A Prayer to Close the Old Year…

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We rejoice, our Father, that you have taught us that there remains a rest for the people of God…

…that this life is not all of our experience; that beyond the bounds of time swells the infinite, the eternal life. You are gathering there multitudes which no man can number. From every age you have garnered there; the spirits of the just made perfect dwell with you, for you have set the streams of time. For us there is this hope and this joyful anticipation. We rejoice that the burdens which we bear, and the sorrows, the troubles, and the vexations of life which we experience day by day, are things to be forgotten; that they are but the dust of the way. Though at the time they fill the soul, and absorb the thought, yet we rejoice that they are trifles, and are not worthy to be mentioned in comparison with the exceeding and eternal weight of glory which is reserved for those who love and fear you.

And we beseech of you that we may be able to live this life in the body with a constant faith of the great life of the spirit; that we may never be discouraged nor beaten down; that we may know that we are the King’s sons and daughters. Though exiled, and in disguise, and in poverty, and even cast into shame, may we remember our birthright, the Treasure that awaits us, the crown, the throne, the scepter, the glory of immortal and perpetual youth, where you are. When the former things shall have passed away, when sorrow and dying shall have fled, when you shalt have wiped the tear from every eye, and when you do comfort us even as a father comforts his child, then, in that blessed land where you dwell, what will be the memory of the troubles which we have had upon earth!

Grant that now we may be made brave by the anticipation of these things through faith. May we carry our trouble, our load, whatever it may be, patiently, strengthened by you, and rejoicing in you. May we seek every day more and more thy favor. May our life be hid in thine. May our purposes be, not those which roll along the dusty road of time, but those which take hold on immortality and glory.

As the years go by, and as the signs and tokens of departure come to us, may we be more earnest for the things that do not perish, and less and less held by the things that do.

Help us in all things to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Though others reel to and fro, may we stand in thy strength. Though others are confused and perplexed, may we abide in peace beneath the shadow of thy wings. Though others are bereaved and in great sorrows, may we hear you saying to us, No affliction is for the present joyous but grievous, yet afterward it shall work the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby.

Grant unto us, in these declining hours of the year, such suitable meditations as shall make us better fitted for the year that is advancing to us. May we seek more earnestly the things that are high, and worthy of us, and less and less the things that perish in the using. And may thy word give us instruction. May it be the man of our counsel and our guide. We pray that its wisdom and experience may become our wisdom and experience, and that in it we may abide as in a fortress.

Grant, 0 Lord, thy blessing upon all those whose pilgrimage is beginning, who are essaying their first steps in the higher life. Deliver them from every enemy that threatens them from without; from the enemies that are within their own hearts; from the evils by which they are surrounded; from specious reasonings of every kind; from deceitful temptations; from all guile that would spoil their simplicity. Deliver them from everything that tends to destroy the nobility of Christian adulthood. May they prove all things, and hold fast the things that are good, living better than we have lived before them, with more aspiration and with more attainments.

May thy blessing rest upon the year that is past.

Grant that the seed which has been sown by thy servants in this church may not perish. Though the winter storms beat upon it may it come forth in the spring and bear fruit a hundredfold. We pray that the fruits which have been gathered may be but first-fruits; and may we see from month to month throughout the coming year the blessing of the Lord resting upon the labors of days gone by.

Will you bless all those who are teachers; all those who are ministers of mercy and consolation to the afflicted; all those everywhere who are building up waste places. Revive thy work in thy churches. Grant, we pray you, that with the expiring year faults may expire, on the right hand and on the left; and in the coming year may there be a new record of righteousness. More and more may the power of God be manifest in the affairs of men. May thy kingdom come, and may thy will be done, upon earth as it is done in heaven. We ask it in the name of Jesus, our master, to whom, with the Father and the Spirit, shall be everlasting praises.

Amen.

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Henry Ward Beecher

A New Year’s Prayer of Thankfulness and Rejoicing, for God’s Almighty Providence.

Taken from, Prayers from Plymouth pulpit. “A New Year’s Day Prayer,”   (c. 1858) By Henry Ward Beecher.

