How does the PRC grieve, Father!

For almost 100 years Thy grace and mercy have kept these churches. In great weakness, but in the unity of the truth and the bond of peace, we have labored in the name of Jesus Christ.

Now, we sit in distress. Distress deeper than most of us have known before.

Brothers and sisters have gone out from us. Lovers have departed. Friendships are wounded. Families broken. Churches damaged. What has been so precious to us and which we have taken too for granted—unity and fellowship in the truth of our Lord Jesus—has been fractured.

When oft we trod the hallowed way

To Zion, praising God on high

With throngs who kept the holy day. (114)

How can we express the grief, Lord? In the night our weeping is sore. Sleep flees from us. Startled awake in the night watches, we wet our beds with tears. “My son!” “My sister!” “My parents!” “Our congregation!” In the daytime, tears run down our cheeks. How can we work? Our sighs are many, our hearts faint.

Bitter tears of lamentation

Are my food by night and day;

In my deep humiliation… (416)

Our burden is heavy. Our way is crooked. The valley is death’s shadow. Adversity is upon us. Mourning and lamentation are our lot as they have not been for many years, even generations.

O why art Thou hiding the light of Thy face,

Forgetting our burden of grief and disgrace?

Our soul is bowed down, yea, we cleave to the dust… (123)

Our lament is for Thy church, Lord, and Thy name in the church. Some of our sorrows are for the bonds that are earthly—for our families. We weep for our kinsmen according to the flesh. Our heart’s desire and prayer to Thee, O God, is that they might be saved, preserved, restored, for the sake of Thy name in the church. Our sorrow and grief arise out of our love for Christ, and for the members of His body and bride. For His name and works. We weep for the hurt to Thy Beloved.

O Zion fair, God’s holy hill,

Wherein our God delights to dwell,

Let my right hand forget her skill

If I forget to love thee well.

If I do not remember thee,

Then let our tongues from utterance cease,

If any earthly joy to me

Be dear as Zion’s joy and peace. (379)

This burden is laid upon us from Thy hand. Enable us to confess, O good God, that affliction and grief come from heaven. Thou hast made our way crooked; how can we make it straight? Ours is a day of adversity according to Thy sovereign good pleasure. Thou hast caused grief. Thou hast increased our mourning.

For sin. For our sin. And let it never be, Father, that first we turn our thoughts to the faults of others. Forbid it that we consider ourselves anything other than chief of sinners. We deserve the affliction. Thus, in our grieving cry we do not look out—at men and their hands; but up—at Thy hand. And into Thy face. We see the frown of Thy countenance. We are humbled.

Not deeply enough.

Our transgressions we confess

Grief and guilt our souls oppress.

We have sinned against Thy grace

And provoked Thee to Thy face.

We confess Thy judgment just.

Speechless… . (140)

O Lord, we have heard thy speech, and are afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy (Hab. 3:2).

Heavy is our tribulation,

Sore our punishment has been;

Broken by Thy indignation,

We are troubled by our sin.

With our burden of transgression

Heavy laden, overborne,

Humbled low we make confession,

For our folly now we mourn.

Weak and wounded, we implore Thee…

All our trouble Thou dost know. (102)

How dare we to plead mercy? We know that Thou art a God who delights in mercy. In the multitude of Thy mercies, hear.

To God my earnest voice I raise,

To God my voice imploring prays;

Before His face my grief I show

And tell my trouble and my woe. (387)

Lord, hear us when we pray,

While now in trouble’s day

We seek Thy face.

To answer, Lord, is Thine;

Thou only art divine,

Most bright Thy glories shine,

O God of grace. (235)

In the mercies of Jesus Christ alone, receive us. In Him, forgive. Not because of one work we perform or one sigh we breathe. To receive good of Thy hand, we come with empty hands. For favor we beseech Thee. Gracious favor. In Christ alone we plead. What do we now have, Lord, that we have not received? And what can we plead that may still come because of us? On Thy grace we rest our plea.

From our sins O hide Thy face,

Blot them out in boundless grace. (140)

For what wickedness in us or in the churches is Thy hand correcting us? What violations of Thy perfect commandments art Thou exposing?

Search us, O God, and know our hearts.

Expose what idolatry exists among us, what other gods we have before Thee. Lay bare any unspiritual, formal worship, in which we drew near with our lips but were far from Thee in heart.

Show us where we have dishonored Thy name and Thy truth. Ah, the truth, Lord! Have we been presumptuous about the truth? Have we taken for granted that we have the truth? Have we not loved the truth as it is in Jesus Christ? Has our holding of truth been ‘according to godliness’? Have we dishonored His Spirit, the Spirit of truth?

