Feb 27, 2023

Johann Frelinghuysen


Orthodox means right thinking.  Someone who is orthodox in faith is thinking right about God.  Dead orthodoxy is a way of describing right thinking that leads nowhere.  What good is orthodoxy (right thinking) if it doesn’t lead to orthopraxy (right behavior)?  We can have all our theological ducks in a row yet still lack spiritual vitality.  Jesus said, “Not everyone who says, to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 17.21).  Pietism was a 17th century movement in Germany concerned that Protestant churches were more focused on heady stuff like doctrine and theology (right thinking) than matters of the heart and putting faith into practice (right behavior).  Piety is a word that has fallen out of favor in our day and has become associated with self-righteousness. Originally, the word meant devoted.  Johann Anastasias Frelinghuysen (1670-1737) was a Pietist who sought to recover a vital spirituality among God’s people.  He organized his congregation into small groups for prayer and faithful Scripture reading. He founded orphanages for children left destitute by war and a series of deadly plagues.  He wrote hymns that expressed his desire for spiritual renewal.  Forty-four of his hymns survive in our day.  The words of one such hymn serves as our focus in prayer.  Jesus, give light to those who are spiritually lost.  Grant life to those who are spiritually dead.  Liberate those imprisoned by guilt and paralyzed by fear.  Bestow peace to those in turmoil.  If only we would take his prayer into our hearts:

Who is like you, Jesus, sweet Jesus.You are the light of those who are spiritually lost,
You are the life of those who are spiritually dead,
You are the liberation of those who are imprisoned by guilt.
You are the glory of those who hate themselves,
You are the guardian of those who are paralyzed by fear,
You are the guide of those who are bewildered by falsehood.
You are the peace of those who are in turmoil,
You are the prince of those who yearn to be led,
You are the priest of those who seek the truth

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.