“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Photo by Nathan Ward
Advent. A time to reflect on our need for a Savior. Do we need saving? Indeed! Johann Gerhard, a Lutheran theologian, wrote a collection of Meditations on Divine Mercy. His writings are helping me this Advent season to dwell on God’s mercy towards all mankind which culminated in the birth, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
Pray with me Gerhard’s prayer– “Thanksgiving for Conversion”
“O gracious God, I give thanks to You that You converted my hardened heart, which did not know how to repent, and that You removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). I had the power to fall into sin and guilt. I did not have the power to rise to repentance. By my own power, I was able to go astray. I was able to return to the right path ONLY by Your power. Just as one who is born crippled cannot be restored with natural remedies but only by divine power, so my soul was born spiritually curved toward sin and earthly things. No human power could correct it. Only Your grace was able to restore my soul so it loved You and desired Your heavenly blessings. I had the power to deform myself by various sins. You alone were able to reform me. Just as an Ethiopian cannot change his skin or the leopard his spots (Jeremiah 13:23), so I was not able to do good because I was fully devoted to doing evil.
“You, my God, converted me, and I am converted (Jeremiah 31:18) After I was converted by You, I repented. After I came to understand, I struck my breast (Jeremiah 31:19). I was dead in sin, and You made me alive. I was able to contribute as much to my conversion as a dead person is able to contribute to his resurrection (John 6:44; John 11:43). If You had not drawn me, I would never have come to You. If you had not awakened me, I would never have watched for You. If you had not enlightened me, I would never have seen You. Sins were sweeter to me than honey and honeycomb. That they are now pungent and bitter, I owe to You, the one who gave me my spiritual taste. Virtuous works were more bitter to me than gall and aloe. That they are now pleasing and delightful, I owe only to You, the one who changed my corrupt fleshly judgment by the Spirit. I went astray as a sheep that was lost (Isaiah 53:6); I turned to the way of iniquity. But You, Good Shepherd, sought me and led me back to the flock of the saints.
“Only recently have I recognized You, the true light, because there were great, dark clouds before my vain eyes that prevented me from seeing the light of truth. Recently, I have recognized You, the true light, because I was blind and loved blindness and walked through the darkness of sin toward the darkness of hell. But You, my illuminator, sought the one who was not seeking You. You called the one who was not calling to You. You converted the one who was not converted to You. With a voice full of power, You said, “Let there be light in the inner parts of this heart,” and there was light. I saw Your light and recognized my blindness. For this immeasurable kindness, I will praise Your name forever. AMEN.
from Meditations on Divine Mercy: A Classic Treasury of Devotional Prayers by Johann Gerhard. Translated by Matthew C. Harrison. CPH pp. 75-76.