† The Priestly Rule of Discipline †
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
The word “priest” may sound a bit peculiar to our ears these days, but the royal priesthood is an office which the Lord God has bestowed upon those who are in Christ. As royal priests in the Kingdom of God, Christians are to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Indeed their very lives are to be living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).
As disciples, Christ’s priests attend to the drowning of the sinful nature by recalling the Holy Baptism by which they have been cleansed and robed in the righteousness of Christ. These disciples live in the discipline which confesses transgressions to the Lord and then in forgiveness raises up holy hands in faith to God and in love to one’s neighbour.
The Rev. Dr. George F. Wollenburg has composed the following “Priestly Rule of Discipline” founded on the Ten Commandments to call priests to their duties of confession, thanksgiving, and praise. This priestly work overflows with the doxology which resounds in the Revelation of St. John [1:5b-6], To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The First Commandment:
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean?
We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
My priests know that everything good comes from Me, that I have made them holy. Therefore they will not attach their hearts in love to the good things which I give them, instead of to Me. They will not defile themselves by loving things more than the Creator. Nor will they pollute themselves by seeking righteousness in their own hearts instead of in the Saviour I have given them. They will not bring their own broken obedience to Me and offer it to Me as righteousness, instead of trusting in the promise of the forgiveness which I have given them through the blood of Christ. You shall have no other gods.
The Second Commandment:
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
My priests are holy. They have been cleansed from all defilement, from every pollution of sin. I have put my Holy Name on them. Therefore they will not defile themselves with the words that come out of their mouth, use my Holy Name to curse or to speak oaths which are frivolous and thus to make my Holy Name profane. They will call upon my Name in priestly prayer and glorify Me. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
The Third Commandment:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
My priests know that I have sanctified time and made their moments and time holy. Therefore they will not look at the time which I have given them as a commodity to be used for their own pleasure. They will know that I sanctify them and make all their time sacred through my word and the righteousness which I put upon them in my holy sacraments. Therefore they will not so use up all the time I have given them in the pursuit of their self-chosen pleasure and works but they will set a priority in the use of time to worship Me, to give praise and thanksgiving, to open their ears to My Word. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.
The Fourth Commandment:
Honour your father and your mother.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honour them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.
My priests know that I am the God who creates the orders and forms of government in this world to hold back the powers of chaos and disorder. They will know that disorder, chaos, and anarchy have their root in hell and come from the Evil One. They know that I have given them a family, that I establish my authority within the home, the church, and the community in which they live to hold back the powers of sin. They will not defile themselves by despising the order which I have created in the world by dishonouring father and mother, their family, their church and my pastors, or the rulers I have given them as my servants for their temporal good. You shall honour your father and your mother.
The Fifth Commandment:
You shall not murder.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbour in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.
My priests know that life is created by Me and is therefore sacred to Me. They will not defile themselves by the shedding of innocent blood, or by shortening and embittering the life of another. They will not pollute themselves by seeking to destroy with words or actions those to whom I have given life. Instead, My priests will continue to pray for, to intercede for all men, even those who are their enemies, and will do good to those who abuse them, just as I send rain upon the just and the unjust and cause the sun to shine upon the evil and the good. You shall not murder.
The Sixth Commandment:
You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.
My priests know that their bodies are the temple and residence of My Holy Spirit. They know that I made them male and female and have given them the good gift of their sexuality to be used in holy sacrifice to their spouse in marriage. Therefore, my priests will not defile themselves by indulging their sexual desire merely for the sake of their own lustful pleasure, nor will they regard the spouse I have given them with dishonour and put away that spouse because they are not pleased with the spouse I have given them. My priests shall not defile their minds or bodies with any kind of sexual sin. You shall not commit adultery.
The Seventh Commandment:
You shall not steal.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.
My priests know that I have given all that they have as a gift, that I make rich and I make poor. Therefore they will receive what they have from Me with thanks and will not look at that which I have given to another and seek to get for themselves what I have given to another. My priests will do honest work in order to serve their neighbour. They will be faithful in the stewardship of their possessions in order that My name might be great in the sight of the world. You shall not steal.
† A Prayer for Forgiveness †
O HOLY GOD, just Judge, no one is innocent in Your sight. No one is free from the uncleanliness of sin (Job 14: 4). I do not possess that glory that I must bring with me when I stand before Your throne of judgment (Romans 3: 23). I do not have the robe of innocence in which I must be clothed in Your sight. Seven times, no, many more times in every hour I fail (Proverbs 24: 16). Every day I sin seventy times seven times. The spirit is sometimes willing, but the flesh is always weak (Matthew 26: 41). The inner man is at times strong and firm, but the outer man is faint and weak. I do not do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I do not want to do (Romans 7: 19). Depraved and impious thoughts appear in my mind. Vain, useless, and harmful words come out of my mouth. Perverse, depraved, and unbefitting deeds pollute me. All my righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64: 6).
I do not dare to assert my righteousness before You (Romans 10: 3). Instead, I deeply humble myself before Your most righteous tribunal. I cry out to You from the depths (Psalm 130: 1, 3). Lord, if You hold our sins against us, who will survive? If You enter into judgment against us, who will remain (Psalm 143: 2)? If You measure us by the severe examination Your righteousness demands, how will we be able to stand before You? If You require an exact accounting for my life, I cannot give an excuse either for a thousand sins or for one (Job 9: 3). My mouth is stopped (Romans 3: 19). I confess that before You I am worthy of eternal suffering. I tearfully confess that I justly deserve eternal imprisonment.
For these sins that I commit every day of my life, I offer to You, O holy Father, the precious blood of Your Son, which was poured out on the altar of the cross. His blood cleanses me from all my transgressions (1 John 1: 7). My sins hold me captive and are powerful enemies, but still more precious and efficacious is the ransom of Your Son. May that most perfect, full, and holy ransom of Christ avail for me, for the forgiveness of my transgressions. Amen.
–from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy
Part 1.III (The Daily Lapse into Sin): Concordia Publishing House.
† A Prayer for Living a Holy Life †
Lord Jesus, by Your precious blood You redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, and called me to be Your very own, a fellow citizen with the saints. You, O Lord, know all things. You know that I love You. You know that my renewed heart desires to serve You in righteousness and holiness, to cast aside the sin that so easily entangles me, and to run with perseverance the race set before me. I grieve, O Lord, that I have so often failed to do what You, my precious Savior, have asked me. So often I have refused to follow You and Your example, instead choosing the paths of the world and the desires of my sinful flesh. In me there is no good thing. The good that I would do, I do not; and the evil that I would not, that I do. I am so wretched! Who will deliver me from this body of death? To You, my Savior and loving Friend, I flee. Uphold me with Your willing Spirit. You are the Author and Perfecter of my faith, having delivered me from the guilt and punishment of sin and having redeemed me from its power and dominion. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Purge every evil desire and thought from my heart and mind, and fill me with a pure love for You and Your will. Whether I live or die, may I be Yours alone and forever. Amen.
Lutheran Book of Prayer, Concordia Publishing House