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Message From Pastor Leon

posted Dec 27, 2012, 10:42 AM by Tracey Morris   [ updated Mar 26, 2016, 7:38 AM ]
Each New Year’s Day, like each birthday, brings with it the reminder that another year is gone. I would guess that everyone thinks about that at least a little bit. We get only so many years here, and these annual reminders seem to come around quicker every year. Jesus once said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live again.” That should change one’s whole perspective on the passage of years. New Year’s Day then, as much as Christmas Day, should be a time to remember Jesus. No one or nothing else can do anything about the way those years keep getting away on us. But Jesus says we can live again.

Samuel Johnson lived for 75 years, from 1709 until 1784. He was a journalist and a linguist. Single-handedly, he produced the most comprehensive English dictionary published up to that point. It was a huge task and a tremendous accomplishment. Samuel Johnson was also a deeply religious man. Each New Years Day he had a special awareness of the presence of God in his life, and he would think about what it meant to live one’s life for God. As he considered that, he would write a prayer to God, putting before God his meditations and requests and confessions as the old year ended and the new year began.

As you read the lines from his prayers that I am including below, notice how the focus of these prayers is on God. Samuel Johnson’s faith was centered on God and not on himself. Of course we do come to God out of a sense of our own needs and weaknesses, but at the same time we must keep the focus on God and not on ourselves. Faith must consist of much more than simply asking the ME questions,-- ‘Why is this happening to me, why don’t you do this for me, Lord, why haven’t you answered my prayers, how can I believe in a God that is not there for me,’ and so on and so on. Biblical faith is deeper than that.

For Samuel Johnson, faith was all about God and not Samuel, God who is far bigger than you or I or Samuel Johnson. The main question then becomes how does little me fit in to what the great God Almighty says about me and life and the whole world? The prayers of Samuel Johnson can open our hearts and minds to this deeper faith.

Here, then, are some lines from several of the New Year’s Day prayers of Samuel Johnson:

“Almighty God, by whose mercy I am permitted to behold the beginning of another year, and by whose forbearance I have not yet fallen into the grave, bless me with thy help and favor. Grant that I may remember my past life, as to repent of the times I have spent in forgetfulness of thy mercy and in neglect of my own salvation. I give thee thanks that you have so far been patient and have not snatched me away in the midst of sin and folly, but permit me still to enjoy the means of grace and the time to repent. Grant, O Lord, that thy patience may not be in vain, and that the days of my life may not be continued to the increase of my guilt, and that thy grace may not harden my heart in wickedness. O Lord, as I remember my past life, may I recollect the many ways you have sustained and preserved my life. In affliction may I remember how often in the past I have been assisted, and in prosperity may I remember from whose hand the blessing is received. Let not the cares of the world distract me, nor the evils of this age overwhelm me. Enable me to use all enjoyments with due temperance, and run with diligence the race that is set before me. Calm my thoughts, direct my desires, and fortify my purposes. Let me remember, O my God, that as the days and years pass over me I approach nearer to the grave, where there is no opportunity for repentance; and so grant, that by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I may so pass through this life, that I may obtain life everlasting. In the course of my life protect me, and in the hour of my death sustain me; so that I may lie down in humble hope and die in the confidence of thy mercy. In Jesus name. AMEN.”

Praying this prayer is a good way to remember Jesus at the end of the old year and the beginning of a new year.

So teach us to number our days, O Lord,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. --Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

--Pastor Leon