A Devotional Guide for Holy Week

The upcoming week ranks supreme in our church calendar as well as in the life of any follower of Jesus. Thus, I would encourage you to not let this week go by without intentionally spending time in God’s Word asking the living Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit to speak to you.

In our day, the church has lost much of its observance of Holy Week and we are spiritually impoverished because of it. The prayers and Scriptures below are designed to walk you through the events surrounding the passion and sufferings of our Lord. You don’t have to implement the whole guide, but the Lord has a blessing for you in some part of the devotional guide below. I commend it to you as a simple resource to spiritually engage with Christ at this important time of year! This simple guide comes from my days of serving on the staff of a great church called Intown Community Church in Atlanta, GA.

Devotions for Holy Week

Lord Jesus Christ, in this solemn week when we see again the depth and mystery of your redeeming love, help us to follow where you go, to stop where you stumble, to listen when you cry, to hurt as you suffer, to bow our heads in sorrow when you die, so that when you are raised to life again we may truly share in your endless joy. Amen.
– Prayer for Holy Week, Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland, 1994

We hope that you can find time each day to remember and celebrate all that Jesus endured to rescue us. When reflecting on the gospels, be mindful of certain questions: What is this passage telling us about Jesus – his person, work, and teaching? What difference should this make in my life? How would I live differently if the truths of this text were more powerfully real to me?

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

O Everliving God, let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; that as he from his loftiness stooped to the death of the cross, so we in our lowliness may humble ourselves, believing, obeying, living, and dying to the glory of the Father; for the same Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.  – Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 -1894)

I Timothy 6:12-16    Fight the good fight
Matthew 21:12-17    The Temple cleansed

Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross may find it none other than the way of life: Grant us so to boast in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 1979

Philippians 3:1-14    The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ
John 12:9-19    The Triumphal Entry

Tuesday in Holy Week

Almighty Father, Everlasting God, you permitted your son to suffer the anguish of the cross for us, so that you might drive the power of the enemy from us: Grant us that we may so commemorate and give thanks for His suffering that we may thereby know forgiveness of sin and redemption from eternal death; through the same, your Son. Amen.
– Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Philippians 3:15-21     Our citizenship is in heaven
John 12:20-26    The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified

Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Philippians 4:1-13    Rejoice in the Lord always
John 12:27-36    Now my heart is troubled

Maundy Thursday

Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, to love one another as he loved them. Write this commandment in our hearts; give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave his life and died for us, yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

I Corinthians 11:23-34        The Lord’s Supper
John 13:1-17        Jesus washes his disciples’

Good Friday

My Father, enlarge my heart, warm my affections, and open my lips to proclaim the love of Calvary. There Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory. My savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness, expired that I might ever live. O Father, help me to adore you by lips and life. O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise, my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my enemies crushed, Satan baffled, defeated, and destroyed, sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood, hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open. God forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save. Amen.
– Adapted from The Valley of Vision. A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (1975).

Hebrews 10:4-17    The true sacrifice
John 19:1-42    The crucifixion

Easter Saturday

O God, whose loving kindness is infinite, mercifully hear our prayers; and grant that as in this life we are united in the mystical body of your Church, and in death are laid in the ground with the sure hope of resurrection; so at the last day we may rise to the life immortal, and be numbered with your saints in glory everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                    – Anonymous

Hebrews 4:1-16    A sabbath rest
Matthew 28:1-10    The resurrection

Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord

God our Father, creator of all, today is the day of Easter joy. This is the morning on which the Lord appeared to men who had begun to lose hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend before his Father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of bread, and follow him in his risen life. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.                – Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

Exodus 12:1-14    The Passover
Luke 24:13-35    The Emmaus Road

A Challenging Quote from Hudson Taylor

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Recently I was rereading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret and came across this quote that has always served as an inspirational challenge and I commend it to you! For us in the West today, Christianity is easy going on steroids. However, it will not always be this way. Better to begin paying the price now to grow in Christ-like character and to become a vessel fit for the Master’s use (2 Timothy 2:21).

