A prolific writer, professor, and pastor, Johann Gerhard (1582–1637) is regarded as one of the greatest theologians and thinkers of his time. Meditations on Divine Mercy is a collection of prayers written by Johann Gerhard and now available for English readers to enjoy and appreciate. In addition to Gerhard’s prayers, the book also includes a chapter on the purpose and benefits of prayer, as well as an explanation of the blessing and historic aspects of daily meditation.
What is Prayer?
If someone wants to describe adequately the usefulness of pious, earnest prayer, he will, in my opinion, surely find a beginning more easily than a conclusion. Pious prayer offered in faith is familiar conversation with God. It is a salutary remedy to all the difficulties of life. It is the key to heaven and the door to paradise. It shows us how much we depend on God, and it is a ladder of ascension to God. It is a shield for our defense and a faithful messenger of the ambassador. It is refreshment in the heat of misfortune; it is medicine during illness. It is a winch, drawing us to heaven, and a vessel that draws water from the font of divine kindness. It is a sword against the devil and a defense against misfortune. It is a wind that blows away evil and brings earthly benefits. It is a nurse that nurtures virtue and conquers faults. It is a great fortification for the soul and gives free access to God. It is a spiritual feast and a heavenly delicacy. It is a consolation for the dejected and a delight for the holy. It grants knowledge of the secret things of God and acquires His gifts. It upholds the world and rescues people. It is a joy for the heart and a jubilation for the mind. It follows God’s gift of grace, and it leads ahead into glory. It is a garden of happiness and a tree full of delights. It calms the conscience and increases our thankfulness. It sends demons running and draws angels close. It is a soothing remedy for the misfortunes of this life and the sweet smell of the sacrifice of thanksgiving. It is a foretaste of the life to come and sweetens the bitterness of death.
Whoever is truly a child of God through faith will, with childlike trust, address his or her heavenly Father every day in prayer. The one in whose heart the Holy Spirit has made His home will, as a spiritual priest, daily offer to God this incense of prayer. There are four immovable truths on which our confidence to pray rests. Because of these, we may be certain that our heavenly Father mercifully hears our prayers. The truths on which our certainty rests are: (1) God’s omnipotent kindness; (2) God’s unfailing truthfulness; (3) Christ’s intercession as our mediator; and (4) the Holy Spirit’s testimony. . . .
Prayer for the Gift and Increase of Patience
O omnipotent, eternal, and merciful God, with humble sighs I implore You because of Your grace to grant me true and sincere patience. My flesh always desires what it wants, that is, what is easy and fleshly, but it refuses to suffer misfortune patiently. I ask You to restrain powerfully in me this inclination of the flesh and to prop up my weakness with the strength of patience. O Christ Jesus, teacher of patience and obedience, instruct me by the Holy Spirit so I may learn from You to deny my own will and to bear patiently the cross placed on me (Matthew 11:29).
You suffered more patiently for me than I suffer under anything that You place on me. I have merited harder punishment than the punishment that You inflict. You bore a thorny crown and the weight of the cross. You sweat blood and trod the winepress of wrath because of me (Isaiah 63:3). Why then should I refuse to take up patiently such a small measure of suffering and affliction? Why should I shirk from being conformed to Your suffering in this life (1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21; Hebrews 13:13; 1 John 3:2)? You drank from the torrent of suffering in life (Psalm 110:7). Why should I refuse a meager sip from the cup of the cross? I have merited eternal punishment because of my sins. Why should I not suffer fatherly reproof in this world (Deuteronomy 8:5; Hebrews 12:7)?
Those whom You knew from all eternity, before the foundations of the world were laid, You also predestined to be conformed to the image of Your Son in this life (Romans 8:29). So if I do not patiently bear this conformation to the cross, I despise Your holy and eternal plan for my salvation. Grant that this be far from me, Your most unworthy servant. It is to prove, not to punish, that You exercise me with various trials. When You place the cross and tribulation on me, You also grant me an equal amount of understanding and comfort. And the punishment never exceeds the reward. The sufferings of this life are not worthy of comparison to that heavenly consolation, which You grant already in this life, and to that heavenly glory, which You promise for the future (Romans 8:18). I know You are with me in tribulation (Psalm 91:15). I should rejoice over the presence of Your grace instead of being saddened over the burden of the cross placed on me.
Lead me on whatever path You desire, O best Master and Teacher. I will follow You through thorns and briars, but draw me along and sustain me. I bow my head so You may place on it a crown of thorns. In doing this, I am absolutely convicted that one day You will place on it an eternal crown of glory. Amen.
From Meditations on Divine Mercy, pages 21–22, 108–9. © 1992, 2003 M. C. Harrison, published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.