Make us know how we have done our own pleasure on the Sabbath. How have we failed to love Thee with all our heart and mind and soul and strength!

Where has been our pride that disgraces grace? Make that clear so that we repent with deepest repentance.

Try us and know our thoughts.

Lord, we do not love Thee as we ought, but we show that by our lack of love for our neighbor. Have we been publicans who salute only those who salute us, and love only those who love us? Have we cursed those who curse us rather than blessed them? Have we hated those who hate us instead of showing good to them? Have we manifested ourselves to be Thy children, Father?

And see if there be any wicked way in us.

We are wealthy, Father, in earthly things. But have we recognized ourselves as only stewards of Thy possessions? Have we esteemed earthly wealth greater riches than the reproach of Jesus Christ? We dwell in luxurious houses (Haggai 1), in our summer homes and winter homes, our houses of ivory and gold (Amos 3). Oh, we know, that every creature is good, and nothing to be refused; but have we sanctified these all with Thy Word and prayer? Have we run every man to his own house and possessions, and not sought first to build Thy house? Have we considered our ways and first labored to build Thy house that Thy name be glorified? We have laid up many treasures on earth. Where, Lord, have been our hearts?

And the ninth commandment…. We have taught our children not to bear false witness against any, nor falsify anyone’s words. To be no backbiter, nor slanderer. Not to judge, nor join in condemning any man rashly, or unheard. Lies and deceit—proper works of the devil, all of them—we confess bring down Thy heavy wrath. Lord, have we, in judgment and all other dealings, loved the truth, spoken it uprightly and confessed it? Show us where we have failed to defend and promote, as much as we were able, the honor and good character of our neighbor. Show us where we have judged rashly. With what unjust judgments have we judged, or what unfair measures have we meted that now… ?

Our darkness hideth not from thee.

Finally, we confess that inclinations and thoughts (and they are not small) have risen in our hearts contrary to all of Thy commandments. We have not hated all sin with our whole heart and delighted in all righteousness.

Lord, by these commandments may we learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavor and pray for the grace of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of Thy Son.

Grace us with true and deep repentance. Turn us, and we shall be turned. Give us a godly sorrow that works repentance unto salvation. May the unction of Thy Spirit give us indignation at our own sins, zeal to confess them, a heart to humble ourselves. Free us from the sorrow that is worldly, so natural to us.

And when we pray from the cross of Christ….

Hear, thou, in heaven, and forgive.

From the heavens, even from Thy dwelling place, hear our prayer and supplications, and maintain our cause, and forgive Thy people which have sinned against Thee. Hear Thou from Thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when Thou hearest, forgive (II Chron. 6).

Against us sin has battled hard;

For help we look to Thee and pray. (166)

Rise, help, and redeem us, Thy mercy we trust. (123)

O God, the God that saveth me,

Remove my guilty stains… (144)

In Thy abounding love blot out

All my iniquity;

O wash me wholly from my guilt

And make me clean within,

For my transgressions I confess,

I ever see my sin. (143)

Heal…and restore comforts…to Thy mourners (Is. 57:18)

Then heal, we pray, our congregations, consistories, homes, families, husbands, wives, boys, girls, young, old, weak, strong. Heal and restore what we have damaged. In a special way, show the lambs our humbled hearts. Restore comfort to the mourners.

Turn us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old (Lam. 5:21).

Thou who hast sent me many griefs

Wilt yet my soul restore,

And out of sorrow’s lowest depths

Wilt bring me forth once more. (192)

Yes, Thy way is in the sea, O Lord. Thy footsteps are not known. Strange and troubling ways. But we know that Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron…and so will lead us by the hand of Him to whom these pointed (Ps. 77). Then, what appears to these eyes of the flesh to be so wrong will be for our profit.

We shall yet praise Thee….

For the help of Thy countenance, which is the health of ours.

And for Thy faithfulness, O God,

Our praise shall never cease.

Thou Holy One of Israel,

To Thee sweet songs we raise;

The soul Thou hast redeemed from death

Shall give Thee joyful praise. (192)

Their tears of grief, like early rain,

Sweet springs of joy shall fill;

With strength renewed they journey safe

To Zion’s holy hill. (225)

Now, Lord, we know not what we should pray for as we ought. Help our infirmities. Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, make intercession for us with groanings that we cannot utter. O the depth of the riches both of Thy wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable are Thy judgments, and Thy ways past finding out! But of Thee, and through Thee, and to Thee, be all things: to whom be glory forever.