Bob Hostetler is a writer from southwest Ohio whose 30 books include Quit Going to Church and the novel, The Bone Box. He is also a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and churches around the world.
Long ago, at this season, on such a night as this, your people, Lord, set out on a journey. All but crushed by their enslavement, they yet recalled the far-off memory of a happier past and heard the voice of their God, bidding them to summon the courage to be free.
Boldly, they went forth from Egypt, crossed the Sea, and headed through the desert for the Promised Land.
What they experienced, they remembered, and told their children, and they to theirs.
From generation to generation, the story was retold, and we are here to tell it yet again.
We too give thanks for Israel's liberation and in doing so we too remember what it means to be a slave.
And so we pray for all who are still fettered, still denied their human rights. Let all God's children sit at your table, drink the wine of deliverance, and eat the bread of freedom:
Sometimes, Lord, my heart aches for a message, looks for an angel, listens for, needs, a word from you...
My heart waits to hear what you might speak to me, to my life, to my worries, to my fears...
My heart waits for to hear you say, "Do not be afraid... I am with you... I am always with you... I will never leave you... I am beside you, before you and behind you, above and below and within you..."
My heart strains to hear you say, "You have found favor with me... I care for you... I care about you... I watch for you... I watch out for you... You have a place in my heart, a place I keep only for you and I look for you in my heart..."
Speak to my heart, Lord, send an angel, a message, a word... Speak to me as you spoke to Mary: when I am not expecting you... when I am confused and do not understand... when I am afraid of what tomorrow may bring...
Fill my heart with your grace that I might see every angel you send my way, that I might hear every word you speak to me, that I might ponder whatever might be the message of love you offer...
Today I put on a terrible strength invoking the Trinity confessing the Three with faith in the One as I face my Maker.
Today I put on the power of Christ's birth and baptism, of his hanging and burial, His resurrection, ascension, and descent at the Judgement.
Today I put on the power of the order of the Cherubim, angels' obedience, archangels' attendance, in hope of ascending to my reward; patriarchs' prayers, prophets' predictions, apostles precepts, confessors' testimony, holy virgins' innocence and the deeds of true men.
Today I put on the power of Heaven, the light of the Sun, the radiance of the Moon, the splendour of fire, the fierceness of lightning, the swiftness of wind, the depth of the sea, the firmness of earth and the hardness of rock.
Today I put on God's strenghth to steer me, God's power to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye for my vision, God's ear for my hearing, God's word for my speech, God's hand to protect me, God's pathway before me, God's shield for my shelter, God's angels to guard me from ambush of devils, from vice's allurements, from traps of the flesh, from all who wish ill, whether distant or close, alone or in hosts.
I summon these powers today to take my part against every implacable power that attacks my body and soul, the chants of false prophets, dark laws of the pagans, false heretics' laws, entrapments of idols, enchantments of women or smiths or druids, and all knowledge that poisons man's body or soul.
Christ guard me today from poison, from burning, from drowning, from hurt, that I have my reward.
Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.
Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I rise.
Christ in the hearts of all who think of me, Christ in the mouths of all who speak to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Today I put on a terrible strength, invoking the Trinity, confessing the Three, with faith in the One as I face my Maker.
Oh! give us to serve Thee, and especially, and this prayer we have already prayed but we pray it again, make us useful in the salvation of our fellow man. O Lord, have we lived so long in the world and yet are our children unconverted? May we never rest until they are truly saved. Have we been going up and down in business, and are those round about us as yet unaware of our Christian character? Have we never spoken to them the Word of Life? Lord, arouse us to a deep concern for all with whom we come in contact from day to day. Make us all missionaries at home or in the street, or in our workshop, wherever Providence has cast our lot, may we there shine as lights in the world.
Lord God Adonai, thank you for this day, this Lord's Day.
I am excited to worship with your people, to greet those you've given me to share life with, to learn and teach, to sing and dance, to laugh and cry, to pray and listen, to once again be renewed by the communion of the saints and the corporate worship of the Living God.
Please come upon your people in Spirit and truth, pour out your blessings, hear us as we cry out to you, bless us as we focus on you, speak to us as we listen to you, and take us to higher ground, in Jesus' name, amen.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun, Which was my sin, though it were done before? Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run, And do run still, though still I do deplore? When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done, For I have more.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won Others to sin, and made my sin their door? Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun A year or two, but wallowed in a score? When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done, For I have more.
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun My last thread, I shall perish on the shore; But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore; And having done that, Thou hast done; I fear no more.
O Lord, we bless You that the issue of the battle between You and Satan has never been uncertain, and ends in victory. Calvary broke the dragon's head, and we contend with a vanquished foe, who with all his subtlety and strength has already been overcome. When we feel the serpent at our heel may we remember Him Whose heel was bruised, but Who, when bruised, broke the devil's head.
Our soul with inward joy extols the mighty conqueror. Heal us of any wounds received in the great conflict; if we have gathered defilement, if our faith has suffered damage, if our hope is less than bright, if our love is not fervent, if some creature-comfort occupies our heart, if our soul sinks under pressure of the fight.
You Whose every promise is balm, every touch life, draw near to Your weary warriors, refresh us, that we may rise again to wage the strife and never tire until our enemy is trodden down. Give us such fellowship with You that we may defy Satan, unbelief, the flesh, the world, with delight that comes not from a creature, and which a creature cannot mar. Give us a draught of the eternal fountain that lies in Your immutable, everlasting love and decree.
Then shall our hand never weaken, our feet never stumble, our sword never rest, our shield never rust, our helmet never shatter, our breastplate never fall, as our strength rests in the power of Your might.
I love you, God, because you listen to me. Inexplicably, incredibly, you listen to my cries.
You patiently let me pour out my words and lay out my needs, even my demands, sinful as I am.
Sometimes when I am under attack, and sometimes when I only THINK I'm under attack, you nonetheless humor me. How you must chuckle at my impatience, at my panic, at my paranoia.
But, gracious God, you make things right. Caring Father, you cradle me in your arms. You take my side even when I deserve your rebuke! You turn me around when I've messed up royally.
Teach me to rest in you. Help me to bask in your blessings, and swim in your salvation. Save me from whining, and keep my feet from stumbling.
I'm here. You're here. That alone is amazing to me. You have been faithful. You have kept me faithful. That is even more amazing.
I have nothing to offer you, nothing worthy of the blessings you've poured out on me. I can only lift high the cup of salvation, and remember your outpoured love. I will pray in Jesus' name, trusting you to help me see and adopt your agenda. I'll rely on you to fulfill your will in me, and I'll serve your people with all my strength. I'll seek your pleasure and not man's. I'll be faithful to you, to your house, to your kingdom, Amen.
Show us your mercy, O Lord; And grant us your salvation. Clothe your ministers with righteousness; Let your people sing with joy. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world; For only in you can we live in safety. Lord, keep this nation under your care; And guide us in the way of justice and truth. Let your way be known upon earth, Your saving health among all nations. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, Nor the hope of the poor be taken away. Create in us clean hearts, O God, And sustain us with your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord God Adonai, as St. Chrysostom prayed, "Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us," for you always know what is best, and we seldom do. Forgive us for trying to inform you in what is best for us, and teach us to submit to your wisdom, love, and kindness, in our praying and in our living, Amen.