genesis, where God says:
Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen. 3:17–19)
From this we know with certainty that all that receive life must die one day. David also testifies to this: “What man can live and never see death?” (Ps. 89:48). Solomon says: “For the living know that they will die” (Eccl. 9:5). “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). In Hebrews it is written that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). For, as the Scripture says, “We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Sam. 14:14). Job says that our days are like “the days of a hired hand” (Job 7:1) and “swifter than a runner” (Job 9:25). And Moses says that “we fly away” like a stream (Ps. 90:10); yes, like a wind-blown leaf, dry stubble, and a moth-eaten garment. For “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). As Job says, we are “like clay” and must “return … to the dust” (Job 10:9). Likewise, James also says that human life is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Indeed, our life drifts away like a cloud, and fades like mist, and also vanishes like a shadow. Peter also says, quoting Isaiah:
All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls. (1 Peter 1:24; Isa. 40:6)
And Jesus Sirach says:
The age-old law is: everyone must die. As with the leaves growing on a luxuriant tree— one falls off and another sprouts— So with the generations of flesh and blood: one dies and another flourishes. (Sir. 14:17–18)
As Solomon says: “For everything there is a season …: a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl. 3:1–2).
3. The Appointed Time of Man
Now this time is in the Lord’s hand, as Job says: “His days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5). Paul says the same: God has “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). And David says to God: “You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Ps. 39:5). Our days are “swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6) and “swifter than a runner” (Job 9:25). Also, we are here merely sojourners and strangers (Heb. 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11) for a short time. For:
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. (Ps. 90:10)
And if we live long, we may live one hundred years. Like a drop of water compared to the water of the sea, so few are our years compared to eternity. And Peter says that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The same is true for our years in comparison to eternity.
4. The Fall and Misery of Man
According to Scripture, we must all die; who then would not eagerly long for death, as we see in what state and corruption we find ourselves through Adam, full of unrighteousness, adversity, and suffering, so that we are evil, and inclined to evil from our infancy (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 32:30). As Paul says, we are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), unfit to do any good, and from ourselves nothing but sinful. As David also says, “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Pss. 14:3; 53:3; Rom. 3:12). For “I do not do the good I want,” because of the “sin that dwells within me” (Rom. 7:19–20). Of this indwelling sin, David testifies that we were born and conceived in iniquity (Ps. 51:5) and continue in it. For “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21).
5. The Salvation of Man
While we all lie in the wrath of God, in the shadow of death, and indeed in hell and damnation, Christ has appeared as “the light of the world” (John 8:12), risen as “the sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2).
He was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). God “made [us] alive together with him,” since we were “dead in [our] trespasses” and sins, and he forgave us these, “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Thus he triumphed over all our enemies: death, the devil, hell, and the condemnation of the law (Col. 2:13–15); as he spoke through the prophet Hosea: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55, quoting Hos. 13:14).
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). He also, according to God’s promise, crushed the head of the devil (Gen. 3:15), in whose power we lay bound because of sin’s transgression.
6. Christ Is Our Redemption
Thus God, in order to save us out of this, gave us his most beloved “guarantor” (Heb. 7:22), namely Jesus, his only “beloved Son,” with whom the Father is “well pleased,” and to whom he commands us “to listen” (Matt. 17:5).
He “put [him] forward as a propitiation” (Rom. 3:25) and a ransom. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Likewise, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). “And this is eternal life, that they know you,” says Christ, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
He is the true Messiah, who came into the world in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4): true God, to break the dominion of Satan; and true man, to be our Mediator before God (1 Tim. 2:5), that he may redeem us who were bound under the law. He is the unblemished Lamb (1 Peter 1:19), slaughtered and sacrificed for our blemishes as “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10), as Isaiah clearly testifies (Isa. 53:4–7).
“Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). He gave us all his possessions, all his benefits, all his righteousness, merits, and holiness. Because of this, we must embrace him in faith, and be grateful to him in love and obedience; and who would not love him who “first loved us”? (1 John 4:19).
