In celebration of Presidents’ Day, here is a prayer written by our first President:
“Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thought unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life…”
You can find more about the spiritual life of President Washington here – George Washington the Christian.
Notice the concern in this prayer about being “cast into a spiritual slumber -“ being inactive and deadened toward the pursuit spiritual goals. Consider the biblical support for the things Washington says can have this effect on us.
Terrors of conscience
What we’re talking about here is overwhelming feelings of guilt. It’s one of the things that bring us to the cross, but too much dwelling on failure tends to destroy, not motivate. It can actually lead us to spiritual lethargy.
Isaiah 6:5 – And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Would you say Isaiah was ready to act in that moment? As he confronted his own sinfulness compared to the matchless sovereign God, he stood immobilized by his own unworthiness. It was only after he experienced forgiveness and the removal of guilt in verse 7 that he was able to say, “Here am I! Send me,” in verse 8.
Luke 5:8 – “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Again with Peter, we see a man nearly undone as he realized that he was in the presence of the Lord. His own sins and failures made him feel unworthy to be anywhere near Jesus, let alone work for him.
And again we see the comfort of the Lord as the catalyst – Luke 5:10 – “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”
What woke them up, spiritually? Not condemnation – but the forgiveness and acceptance of God.
II Corinthians 5:11-6:2 – “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”
Knowing the fear of the Lord. Knowing the terror and despondency of a broken conscience contemplating the day of judgment, the message is to believe in, accept, and receive the grace of God (6:2).
Conscience is a wonderful thing. It is given to us by God in order to cause us to seek Him. But a full recognition of how deeply my conscience condemns me before God will knock me out of the race without an equal recognition and remembrance of the grace of God continually poured out for me (Hebrews 9:14)
Hebrews 10:22 – “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Loathing of holy duty
Malachi 1:13 – “But you say, “What a weariness this is, and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? Says the Lord.”
I Corinthians 11:26-30 – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the brad or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Is it a chore to pray? To read/study the Bible? Do look for occasions to do good? To practice patience, kindness, gentleness, charity? Can we make a decision to love the works of our Lord and pray for his help in that?
Love of sin
Hebrews 12:1 – let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Matthew 13:22 – As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
II Timothy 4:10 – Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.
Romans 1:32 – Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Fear of death
Luke 14:26 – If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Matthew 10:28 – Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.