AN EVENING PRAYER

Wayne S. Walker

“Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse Thou me from secret faults”
(Psa. 19.12)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which is in effect a prayer asking the Lord to
cleanse us from our faults is “An Evening Prayer” (#106 in “Hymns for
Worship Revised”).  The text was written by C. Maude Battersby.  Almost
nothing is known about her except that it is believed that she penned
these words sometime around 1895.  Their arrangement as a hymn was made
and the tune was composed both by Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1932).
 Many songs by Gabriel, in which he produced either text or tune or often
both, are found in our books.  This song was published in 1911 by Homer
A. Rodeheaver, with the 1939 copyright renewal made by The Rodeheaver Co.

     Among historic hymnbooks used by churches of Christ in the 20th
century, the song appears in the 1937 “Great Songs of the Church No. 2”
(#551, in the “special selections” section, all four stanzas arranged for
solo voice with some kind of instrumental accompaniment) edited by Elmer
L. Jorgenson, and the 1963 “Abiding Hymns” (#168, copied from “Great
Songs of the Church No. 2″) edited by Robert C. Welch.  Among other books
in current use, it appears in the 1956 “Sacred Selections for the Church”
(#35) edited by Ellis J. Crum, the original 1971 edition of “Songs of the
Church” (#66, replaced by “Rise Up O Men of God” in the current edition)
edited by Alton H. Howard, the 1978/1983 “Church Gospel Songs and Hymns”
(#19), edited by V. E. Howard (all of which use only three stanzas), and
the 1992 “Songs of Faith and Praise” (#320 with all four stanzas in four
part harmony) edited by John P. Wiegand.

     The song mentions several ways that we can sin for which we need
forgiveness.

I. Stanza one says that we can sin against others
 A. It is possible for us to act in such a way that we wound the souls of
others: 1 Cor. 8.12
 B. When we so act, we often put a stumbling block in the way of others
that causes their feet to go astray: Matt. 18.6-7
 C. And the usual reason why we end up doing this is because we have
determined to live in our own selfish way rather than considering the
needs of others: Rom. 15.1-3, Phil. 2.3-4

II. Stanza two says that we can sin with our mouth
 A. It is true that almost all of us at one time or another have uttered
idle words or vain: Matt. 12.36-37
 B. Often the reason why we do this is to turn aside from want or pain,
to avoid what we see as the unpleasant consequences of speaking the truth
in love: Eph. 4.14, 25
 C. And our motivation for doing this is lest we ourselves should suffer
through the strain, when the Bible makes it plain that Christians may
often have to suffer for their faith: 2 Tim. 3.12, 1 Pet. 4.16

III. Stanza three, not in “Hymns for Worship Revised,” says that we can
sin against our very purpose as Christians
“If I have been perverse or hard or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in the fold,
When Thou hast given me some fort to hold,
Dear Lord, forgive.”
 A. Sometimes we allow our hearts to become perverse and hard so that we
become cold to our duties as children of God: Heb. 3.12-15, Rev. 3.15
 B. There may be occasions when we are especially weak or vulnerable that
we may seek for shelter in the fold, but in general God has not called us
to live in ease behind the battle lines but to be good soldiers of Jesus
Christ and be willing to suffer hardship whenever necessary: 2 Tim. 2.3-4
 C. Therefore, we should take whatever fort the Lord has given us to hold
and determine that we will wage a good warfare and fight the good fight
of the faith: 1 Tim. 1.18, 6.12

IV. The final stanza says that above all, when we sin, we sin against God
 A. Therefore, we should confess our sins unto God that we might have
forgiveness: 1 Jn. 1.8
 B. We should even ask forgiveness for “the secret sins.”  There has been
much debate on what the Bible means by “secret sins,” whether these are
sins unknown to the person who has committed them or simply sins that are
hidden from the eyes of others.  The song refers to “the secret sins I do
not see.”  Of course it is possible for one to have committed specific
acts of sin of which he may be unaware.  While he may not recall each
specific instance, he still needs to repent of all his sins and ask God’s
forgiveness, as did the publican in Jesus’ parable: Lk. 18.13-14
 C. And after asking God’s forgiveness, we must pray that He will guide
us and be our keeper so that we will do better in the future than we have
in the past: Jude vs. 21-24

     CONCL.:  Some have ridiculed the idea that we need to repent of each
sin and confess it to God in prayer to be forgiven; they may ask, what if
we sin some time during the day and die before we can get home to say our
evening prayers?  The fact is that whenever we sin, at any time during
the day, we can silently, in our own minds, go to God in prayer, express
our repentance, make our confession to Him, and ask His forgiveness that
very moment–and we should.  We do not have to wait until some
pre-arranged time.  However, when I do lay my head down to go to sleep,
it is a good time to review the events of the day with the Lord, asking
His forgiveness for any sins that may still be against me and seeking His
help, in “An Evening Prayer.”

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