 

A Prayer of Confession for Good Friday

Merciful Father, we meet each other today at the foot of the cross.
We wait with each other as those who inflict wounds on one another:
Have mercy on us.

As those who spurn Your love for other loves:
Be merciful to us.

As those who put our trust in power and prestige:
Be merciful to us.

As those who pursue only our own personal interests:
Be merciful to us.

As those who put others on trial:
Be merciful to us.

As those who refuse to forgive:
Be merciful to us.

As those who are afraid of the world’s frown and displeasure:
Be merciful to us. Amen.

God’s Stubborn Compassion for Stubborn People – Psalm 78

The overarching theme of Psalm 78 and God’s ultimate praiseworthy deed is
His stubborn compassion for stubborn people.
Derek Kidner, one of my favorite OT commentators,
writes,

“If Israel’s record is her shame, God’s persistent goodness emerges as her hope
and ours for the unfinished story.”

The Bible is a record of our family history.
It ought to foster both humility and hope in us.
It forces us to honestly assess and remember
how incorrigibly rebellious and stubborn we’ve been
as well as how merciful God has been to return again and again
in compassion to deliver us.
This is one primary way we celebrate the gospel with others,
especially our kids.
We humble ourselves and admit when we’re wrong.

When You Have Fallen in Your Spiritual Journey – A Prayer of Confession & Renewal

Good and gracious Lord,
we praise and thank You
that our moral failings do not take You by surprise.
You told Peter he would deny you three times
before the rooster crowed.
Forgive us for the ways that we have denied You
by loving the approval of others more than Yours.
Grant us renewed boldness
to openly identify ourselves as Your followers.
Make us people of honest confession,
unshakeable assurance, unquestioning obedience,
abiding joy, and full devotion.
For we pray in the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Barabbas and Jesus – A Prayer of Confession of Sin

Luke 23:18 – But they all cried out together,
“Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas
(whose name means ‘son of the father’).”

23:22 – A third time he [Pilate] said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?
I have found in him no guilt deserving death.

God, our heavenly Father,
we adore You for the sweet,
beautiful exchange of the Gospel.
A guilty son of the father is released
because the innocent son of the Father is condemned.
Overwhelm us with gratitude
knowing that we were that guilty son.
Forgive us the times that we allow
the fear of man to compromise our convictions,
to violate our consciences,
and to lead us into many snares.
Grant us a firm resolve to follow Jesus
no matter what the costs
because He is the true King of heaven.
We make our prayer in His name, Amen.

Reflections on Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

Only those who have first tasted peace with God at the cross of Christ can become peacemakers. – James M. Boice

The peace intended is not merely that of political and economic stability, as in the Greco-Roman world, but peace in the Old Testament inclusive sense of wholeness, all that constitutes well-being… The ‘peacemakers,’ therefore, are not simply those who bring peace between two conflicting parties, but those actively at work making peace, bringing about wholeness and well-being among the alienated. – Robert Guelich

If we are really under the influence of the gospel, each encounter we have with another person should be an expression of that. – Alfred Poirier

To put it simply, peacemaking involves getting in between two conflicted, warring parties, bringing calm, listening attentively, and working toward a resolution. – Mike Kasting

O Father, until Jesus comes again and brings His fullest blessings of peace, may we become a peacemaking and peace-loving people who commit ourselves to intentional acts of love by which we work to overcome the enmity between us and other people. Amen.

Putting on Airs vs. Putting on Armor

A Prayer of Confession

Gracious heavenly Father,
we confess that we put on airs
more often than we put on Your armor.
Forgive us for our self-promotion,
self-protection and self-reliance.
Pardon us for not cherishing and trusting in Your gifts
of righteousness, faith, and salvation
during times of temptation and spiritual conflict.
Transform us by Your Spirit
so that we live as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
For we pray in His strong name,
Who is our strength and our defender. Amen.