While we were still his enemies, we were redeemed and reconciled; how much more, now that we have become his friends, “shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10)? How would one have greater love than someone who would “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)? This Christ, the Good Shepherd, proved by being “obedient” to his Father “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
He became a little lower than the angels “because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”; for this he is “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9). He is also the true Samaritan, who poured oil and wine on our wounds (Luke 10:34); that is, he poured out his precious blood for our sins (Matt. 26:28) and bought us for a high price (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23), as Peter says: you were not ransomed with silver and gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18–19).
“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13–14).
7. We Must Flee to Christ for Refuge
We know for certain that we obtain eternal salvation without any merit on our part—for we have none, so that “we are unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10)—only through the death and resurrection of Christ. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). And because we need help every moment, we must go to him.
For he says by the prophet David, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you” (Ps. 50:15), and even if a woman may forget her nursing child, “yet I will not forget you” (Isa. 49:15). As Christ himself says in the gospel: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29). “To whom [else] shall we go”? He has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), and life is revealed in him. He is the manna from heaven (John 6:51), which satisfies our souls eternally (John 6:27). Whoever eats of this heavenly bread in faith “shall not hunger,” and whoever drinks his blood “shall never thirst” (John 6:35, 56).
8. Christ Is the Fountain of Eternal Life
Again, in the gospel of John, Christ clearly calls: “ ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now this he said about the Spirit” (John 7:37–39). Thus, whoever drinks from this living water “will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Likewise, God says through the prophet Isaiah:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isa. 55:1)
Let us therefore go to this fountain to quench our thirst, and not to “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16–17).
9. Christ Our Mediator
He is the true Mediator, who stands between God and us, to be our advocate against all our accusers. “For … there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (Heb. 9:15).
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). Likewise, John says: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1–2), that is, for all nations and people in the world who turn to God in truth. For the Lamb has been sacrificed from the beginning for believers, as Christ himself says that Abraham saw his day “and was glad” (John 8:56).
Thus, “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34), for he is not only the God of Jews, but “of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Rom. 3:29–30). For we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Likewise, David declares the man blessed who is counted righteous apart from his works:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Ps. 32:1–2)
11. Christ Prays for Us
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access” (Rom. 5:1–2), with “confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19), by which he made peace between God and us. “For he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14), so that we no longer need to fear. For Paul says:
If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Rom. 8:31, 33–35)
Therefore, even though actual and other sin remains in us, we must not despair. For Isaiah says: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isa. 1:18). And this happens through Christ, who washed us of our sins in his blood. Baptism is a sign of this, and the Lord’s Supper is also a sign for us, that we are redeemed by the offering of Christ, once for all on the cross (Heb. 10:10), who “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10) and “from all lawlessness … to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
12. The Godly Desire for Glory
We must move away from this body before coming to the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Knowing for certain that through Christ we have been reconciled to God, we ought—according to God’s word—to have a perfect desire to be released from this mortal body, in order to come to the “glorious inheritance” of all God’s children (Eph. 1:18), which is prepared for us in heaven. Paul, that vessel chosen by God, desired this when he said: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). Furthermore, he says:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.… We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.… Yes … we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:1–2, 6, 8)
Once again, Paul says: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together.… And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22–23). And since we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13), who would not desire to be home in his homeland (Heb. 11:14–16)? For here “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12); “we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Who would not long for this vision, seeing that the holy men of God longed for it? As we read in the psalm:
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?” (Ps. 42:1–3)
This unspeakably glorious vision of God is so great, as the prophet testifies, that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (Isa. 64:4, as quoted in 1 Cor. 2:9). Again, David says:
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Ps. 84:10)
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!… Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! (Ps. 84:1, 4)
They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Ps. 36:8–9)
This is the glorious mansion of which Christ says in the gospel of John: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2–3)—that is, that New Jerusalem that “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:23). There “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4); that “last enemy” God will “put … in subjection under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25–27). There the Lord has prepared a glorious wedding feast, where we will “recline … with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” at the table of the Lord (Matt. 8:11). And “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).
