Austentation was born from my teenage admiration of the costumes and styles found in the novels (and related films) of and by Jane Austen. A few years ago, however, as I was participating in a Bible study, I was struck by these words found in I Peter 3:3-5, |
“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves...”
Through Austentation, I have devoted a great deal of time and effort on these "external adornements", and encouraged others to do the same; but what about those things which are actually "precious" in the sight of God? One day, all I have ever worked for or accumulated will be gone. With eternity in mind, would it not be far better to strive towards that which is "imperishable"? Jane Austen (‘A Lady’, as she humbly styled herself) is one of those “women of former times” who adorned herself with a "meek and quiet heart" and we can learn much from her.
I was recently given the opportunity to preview a copy of Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge. In reading it, I was inspired by the way she used Jane Austen's own prayers as a springboard for personal devotions, managing to present Jane Austen’s life “in a style entirely new”, and taking a closer look at the heart behind the one of the most beloved authors of all time.
Much of what is known of Jane’s life comes in the form of her (censored) letters and the reminiscences of family members. While these details paint a cheerful and amusing picture, that which made Jane, Jane, lies at the heart of the three existing prayers we have that she wrote for use during evening prayers. We do not know why she wrote them- whether out of an overflow of devotion or at the bequest of some family member, but the serious, heartfelt tone, when examined, adds a deeper shade to our understanding of the writer. These are no “vain repetitions”, but rather intimate, whole life lessons, summing up the core values of a woman once noted for her desire for anonymity.
In this book, Rachel Dodge closely examines each line of each prayer, in a day by day format, allowing for a 31 day devotional, to be used either in succession, or occasionally. Using Jane’s own historical background as well as Ms. Dodge’s extensive knowledge of Austen’s fictional works, the prayers are placed into context in Jane’s life, along with insightful ways to apply them to our own, often busy, lives. Each day includes related scripture as well as a call to prayer and worship as the reader seeks to apply Jane’s prayers to her own life. This breaking down works amazingly well to draw out the depth of Austen’s own writing and brings the reader a greater appreciation of Austen’s already acknowledged genius with language and the human heart.
As a keen observer of people, it is here, in these prayers, that Austen turns her critical eye to her own life with her famous desire to “pray so as to deserve to be heard.” At first blush, this may sound like a works based petition, but a full reading of her hopes, confession of her faults, and humility in recognizing God as the author of all, reveals the mind of a Godly woman who seeks to know and be forgiven for her own sins, both of omission and commission.
“Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God,
and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.”
I have read and written about Jane for years, and still found myself overwhelmed by the depth of her writing in these prayers, which I had never fully studied, as well as incredibly impressed by Ms. Dodge’s skill in bringing together so many aspects of Austen’s life. Both of these ladies felt like sisters in Christ as they jointly encouraged me in my Christian walk and prayer life over the course of the study. If you have a love of Jane Austen's works and a desire to "grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18) then I suggest this book as a great place to start.
If you do not already have a relationship with the Christ who loves us and gave His life for us, then that is your beginning point. In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus said,
"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The first place to start in developing a gentle and quiet spirit, is from one who was gentle and quiet himself. Jane Austen recognized this dependence and need in her written prayers
Father of Heaven! whose goodness has brought us in safety to the close of this day, dispose our hearts in fervent prayer...
Give us grace to endeavour after a truly Christian spirit to seek to attain that temper of forbearance and patience of which our blessed saviour has set us the highest example; and which, while it prepares us for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure to us the best enjoyment of what this world can give. Incline us oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves...and may we by the assistance of thy holy spirit so conduct ourselves on earth as to secure an eternity of happiness with each other in thy heavenly kingdom. Grant this most merciful Father, for the sake of our blessed saviour in whose holy name and words we further address thee.
Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Jane ends all her prayers with "The Lord's Prayer", the very words Jesus, himself, used to teach his disciples how to pray in Matthew 5. The truth is that even though we try to be good people and live good lives, we are not perfect. Let me share with you a few simple Bible truths.
Everyone of us is a sinner.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
No matter what our religious background is, we all fall short of God’s standard of perfection.
There is a punishment for that sin.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…
Ezekiel 18:4 …the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities [sins] have separated between you and your God,
As frightening a though as it is, the Bible tells us that everyone who dies goes to one of two places, either heaven or hell.
Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving… shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Your own self-effort cannot pay the penalty for your sin.
Many people think that they can find favor in God’s eyes by living a good life, or going to church, or getting baptized or giving money to certain organizations. And while those are good things, remember the standard is perfection
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Galatians 2:21 …for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Don’t compare yourself to other men and women who may be better people or worse people than you are. The standard is the perfect Holiness of God.
God in His justice demands payment for sin…God in His love and mercy supplied that payment for us through His Son.
Jesus paid that price for you.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
God, took all of your sins and placed them on Jesus Christ while He hung on the cross, God in His love for us, punished Jesus Christ for your sins.
1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness…
You must accept this free gift.
How does someone who is not perfect get into heaven?
Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
You Have A Decision to Make!
You can either continue to trust in your own good works and self-effort or you can believe what the Bible says about Eternal Life.
Will you place your trust in Christ right now?
Receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Savior means you must believe that He died for your sin, was buried and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. You receive Jesus Christ by faith, calling upon Him in prayer to come into your life, forgive you of your sin, and give you eternal life.
If you believe these truths from the Bible and if you want to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, pray this simple prayer.
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I deserve to die and go to hell. But I do believe that you died on the cross for my sin. Right now I am trusting you to be my Savior. Thank you for forgiving my sin and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life and help me to be a good Christian. Amen.