Before I become an Anglican, someone gave me a collection of Puritan Prayers called The Valley of Vision. Those prayers were my first real experience of using set prayers as part of my devotional life. Back then and even now, I'm struck by the depth of feeling and the spiritual vitally present in each of these prayers, and, as someone with great affection for a well-wrought turn of phrase and arresting imagery, I have always been struck by the beauty of the language contained within them.
During our pastorate last night, we used a section of one the prayers as a springboard for our discussion, and I wanted to share that paragraph with you here.
Make me fruitful by living to that love,
my character becoming more beautiful every day.
If traces of Christ’s love-artistry be upon me,
may he work on with his divine brush
until the complete image be obtained
and I be made a perfect copy of him,
--from "The Love of Jesus," The Valley of Vision
If someone asked you what the goal of the Christian life is how would you answer? There are lots of ways to answer that question, but Paul answers the question this way---the goal of the Christian life is that we would be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This prayer assumes that we are to look like Jesus but imagines that it is God himself who is painting the image of Christ on the canvas of our lives.
As we discussed the prayer, we asked this question---what are the brushstrokes God has painted on the canvas of your life? What circumstances, trials, elations, relationships has he used to paint the image of Christ on you? These are questions worth contemplating any time, but they are especially appropriate for the season of Lent. Lent can be a season where we acutely sense the ways in which the image of Christ has not been formed in our lives, and a season when it feels that God begins anew his brushwork, his "love-artistry" to paint on this image of his beloved Son.
I would encourage you to meditate on these questions as part of your Lenten practices, and to pray day by day, in and out of Lent, that He would make your character beautiful.