If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14
And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.
God be merciful to me. On Thy grace I rest my plea. I am the sinner. The chief of them all.
That I am chief sinner I know I ought to know. Yet my hard heart continually rejects and forgets that shameful truth. I have insisted that total depravity is true of the old man. Yet I prefer to maintain it only as a doctrine to defend rather than a humble confession about myself. O wretched man that I am! Thou dost know the inmost recesses of my heart, and the specific manifestations of my wretchedness in both my doctrine and life. Humble me, that I might recognize this more.
O God, I am evil, born in sin! Pride, that mother of all heresy, plagues my soul. Again and again, I feel my inner lawyer caught up in the strife to justify myself. I have upheld my righteousness in quiet, competitive comparisons to many others I deem worse than me. The atrocities of the world and the apostasies of the church I have focused on in order to minimize my own idolatries. False doctrine and rebellion I attribute to ‘sides’ rather than self. I have sought to extract the sliver of sin in the eye of others, while not recognizing the beam of sin in mine own. More and more I have realized a gross activity of self-justification within me.
I am sorry, O my God, for non-prayers such as this: “I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are: Sabbath breakers, divorced and remarried, conditional covenant theologians, or even as these antinomians. I attend worship twice on Sunday, I pay my budget faithfully….” Father, I dare not go on to repeat all the ways my heart has exalted itself and leaned on mine own righteousness. O God, be merciful to me, the Pharisee.
I repent in dust and ashes for the irony of my folly. I have fought for grace while showing no grace. I have attacked the lie by slandering my brother. I have sought my glory under the guise of seeking Thy glory. I have used the law of love to judge others rashly. I have argued for justification by faith alone, while leaning on mine own righteous upholding of truth. I have proudly pointed out the pride of others. I have exalted my perceived humility. I have insisted on everyone else’s need to repent, except my own.
Swift to speak and slow to listen, I have not searched my heart carefully. I am a know-it-all. I have been too stubborn to listen to Thy still small voice, especially when it proceeds from those in whom I perceive weakness. Boastful and bitter contention has been my response instead of a meek and respectful answer. Father, I recognize more and more that blindness is not mainly ‘out there’ as I have often claimed, but in me. I despair in myself.
My tears can never atone and my confession never satisfy, yet I mourn in bitter grief. For looking upon my Savior’s cross, I remember again the grossness of my sin. It was for my pride that He was pierced. It was for my hate that He suffered hell. It was for my cold heart that He endured the cup of Thy consuming ire. And, still, I sin against Thy grace and provoke Thee to Thy face!
Forgive me! Justify me! Yea, Lord, declare again to my forgetful soul that precious gospel that Thou dost remember my pride no more. Assure me that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is His perfect humility imputed to me. According to Thy infinite riches of grace in Jesus, give me confidence by faith alone that Thou art the Lord my righteousness, who justifies even the proud, ungodly sinner that I am.
When Thou dost look within, Thou seest my main problem: a weak faith. There is faith, for I am engrafted to Christ Jesus, the living Vine. But my heart’s activity of looking upon Christ alone is awfully intermittent. Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. Turn Thou me, that I might be turned. Renew a right spirit within me. Revive my mind unto a constant consideration of Jesus—Jesus only—and His perfect holiness, from the moment of His conception until His death, counted as mine. Awaken my heart unto a perpetual upward awe of Jesus—Jesus only—and His agonizing suffering of soul and body under Thy wrath, all through His life and especially on the cursed cross, for me. Strike me, chastise me, pierce me with a thorn in the flesh, do whatever it takes, my Savior, that I might cling more desperately to Jesus—Jesus only.
Mortify that mere formal faith. Quicken in me a faith unfeigned. Return me to that “first love” which thy Spirit initially kindled in my soul. Restore unto me the joy of my salvation, and conform me more and more to the image of Jesus Christ—a foot-washing servant. Jehovah God of abounding love, Thou art slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. Continue in Thy long-suffering, I plead. I confess that I have fallen often into my besetting pride. Prolonged have been the times of my stiff-necked impenitence. Yet constant has been Thy forbearance and faithfulness toward me. For Jesus sake, I pray, let Thy compassions fail not. Forsake me not. Cleanse me. Uphold me with Thy free spirit, and lead me soon to glory, where I shall be satisfied to behold Thee face to face with perfect humility.