33. Prayer of a Seafarer during a Storm.
Almighty God, Thou God of the righteous! Thou who hast made the sea and the dry land, and upholdest all things by Thy hand, and raisest the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves, so that the ship is tossed now to the heavens, and now down again to the depths, that a person is reeled to and fro like a drunken man at his wit’s end, as the Holy Spirit says. We are now in great danger and distress in this our journey on the sea. As Thou hast said: “Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee,” we therefore in this our great need, from which no creature can save us but Thou alone, hold out to Thee thy word with believing hearts, and humbly ask Thee to manifest Thy power according to Thy great mercy, and say unto the wind and the sea: Peace, be still! and graciously protect us from shipwreck and danger, hold and preserve us by Thy gracious hand, and redeem us graciously from this danger, and we will praise Thy name as long as we live, never forget Thy deeds of mercy and amend our lives so that henceforth they may conform to Thy holy Word. Alas! Lord, be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins for Jesus Christ’s sake. Alas! help us, lest we perish! Alas! Lord, redeem us for Thy mercy’s sake! But if it be Thy will here to end our lives, then give unto us Christian patience, preserve us in the true faith and give us the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls! Thou canst redeem from death, Thou canst also redeem us out of this danger. Hear us, hear us, hear us, Lord God Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Lord Jesus, for the sake of Thy five blessed wounds! Lord God, Holy Spirit for the sake of Thy mercy and grace! Help us, Lord God, the Father! Help us, Lord God, the Son! Help us, Lord God, the Holy Ghost, for Thy own sake, and for the honor of Thy name, and for Thy infinite mercy’s sake. Amen.
A brief Instruction concerning Confession and Absolution.
My dear Christian, when you come to confession, you must not be satisfied in repeating with the mouth a prayer which you have committed to memory, or to permit a prayer of confession to be repeated to you by your confessor, but you must yourself bring with you a penitent heart, out of which your confession will then freely flow, for to confess without a penitent heart is mocking God, and without it no forgiveness of sins can take place.
To a penitent heart in the first place belongs, that you confess your sins and experience sorrow and penitence on account of them. By nature no man can know his sins, nor can he produce penitence in his heart concerning them; this must above all be sought of God. We men are by nature much too blind, too indifferent, too inconsiderate, too self righteous, too much possessed with self-love and self-interest, than to be inclined and capable penitently and uprightly to confess ourselves guilty of all sins. Wherefore above all things bend your knees before God and call upon him, that He might open your eyes that you may thoroughly know the multitude and greatness of your sins. Pray with the blessed David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Hereupon take the holy ten commandments and make a careful examination of your whole life in accordance with them. Then you will know that you are a sinner. For as a man cannot see a spot on his face without a glass, neither can he know his sins without beholding himself in the glass of the holy ten commandments. For sin is every work, every word, yea, every thought, which is against God’s commandments; for sin consists in the performance of that which God has forbidden, or in the omission of that which He has commanded to be done. But you must not only regard the gross external sins, but also the internal secret sins, departures from God’s commandments, which have taken place in the heart through evil thoughts and desires. If you will examine yourself thus in constant prayer, you will discover that you have not feared, loved and trusted God as He requires, that you have not so heartily and confidently called upon God, prayed, praised and given thanks, that you have not kept His Word so holy, heard and learned it, as you should have done. You will find that you have not honored and loved your parents and superiors, but have been disobedient and murmured against them; you will find that you have sinned against your neighbor in anger, hatred, revenge and irreconcilableness, with unchaste thoughts and desires, envy, ill will, avarice, an earthly mind or with slanderous words, in short, you will find that you have not so uprightly and heartily loved your neighbor as yourself, that much more selfishness, the seeking of your own interests or your own honor has been the motive to all your actions. With these and other sins you have surely deserved the wrath of God, temporal and eternal punishment, if God would deal with you according to His stern righteousness. From these sins which you perceive in yourself you can draw the conclusion how impure and depraved your heart is, from which these sins flow, for as the water, so the spring, and by the fruits we know the tree. Hence you will come to the knowledge of original sin.
If you now will perceive these and other sins in thyself, yea, if you consider, that the sins you have committed in ignorance, are many more than those you know and feel in your heart, which nevertheless the all knowing God places in the light of His countenance, then you will tremble in your conscience and experience sorrow and penitence on account of them, that you have so grievously offended your God and have been so unthankful for His blessings.
The second part of confession is faith, and indeed faith in Jesus Christ, who hath made satisfaction for all thy sins and has also obtained forgiveness of the same. Faith is as a hand which appropriates the forgiveness of sins and receives it as an unmerited gift of divine grace. Without this faith all knowledge and sorrow for sin is only the confession of a Cain or a Judas, which ends in despair. But by faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all sinners, the heart is comforted and made quiet. But this faith you cannot produce in your own heart, but it is the work and gift of God the Holy Spirit. And if you experience that you are wanting in this faith, and that you cannot believe but desire to believe, then call upon God for this faith, and he will give it thee.
Thereupon the fruits of penitence must follow. These consist in this, that you no more knowingly and intentionally will commit the sins which have been forgiven you, but you much more will hate and forsake them, and by the assistance of the Holy Spirit contend against them.
If now you bring such a penitent heart with you to confession, then you are able to receive the absolution which your confessor gives you, by virtue of which your sins are really and certainly forgiven thee by God in heaven. Forgiveness of sins Christ has obtained for all sinners by his death and the shedding of His blood and sealed it by His resurrection and commanded it to be preached and delivered to all the world through the Gospel. Now when the confessor absolves thee, he does nothing else than declare unto you the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins; and yet this is not merely an empty declaration, but such a one through which forgiveness of sins is really presented and offered to penitent sinners. As often as you hear the words of absolution from his mouth, do not doubt, but firmly believe that your sins are forgiven thee before God in heaven, as certainly as if Christ would immediately speak from heaven: “Be of good cheer, my son (my daughter), thy sins be forgiven thee,” for He says: “Whosoever heareth you, heareth me, and whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them.”