Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Editor’s Note: Pastor Scott Peterson is sharing daily devotions written by some of his favorite authors. These current devotions are written by Arndt Halvorson on the writings of P.T. Forsyth. Their biographies and any notes by Pastor Scott are listed at the end of the devotion.
by Arndt Halvorson
“First we cry from the depth of our need, then from the depth of our sin and despair, and finally deepest of all we cry from the depth of our faith, which lifts us to the heights. We know then that if we fall, we fall deeper into the arms of God. If my boat sink, ’tis but to another sea.’ For as our hell is deep, so is our heaven deep; our hell is so deep because we were made for so deep a heaven” –P.T. Forsyth–P.T. Forsyth
There is a natural way to pray. True prayer is a cry from the heart, ungarnished by logic or philosophy or, even, theology. True prayer begins where we are, and erupts from our need-from our feelings which are pressuring us at the time. Prayer is a cry for help, as the psalmist does over and over. It is a false piety which keeps us from telling God what we cannot help thinking or feeling.
Usually such prayer leads to the discovery of a deeper need, the need for confession. We cry to God because we cannot handle the pressure of our conscience. From somewhere there come the suppressed images of our involvement in hurting or exploiting another. We are driven to set before God our deeper need–the need for mercy, the need for forgiveness. We confess that we have sinned and cannot handle that fact. Praying thus makes us naked before God.
If we listen we will hear the gospel. “You do not have to cope,” says God, ”That is the devil speaking. Just let go and let me help.” His love moves us to confess, even as the need for love prompts all our praying. Love assures us that the “bottom line” with God is something bigger than our accountability. The bottom line is that he hears, and has already encircled us with his arms. The basis for everything in this life–everything–is his forgiving and healing love.
“Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly.” (Service Book and Hymnal, 393).
“Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1-2).
Peter Taylor Forsyth was a theologian, pastor, and educator whose fiery preaching and provocative writing stirred Great Britain from 1874 until his death in 1921. For a number of years after his death he was forgotten, but since 1940 he has been “rediscovered” and has been studied by many of today’s church leaders and theologians. Born and educated in Scotland, he combines Scottish toughness and gentleness, practicality and mysticism, with an openness to the world outside–mainly German, Scandinavian and French thought. Since he was a pastor for 25 years, he does not write to systematize his thought, but to apply it to our daily lives. Thus, his theology has a personal “bite” which gets us involved as participants, not spectators. His writings seem current, addressing the great questions of our time–such issues as authority, how to read the Bible, prayer, the cross and its significance and the call to holiness by a Holy God.
Arndt L. Halvorson (1915 – 2006) was my preaching professor at Luther Seminary where he taught homiletics (preaching) for 24 years. When Arndt dressed-up he wore cowboy cut suits, with a string tie and cowboy boots. He had a passion for the gospel and his bluntness in communication was engaging. One day in my preaching lab Arndt said, “Some of the best sermons I ever heard were preached without