13. Where We Will Go When We Depart from Here
Now we can come to this supper only through death. Therefore, Paul says: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). And as soon as believers depart from here, they enter the eternal rest, as Christ says: “Where I am, there will my servant be also” (John 12:26). And again: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). This is also clearly seen in the murderer, when he prayed and asked: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Christ answered him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42–43).
In agreement with this, Paul says: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:23). Solomon also says that “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). This is also clear in the examples of Enoch and Elijah, who were both taken up into heaven (Gen. 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11). There we have “our citizenship,” and “from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20–21).
14. We Must Die before We Will Be Glorified
And we cannot attain this glorification except through much suffering (Acts 14:22). Jesus Sirach speaks about this beautifully: “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials” (Sir. 2:1). “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). But “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Again, Paul says that if we suffer with Christ, we will “also be glorified with him. For … the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:17–18). “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). And David says: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5). “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). “Jesus also suffered outside the gate.… Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Heb. 13:12–13).
For in this Christ left us “an example,” so that we might “follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Again, Peter says: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking,” namely, that “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). Furthermore, James says: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kind” (James 1:2).
And Paul says: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Rom. 5:3–5). Therefore, “do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord … for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Prov. 3:11–12, as quoted in Heb. 12:5–6).
This is also taught throughout Hebrews 12. Therefore, “be patient” and “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.… As an example of suffering and patience … take the prophets.… We consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord”; they left us an example of endurance (James 5:8, 10–11).
For we see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death” (Heb. 2:9). Therefore, Christ also says: “The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13). And Paul says: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord … will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7–8).
Likewise, James says: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
15. We Must Piously Fight against Our Enemies
To receive the crown of righteousness, we must piously fight against all our enemies, who attack us from all sides, and especially “against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand” the devil with all his power (Eph. 6:13). Of this fight, Peter also says that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9), “and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
But this victory and this resistance we receive from God through Christ, who “will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20), in whose power and snares we were held captive. He is “the ruler of this world,” whom Christ “cast out” (John 12:31). And so we have the victory through him (1 Cor. 15:57), and share in it through our faith. He is “that ancient serpent” who seeks to devour us (Rev. 12:4, 9). He devoured our first ancestors, and still bruises our heel (Gen. 3:15); therefore, he is called “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).
16. We Must Pray and Be Watchful
Therefore, we must guard ourselves well against his murderous schemes, as Peter says: “Be sober-minded; be watchful” (1 Peter 5:8). For, as Christ says, we “do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” But if we begin to beat our fellow servants and eat and drink with drunkards, “the master … will come … and will cut us in pieces and put [us] with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:42–44, 49–51), and “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48; Isa. 66:24).
For “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:2–3). Therefore, “watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap” (Luke 21:34), or like a lightning flash (Matt. 24:27; Luke 17:24). Therefore, “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
17. Faith and Good Works
But this worthiness to stand before the Son of Man consists in a pure, unblemished, and immovable “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6), through which we embrace Christ and receive all his benefits (BC art. 22; HC Q&A 20). Of this purity, Christ says in Matthew 5: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). And the primary purity lies in the heart; for, as Christ says, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matt. 15:19–20). Therefore, pursue “the fruit of the Spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).
Unless we are “born again,” we “cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Indeed, as Christ says: “Unless you turn and become like children” (that is, regarding evil), “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (Rev. 21:27), as Paul also clearly testifies.
18. The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
God’s law demands perfection of us, as is written: “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deut. 27:26). James says that whoever fails in one point of the law has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10). And again: “The person who does the commandments shall live by them” (Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12). However, we cannot perfectly fulfill even the least of the commandments, as the wise man says: “When mortals finish, they are only beginning” (Sir. 18:7).
