I love Arthur Bennett’s Puritan prayer book The Valley of Vision. These prayers are a regular part of my devotional life, and sometimes I bring them to corporate prayer in my church as well. One one of the prayers of confession has been particularly meaningful to me for about twenty years now. It is titled “Self-Deprecation,” and I led our congregation in prayer with it last Sunday morning.
As I said, this one has meant a lot to me over the years. I pray it will to you as well.
My every sense, member, faculty, affection is a snare to me,
I can scarce open my eyes but I envy those above me,
or despise those below.
I covet honor and riches of the mighty,
and am proud and unmerciful to the rags of others;
If I behold beauty it is a bait to lust,
or see deformity, it stirs up loathing and disdain;
How soon do slanders, vain jests, and wanton speeches creep into my heart!
Am I comely? What fuel for pride!
Am I deformed? What an occasion for repining!
Am I gifted? How I lust after applause!
Am I learned? How I despise what I have not!
Am I in authority? How prone to abuse my trust,
Make will my law, exclude others’ enjoyments,
Serve my own interests and policy!
Am I inferior? How much I grudge others’ pre-eminence!
Am I rich? How exalted I become!
You know that all these are snares by my corruptions,
and that my greatest snare is myself.
I bewail that my apprehensions are dull,
my thoughts mean,
my affections stupid,
my expressions low,
my life unbeseeming;
Yet what can you expect of dust and levity,
of corruption but defilement?
Keep me ever mindful of my natural state,
but let me not forget my heavenly title,
or the grace that can deal with every sin.