Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Devotion and Prayer for Thanksgiving Day

Rev. Johann Friedrich Starck
Rev. Johann Friedrich Starck
successor to Philipp Jakob Spener – the “Father of Pietism” – in Frankfurt, DE (early 18th Century)
The following devotion and prayer was written by noted devotional author and poet, Rev. Johann Friedrich Starck, of Frankfurt am Mainz, in his mightily influential devotional work, Daily Handbook in Good and Evil Days, first published in 1728, here translated into English by Rev. Joseph A. Stump in 1904, from the posthumous and final edition of 1776. Starck was also a noted pietist, the successor of Philipp Jakob Spener (d. 1705) in Frankfurt, and evidently a preferred devotional author of Rev. Dr. Franz Pieper (LCMS): in 1900, Concordia Publishing House (CPH) – the publishing organ of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) – published a German edition of Starck’s devotional work that had been “Missouri-ized” by Pieper; and in 1921, Concordia subsequently published an English edition in two separate volumes, entitled, Starck’s Prayer-Book and Starck’s Motherhood Prayers. Both can be purchased today in a single volume from Emanuel Press as Stark’s Prayer-Book: Concordia Edition.

Regarding Stump’s translation, the translator of the 1921 Concordia Edition (W.H.T. Dau), had this to say in his Preface: “The translation is made from the German edition of Dr. Pieper of 1900. Comparison was possible to the translator only with the editions published by Kohler and the German Literary Board. Each of these editions has its distinct merit, the latter excelling by its faithful adherence to the original, its apt renderings, and happy paraphrases.” Regarding Starck, his Prayer-Book and Pieper’s endorsement of it, Dau comments further in his Preface, as follows:
    “Johann Friedrich Starck, a favorite author of evangelical Germany in the era of Pietism, has more than other writer of devotional literature maintained his hold on the hearts of practising (not merely professing!) Christians. Even Arnd’s True Christianity booksellers assert, does not equal the incluence which Starck still exerts on thousands of Christians by his Prayer-Book...

    Rev. Dr. Franz Pieper (LCMS)
    Rev. Dr. Franz Pieper (LCMS)
    published a German edition of Starck’s Prayer-Book for LCMS Lutherans
    “Starck’s predecessor in Frankfurt had been Spener, ‘the father of Pietism,’ and it fell on Starck’s lot to water what Spener had sowed. For thirty years he conducted ‘private’ devotional exercised on Sunday afternoons. These exercises, which were attended by a number of earnest souls, were private only in as far as they were distinct from the regular publis services at the church. At these exercised Starck endeavored to impress the evangelical truths of Christianity, the priceless privileges of the grace of Christ and the Christian ordinances, and the practical duties of a consistent Christian life on his individual hearerswith true pastoral tact...

    “Starck loved nothing sensational, nothing that was for mere display in matters of religion. Christian life, to him, was real and earnest, to be conducted in a sober mind... While he maintained the confessional position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and rejoiced to be a member of it, his teaching was tinged with the peculiarities of the Pietistic tendency... However, this defect occurs only occasionally, perhaps least in the Prayer-Book, and there are so many sections in Starck’s writings that are entirely free from error that Starck himself supplies the needed correction for his occasional deviations from the straight path of the sound doctrine.

    “When Dr. F. Pieper, years ago, examined the Prayer-Book with a view to applying, wherever needed, this self-correction of Starck, this was done with no sacrilegious hand, but really to secure for Starck a fuller reward of his faithful labors for a sincere and zealous Christian life. The revisor really helped Starck to speak his full Christian mind everywhere, and to discard what was of inferior value or even misleading in his presentation of Christian truths...”
Both Stump’s and Dau’s English editions included English hymns. I preferred neither that were included with the following devotion, so concluded it with my own selection from The Lutheran Hymnal.



Pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Phillipsburg, NJ

Burlington, Iowa
German Literary Board



For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness (Ho. 2:8-9).

IF there be a striking manifestation of God’s goodness which is apparent to all men, it is undoubtedly the annual harvest, when God, after having guarded the seed throughout the winter in the earth, having let it bloom and grow and bear fruit in the summer, and having warded off hail and damage by storm, fills barn and cellar with His blessings. But if there be a benefit of which the world makes light and for which it is least thankful to God, it is this very harvest. For ungrateful men imagine that it must be so; that according to the course of nature things must grow, and that God has nothing to do with it. For this reason God in just anger sometimes makes the harvest a failure, in order that all men may see that the ground cannot produce if He does not make it do so, and that nothing can grow without His blessing.

A Christian views the matter differently. When he beholds the full ears of grain, and the vines heavily laden with grapes, (1) he lifts his eyes to heaven, and praises the almighty Creator, Giver, and Preserver of these blessings, who from one grain has produced so many grains, and from an insignificant vine has brought forth such precious fruit. (2) He praises God’s Providence, which has sent the early and the latter rains in their seasons, warded off hurtful thunderstorms, drought, hail, and floods, and preserved the harvest. And when he now sees the grain harvested and hauled into the barn, and the grapes crushed in the wine-press, (3) he receives all these gifts with grateful heart and hands. (4) He uses them and enjoys them with thanksgiving. He acknowledges that God nourishes, sustains, and preserves him. (5) He lets the goodness of God lead him to repentance. If men are thankful to their fellow-men for the gift of clothing or food, and avoid offending their benefactors, why should not we give thanks to our greatest Benefactor, who gives us all things?