And even if we do all, “we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10). Because of this, we lie condemned under God’s righteous wrath, but we also have a certain remedy, namely Christ, who (as Paul says) “redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13) and satisfied God’s righteousness for us, making peace, having “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” (Eph. 2:14–15); he “has forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13–14).
For this great love of Christ, we ought to love him back, to be grateful to him with good works, and to have true faith in him that he has granted us all these great benefits. “For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). “The righteous shall live by faith” (Gal. 3:11); “for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). And although we must suffer a little with Christ, we must not give up, just as “when he was reviled, he did not revile in return,” but suffered patiently (1 Peter 2:23).
19. The Prosperity of the Wicked
While the wicked live in great prosperity, as David and the prophets testify (Ps. 37:7; Jer. 12:1), we must not be amazed at this or stumble when we see it (Ps. 73:2–3), but be comforted in the assurance that their end is eternal death: the Lord will “pull them out like sheep for the slaughter” (Jer. 12:3).
Therefore, it is remarkable that believers have not even more adversity, because of the glorious joy prepared for them; and that the wicked have not even more prosperity, because of the terrible condemnation that will be theirs. Therefore, while the trials of believers are not equal to those of the wicked, the resurrection of the dead will also be unequal.
20. The Resurrection of the Dead
This is a great consolation for us, that all believers will rise on the last day (John 6:39–40). Paul argues for this, saying: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And … then our preaching is in vain and … we are even found to be misrepresenting God” (1 Cor. 15:13–15; 1 Cor. 15, throughout). And regarding the way of resurrection, we can clearly see in Ezekiel 37 how we will rise with flesh and bones (Ezek. 37:7–8). And Job clearly says:
I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25–26)
Likewise, Isaiah says that the earth and the sea will return the dead that slept in them (Isa. 26:19), for Christ is “the resurrection” (John 11:25), “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Paul says:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thess. 4:13–17)
21. The Final Judgment
“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). Then Christ “will separate … the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right,” and they will hear the lovely voice: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:32–34).
“Then shall the righteous one with great assurance confront his oppressors” (Wis. 5:1). There “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). There we will come to “innumerable angels in festal gathering” (Heb. 12:22).
There we will reign with him eternally (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6). Amen.
Blessed are those whose names are written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).
Comforting sayings of Holy Scripture, to pray when facing death:
“O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!” (Ps. 38:1).
“O Lord, restore my soul. Lead me in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake” (cf. Ps. 23:3).
“Be gracious to me, O Lord! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death” (Ps. 9:13).
“Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help” (Ps. 22:11).
O Lord, “in you I trust; let me not be put to shame” (Ps. 25:2).
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Ps. 25:16).
“Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins” (Ps. 25:18).
“You are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me” (Ps. 31:3).
When I call to you, I am certain that “you are my God” (Ps. 31:14), who “delivered my soul from death” (Ps. 56:13).
“Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities” (Ps. 51:9).
“Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me” (Ps. 69:17).
“In the day of my trouble I call upon you.… “Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant” (Ps. 86:7, 16).
“The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; … O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” (Ps. 116:3–4).
“Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Ps. 143:2).
These and similar sayings you can read throughout the book of Psalms.
Likewise, here follow some more sayings for the sick on their deathbed:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
“Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Heb. 13:13).
Let us “watch with him one hour, … that we may not enter into temptation” (cf. Matt. 26:40–41).
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
“Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48; Luke 18:39).
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).
“My soul thirsts for God.… When shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps 42:2). “My soul thirsts for you, … as in a dry and weary land” (Ps. 63:1).
O Lord, you are my life, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
“My desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23).
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
“It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3, 8).
But, Lord, “your will be done” (Matt. 6:10; 26:42).
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46; Ps. 31:5).
May this be granted to us by God, our dear Father, through the merits of his dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.