Good morning. It is Monday, August 17, 2015. Two more days until Stephanie’s birthday!
Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is refractory. This is an adjective, meaning, “1 : resisting control or authority : stubborn, unmanageable,” “2 : resistant to treatment or cure,” or, “3 : capable of enduring high temperatures.”
Today is Black Cat Appreciation Day. Here is our favorite black cat, “Screamer.”
We had a fine day, yesterday. We got the groceries done (after waiting 25 minutes for a small order from Sonic!), and Christi went to get a massage, thinking that it might help some with her calf muscle pain. She says it’s better this morning. It still hurts, but she has more movement capability, this morning. So maybe it did help some. Her neck and shoulder are sore, but they feel more loose, as well.
My band practice doesn’t start until 7:45, this evening, due to “Band Camp” at the middle school where we practice. So I’ll have time to come home and eat dinner before practice, tonight. Supposedly, we are still going to get finished at 9:00.
This is a truncated week for us. Actually, we decided we are having a two-day week, with a day off, and then another two-day week. 🙂
I just realized that I forgot to read my Bible reading yesterday. So I may double up today. We’ll see. It’s certainly not the end of the world if I don’t finish it in exactly a year.
Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 92:1-3.
A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
“We need to be disentangled from all cares if we would seriously apply ourselves to the praises of God. The Psalmist then would teach us that the right observance of the Sabbath does not consist in idleness, as some absurdly imagine, but in the celebration of the Divine name.” (p 230)
(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)
In a section called “Spiritual ‘Riffing’ on the Lord’s Prayer,” Timothy Keller continues to give us insights from Martin Luther’s letter on prayer. Before launching into “free-form” prayer, Luther suggests that we “should pray through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrasing and personalizing each one,” using our own personal needs. Keller compares the prayers to “musical riffs–improvisations on a theme.”
For example, on the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread,” Luther says, “‘I commend to thee my house and property, wife and child. Grant that I can manage them well, supporting and educating them.'” Luther strongly advises that we not recite his words verbatim, but that we should personalize it, as it would be “‘nothing but idle chatter and prattle, read word for word out of a book.'” It would also defeat the purpose. In fact, Luther insists that he would not even paraphrase it the same way, two days in a row. “‘I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending on my mood and feeling.'”
What are the values of this exercise? One thing it does is address a major difficulty that I have in prayer, and that is “distracting thoughts.” “Ordinary prayer, which is either completely extempore or based on a list of prayer needs, often cannot draw the mind’s attention fully away from what occupied it previously.” Another thing it does is to improve our prayer language. (And by “prayer language” I am not speaking of some mystical mumbling of nonsense syllables in “prayer.”) If we are left to our own devices, we will likely pray about only what is troubling us at the moment. However, if we force ourselves to pray through the Model Prayer, we are led to pray for the advance of the Gospel in our community and world, as well as in our relationships. We compel ourselves to accept things that God has allowed, by praying “Your will be done.” We find ourselves in confession mode when confronted with sin when we pray “forgive us our debts.” This portion also forces us to look at whether we are holding grudges. “Praying the Lord’s Prayer forces us to look for things to thank and praise god for in our dark times, and it presses us to repent and seek forgiveness during times of prosperity and success. It disciplines us to bring every part of our lives to God.”
The last thing of value that is mentioned here is that, unlike meditating on a Scripture verse, praying through the Lord’s Prayer is actually prayer. It addresses God, and it has the authority of the words of Jesus Christ, and it is the perfect way to segue into the things that are pressing on our hearts. It could take only two to three minutes, or it could “catch fire” and last for quite a while.
So to summarize Luther’s advice: We should first meditate on some Scripture, then we should paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer to fit our personal lives, and then we should pray from the heart. “This full exercise, he adds, should be done twice a day.”
Father, as you continue to teach me to pray, I am grateful for the advice of those who have gone before, and who have labored much longer and harder in prayer than I probably ever will. I pray that I might take this advice to heart and employ what can fit my needs and practices. May these things permeate my being, making my prayer to you more personal, more effective, and more fervent. Keep teaching me, Lord, for I will never have learned it all.
I pray for this day ahead, that our travel will be safe and smooth. May our work day go well today, and may we focus on your grace and mercy, regardless of the circumstances. I pray for Stephanie today, that she would know your love and mercy in her life, and that you would grant her wisdom and understanding. Show her meaning for her life, Father. I pray for Rachel, asking that she was able to get everything finished for the final submission today, and that she can breathe a sigh of relief, that her most intense laboring is over. Help her find the right path for her future. I lift up my mother, that your grace would surround her today.
Your grace is sufficient.
Some good advice from Martin Luther on prayer today. I will seek to follow it this morning.
Grace and peace, friends.