I have developed a bit of a habit of beginning my work day with just a few minutes of quiet. The more difficult my work, the more consistent I seem to be. Hm. Anyway, the few minutes of quiet are usually composed of something like read-praying, or pray-reading. (I’m not sure which.) I find myself turning more and more to pre-written prayers that I can borrow as my own prayers. These prayers are especially great for when my brain is too foggy or too famished or too fraught with the big needs of my little life to come up on my own with very intelligent or genuine prayers. So, pretty much every day. It’s a good thing for me that Christ-followers have been writing down their prayers for thousands of years so that I can lean on them.
I have a few sources from which I read often, and I want to mention one to you today because I have found it to be consistently just what I need:
- brief and simple – not too much
- deep and profound – not too little, it whisks me quickly into the Reality of God without being smarmy or sentimental
- a great introduction to new-to-me heroes of Faith, Hope, and Love – you know – a few in the surrounding cloud of witnessing “saints,” whether officially canonized or not
And the book is: Daily Strength for Daily Needs, collected by Mary W. Tileston. It is so old that:
- at some point I found an electronic version of it for free on the internet, though I now own a hard copy since I found it fairly easily at a used bookstore
- the English is old, but I almost prefer it because it makes me pay attention; I feel like you could easily transcribe it in your head if the Thees and Thous are a bit too much for you
Each daily reading consists of three short entries, usually one Scripture, one poem or song, and one paragraph/prayer. Here is what I read today:
Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
MATTHEW vi. 32
All as God wills, who wisely heeds
To give or to withhold;
And knoweth more of all my needs
Than all my prayers have told.
J. G. WHITTIER
LORD, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee; Thou only knowest what I need, Thou loves me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations; I simply present myself before Thee; I open my heart to Thee. Behold my needs which I know not myself; see, and do according to Thy tender mercy. Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up; I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will. Teach me to pray; pray Thyself in me.
FRANCOIS DE LA MOTHE FENELON
Surely you do not need my commentary on that, but here it is anyway: just a few phrases that hummed louder than the rest and that now will stream through the back of my consciousness as I do my inward, outward, and upward Work today:
And knoweth more of all my needs
Than all my prayers have told…
…I simply present myself before Thee…
…I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice…
…pray Thyself in me…
The entire mound that is my accumulated, prayed needs – filling many journals and many desperate prattling ons, I can assure you – is a tiny bump compared to the vast stack of my actual needs that are preserved, treasured, and pondered in the mind and heart of God. All that is mine to do is to show up to God, to present myself to God, to be sure that I am present and attentive if and when God’s Voice wavers in my general or specific direction. Even Prayer is not wholly mine to which to attend to — God prays in me.* A silent offering of myself is enough Prayer even for God.
A good way to start my work day, don’t you think? 😉
*PS. To read more about this – the idea of God praying in you – get your hands on something, anything written by Maria Boulding – it is a stunning and recurring theme of hers.