We rejoice, O thou that dwellest in heaven,

that thou art not confined in thy wisdom, in thy power, in thy goodness, nor in thine administration, to the heavenly host. Throughout the whole domain, thou art the living God, and thy wisdom and thy power are felt wherever thou hast created, nor art thou ever weary of thy work, and the least thing that had the sovereign touch of life remains forever before thee, and all the wants of all the creatures that thou hast made rise up before thee for perpetual supply. Thou givest liberally; thou art inexhaustible in thy nature and resources. We cannot by searching, find out the nature of such a one, that dwells in unslumbering care, that knows no variableness, nor shadow of change, that outlives the passing generations of men, himself never old, forever young; full of goodness. And yet it is not so strange that thou shouldst be so, though we cannot understand the fullness thereof as that thou shouldst be a God of such tender mercy, a God of such divine love. We cannot understand how thou couldst bear us and carry us with such longing affections, and find in us reason for thy love; how thou canst see that which is desirable in the midst of so much pride and selfishness, so many passions, and the hurtful ways to which they give rise. This is the wonder and the love of Christ to sinful men. The mystery hid from ages, is an unsolved and unfathomable wonder yet; but we rejoice in believing that it is so, and that the divine grace of love that fills the heavens is to be the salvation of the earth. This is our hope.

It is not that we are strong, nor wise, but that thou art all this for us. It is thy righteousness and not our own that surrounds us; it is thy love to us rather than the love which we have to thee that encourages us; it is thy faithfulness and not our own perseverance that lays the foundation of our courage. We trust in God who is all in all, for thou art, O Blessed One, first and last, including all between; thou art Alpha and Omega, and the whole alphabet. All grace and mercy and truth is in thee; and we rejoice in thee, not in ourselves, not in man, not in institutions of religion, not in any thing that is upon the earth. O, we rejoice in thee, that art the fountain of all excellence, the Father of mercies, and the God of all grace and goodness. We have had abundant occasion to prove thee, and have put thee to proof, and we bear witness that thou art he that doeth exceeding abundantly more than we ask or think. Thy promises are never so large as thy performances, thou art before-hand with us; and when we think that we are walking in a desolate way, behold the footstep of God is before us; thou hast been there and prepared our way.

We rejoice to find thee on every side of us, and to find that our life is hid in thee; the secrets of it, the duties of it, and the duration of it, are of thee. We rejoice that we have such a friend, so gentle, so patient, so persevering. And this is the wound and the shame of our sin, that it is disobedience and an unwilling service of one so gracious and so full of all noble excellence. We are ashamed when we reflect how little we have requited thy love with our love; thy reasonable command with our filial obedience; we have sought each one his own way; we have had our own will and purpose aside from thine and contradicting thine. O Lord, we are unworthy of thy name or of thy favor; we only plead thy grace, saying, “God be merciful to us sinners.”

And now thou hast completed the mercies and the history of another year; thou hast advanced us to the first day of this year upon which we are entering. We would call upon our souls and all that is within us to bless and to praise thy name for the goodness of the year that has gone. Our record of it may have been of sin; our record of resolutions broken; our record of time misspent, of powers not legitimately used but turned aside against our secret convictions, against our own consciences, against the call of God’s voice in us powers not employed to their vast purposes and to their highest ends.

Our record is indeed sadly blotted; and tears and sorrows, hopes not fulfilled, and aspirations not met by any adequate realization, fill our remembrance; all on our side is human, weak, and wicked. If we look only to the year as we have marked it, it is not a year to be remembered nor sighed after as something to be brought back again; but when we look at thy way with us, it is a year robed in mercy, growing with every day, and waning not one single hour. Thou hast made it a year of divine love, of pardoning mercy, of gracious guidance. Thou hast held us up and carried us in thine arms even as a mother carries her little child. Thou hast counseled us; thy rod and thy staff they have comforted us; thou hast whispered to us in the hours of dullness and discouragement ; thou hast inspired us in our wayward moments, and brought us back again by ten thousand tokens; thou hast showed thyself indeed a guiding God and a Father.

We thank thee for the ministration of the year. It has past and gone to the judgment, and hangs there, waiting our coming –a record that we must yet again know and read, and now we beseech thee, O Lord God, by the patience which thou hast manifested, by the gentleness which we have proved, by the grace which is revealed of thee, and by all that is of goodness in thyself, we beseech of thee, take charge of us for the year upon which we have now entered. We are strangers to it; we do not know one single path; we are pilgrims and wander up and down in our several ways. Thou only seest the light and the darkness alike; thou only seest the end from the beginning. Thou alone art perfectly wise, and all things are in thine hands for merciful administration.