O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: and His mercy endureth for ever. Thus I say, O my God, now that I have seen another blessed harvest gathered. O gracious God, how great is Thy mercy to us! Thou hast laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever. And in this earth Thou hast laid Thy glorious treasures, and makest it bring forth the fruits which nourish and sustain us. Thou hast crowned this year abundantly with Thy goodness; and Thy paths drop fatness. Thou hast watered the hills from Thy chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy works. Thou hast caused the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that Thou mightest bring forth food out of the earth.

O faithful Father! Thou hast this year again bestowed upon us. Thy unthankful children, food and drink; Thou hast preserved the harvest. Heaven has heard the cry of the earth; and the earth has brought forth corn and wine. Thou hast given us the early and the latter rains in their seasons. And now our fields have bloomed and offered us the bounty with which Thy blessing covered them. Our trees have brought forth all manner of beautiful fruit, and the vine has made us glad. Loving God and Father, Thou hast spread the wings of Thy mercy over all the land: Thou hast let the sunshine ripen the crops, and hast protected them from hail and blight and drought and flood. When we slept. Thou didst wake; Thou wast Guardian and Keeper over our fields. O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches. All creatures, men and beasts, wait upon Thee, that Thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That Thou givest them, they gather; Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good.

Yes, abundantly indeed hast Thou, O God, blessed us this year with Thy gifts. And now we thank Thee from our inmost soul. O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Let us enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Let us say with grateful heart: The Lord hath done great things for us; yea, the Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. O Lord, Lord, grant us grace not to misuse these gifts and benefits which Thou hast bestowed, but to learn from them to appreciate Thy love and faithfulness toward us. And if, O God, some unthankful souls should abuse Thy gifts by gluttony or intoxication, do not on that account withdraw Thy blessing from us, but preserve it unto us according to Thy mercy.

O Father, who hast loved us with an everlasting love, and who through these bodily blessings also hast drawn us with loving-kindness, desiring that in the gifts we may recognize the Giver, and in the benefits the Benefactor; grant, that Thy goodness may lead us to repentance, and that, whenever we see Thy gifts before us on the table or take them into our hands or mouth, we may lift up our eyes to Thee, the Fountain of all blessings. And as by these gifts Thou dost sustain our body, so let us be nourished and strengthened in the inward man, and increase in faith and love and holiness through the means of grace which Thou hast ordained; that we may grow in all goodness, and be changed from glory to glory, till at last we shall be admitted to the enjoyment of the heavenly blessings of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Amen.

    O Lord, whose bounteous hand again
         Hath poured Thy gifts in plenty down,
    Who all creation dost sustain
         And all the earth with goodness crown,
    Lord of the harvest, here we own
    Our joy to be Thy gift alone.

    Oh, may we ne’er with thankless heart
         Forget from whom our blessings flow!
    Still, Lord, Thy heav’nly grace impart;
         Still teach us what to Thee we owe.
    Lord, may our lives with fruit divine
    Return Thy care and prove us Thine.

    Lord, grant that we who so to Thee
         With joy in endless life may reap.
    Of ev’ry heart the Guardian be;
         By day and night Thy servants keep
    That all to Thee may joy afford
    On thy great harvest-day, O Lord.


    The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), #567
      Author: Unknown
      Text: Ps. 65:9
      Strassburg, 1541

1 comment:

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

It is interesting to note W.H.T. Dau's defense of Pieper's "Missourian augmentations" of Starck's devotional work: "When Dr. F. Pieper, years ago, examined the Prayer-Book with a view to applying, wherever needed, this self-correction of Starck, this was done with no sacrilegious hand, but really to secure for Starck a fuller reward of his faithful labors for a sincere and zealous Christian life. The reviser really helped Starck to speak his full Christian mind everywhere, and to discard what was of inferior value or even misleading in his presentation of Christian truths..."

"Self-correction... fuller reward... sincere and zealous Christian life... helped Starck speak his full Christian mind... discard what was inferior... or... misleading..."

We read this devotion from the Concordia Edition last night. I thought it was a fine devotion and prayer and thought I would share it with Intrepid Lutheran readers for Thanksgiving Day. Looking for an English edition in the public domain (and, upon re-reading the copyright in the Emmanuel Press edition, I now see that I probably could have used the text in the hardcopy from Emmanuel that we use in the home...), I discovered Stump's English edition. I found it peculiarly close to Dau's "fresh" English translation, with the following, most glaring difference.

In Stump's direct English translation of Starck's work in German, he has Starck pray as follows: "And if, O God, some unthankful souls should abuse Thy gifts by gluttony or intoxication, do not on that account withdraw Thy blessing from us, but preserve it unto us according to Thy mercy."

In Dau's English translation of Pieper's "Missourized" version of Starck, we discover that Starck's "full Christian mind" really meant to pray: "O God, if some who are ungrateful should show contempt for Thy gifts by using them for gluttony or refusing to thank Thee for them, do not on that account withdraw Thy blessing from us, but preserve them for us according to Thy mercy."

I wonder what was "inferior... or... misleading...," or in need of "correction" for the "fuller" promotion of a "sincere and zealous Christian life" in Starck's prayer against "intoxication"? Why did Piper/Dau omit reference to "intoxication"? I was always taught that the clear and repeated teaching of Scripture is that, while the consumption of intoxicating beverages is not, ipso facto, sinful, the state of inebriation is a sin to be specifically avoided. And, I have found, those who consume intoxicating beverages are in much greater need of more frequent and ardent reminders of this fact than those who do not.

Why do confessional Lutheran's gleefully celebrate the liberty of enjoying God's gift of alcohol without an attending commensurate warning of the sinfulness of overindulgence?

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