We commend ourselves and families to thee for the year upon which we are entering; and we beseech thee that thou wilt be gracious to us in our ordinary estate. If it be thy rich pleasure confirm to us life, a life of labor and usefulness. Bless us in our households; bless us in our social relations, and all our affections, and to one another, and sanctify our love; make it purer, nobler, and more heavenly. Bless us in our several secular duties. May we go abroad into all the relations of this life, carrying the savor of the Gospel with us, sanctifying whatever we touch, bearing about the name not only, but also the disposition of the Lord Jesus.

We beseech thee that thou wilt bless us in our individual experiences. Some thou art just calling out of darkness into light, and they are this year being bathed with new hopes. Be gracious to them, and sustain them, that no trouble may overtake them mightier than their strength; that with every temptation they may have rescue ; and that they may know that they have entered this year with God the Father for their guide, Christ for their Saviour, and the Holy Spirit for their enlightener and sanctifier.

Confirm those that have been already some way advanced in the divine life and have had occasion to prove thy mercies. We beseech of thee that they may not be discouraged, nor turn back, nor refuse to bear willingly such burdens as are needful for their culture. May those that have been for a long time in thy service and are ready to lay down their burdens, have still that same nourishing care which has never left them from their cradle until this day.

We beseech thee that they may already taste that heavenly joy which is so soon to be theirs. Thou hast taken from us not a few during the past year; they rest from their labors; they are divided by the sense and by the flesh from us that we cannot see them nor speak with them any more; but they are not divided from us in faith, nor in love, nor in joy. We tarry yet a little longer; thou art translating this church, thou art augmenting the ranks of those in the heavenly state that are glorified. O we thank thee that so many departing leave behind the savor of a holy life and the testimony of a triumphant death. We are comforted as we draw near, believing that the same grace that gave them victory, will give final release and victory to us. We beseech thee, if there be any of us appointed unto death in the year on which we have entered, may we not be afraid. May we know what is the meaning of that sound –death; may we always hear the word Christ when it is pronounced; may we know that it is but that divine presence calling us home; and may we feel every motion of death to be but the throbbing of the heart of God. May we long to depart to be in his bosom.

If any are sick, wilt thou graciously sustain and comfort them; visit them with thy salvation, and make today their sick-chamber to be as light as the temple of God. May they feel that thou art present, and may their joys be as choiring angels to them; and may they have occasion for thanksgiving even in their sick-chamber and in their hours of seclusion.

Be with those that belong to us who are far away.  Wherever they may be today, may it be a Sabbath –God’s rest in their souls. If there be any present that are strangers among strangers, cause all heart-sickness and home-sickness to fly away quickly as they are in the presence of God, of Christ Jesus, and their brethren.  May the joy of thy house banish all sad thoughts, and here may they renew their strength; here may they taste the bread of life; here may they renew their covenant, and here may they see that this is a gate of heaven.   Be with us in the things we ask for, and wilt thou do for us all that we need.

And thine shall be the praise,

Father, Son, and Spirit.

Amen.

Meet the Author and part of your Christian heritage: Henry Ward Beecher (June 24, 1813 – March 8, 1887) was an American Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, and speaker, known for his support of the abolition of slavery, his emphasis on God’s love, and his 1875 adultery trial.

Henry Ward Beecher was the son of Lyman Beecher, a Calvinist minister who became one of the best-known evangelists of his age. Several of his brothers and sisters became well-known educators and activists, most notably Harriet Beecher Stowe, who achieved worldwide fame with her abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Henry Ward Beecher graduated from Amherst College in 1834 and Lane Theological Seminary in 1837 before serving as a minister in Indianapolis and Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

In 1847, Beecher became the first pastor of the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York. He soon acquired fame on the lecture circuit for his novel oratorical style, in which he employed humor, dialect, and slang. Over the course of his ministry, Beecher developed a theology emphasizing God’s love above all else, a contradiction of his father’s stern Calvinism. He also grew interested in social reform, particularly the abolitionist movement. In the years leading up to the Civil War, he raised money to purchase slaves from captivity and to send rifles—nicknamed “Beecher’s Bibles“—to abolitionists fighting in Kansas and Nebraska. He toured Europe during the Civil War speaking in support of the Union.

In assessing Beecher’s legacy, Applegate states that

At his best, Beecher represented what remains the most lovable and popular strain of American culture: incurable optimism; can-do enthusiasm; and open-minded, open-hearted pragmatism … His reputation has been eclipsed by his own success. Mainstream Christianity is so deeply infused with the rhetoric of Christ’s love that most Americans can imagine nothing else, and have no appreciation or memory of the revolution wrought by Beecher and his peers.

Character excerpts taken from Wikipedia