Morning Prayer

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.
(Augustine, 354 – 430)

The Faith of a Child

emmyrose“Let’s pray, Mama.”

It is a precious thing to see the spiritual life of a young child develop. As I watch our youngest grow in body and mind, I’m reminded again of the sacred trust we have as parents to guide our children’s souls.

Emily has learned to pray. She likes to pray and is very quick to remind me to do so when I set her meals in front of her.

Her favorite is, “O give thanks to the Lord for He is good. For His mercy endures forEVER! AMEN!”

I was suffering from one of my bad headaches the other day and she laid a soft hand of concern on mine. “Would you like me to pray for you, Mama?”

And she did. She knows that when she is sick, I hold her face in my hands and ask for God’s help. Now she does it for others.

The smallest thing will cause her conversation to move God-ward. The evening of Valentine’s Day, she found me in my reading chair, fresh tears on her cheeks.

pinkroses“Mama, I wanted to hold a flower, but Bubba (Will) said no, I can’t touch them.”

Will hadn’t meant any harm, but he thought I wouldn’t want her touching one of the roses from my Valentine’s bouquet.

So I let her have one of the velvety pink beauties to admire.

She felt the petals, rubbed them on her cheek, commenting on how “lovely” it felt. (I told her that is what her little ears felt like when she was brand new!) She sniffed the flower, then had me sniff it. She asked about the leaves and the little veins in the leaves. She noticed the color of the stem and asked what it was called. A leaf fell off the rose and she asked if she could glue it on some paper.

Then she began asking about the growth of the flower and whether it would still grow. Then she said, “Who made this flower?”

“God made it, Emmy,” I answered, looking into the exquisite center of that pink rose.

“Yes, God made it. God made everything. He made the sun and moon and stars…” Her list of things went on and on.

Then she stopped suddenly and smiled, remembering something I taught her a few months ago.

“We can’t see God, but he can ALWAYS see us.”

In her preschool mind, things were being ordered. An invisible God who has done visible things in His creation.

Mary, Emmy’s sister who is 17, picked up the flower and commented, “I had a question on my test, and it asked how we know there is a God. I wrote that even though we can’t see God, we can see the evidence for His existence everywhere.”

“Amen,” I said.

“AMEN!” shouted little sister.

When children rise up, when they lie down at night, when they eat breakfast, when they admire something in nature, in the van on the way to school, morning and noon and night, we can point our children to God. (Deuteronomy 6)

To put it in Emmy’s phrasing, “O give thanks to the Lord, for his mercy endures forEVER!” AMEN!”

(Note: the rose photos were taken by Mary a couple of years ago. She has a great eye for photography.)

Saturday Evening Prayer

Tom and I had coffee with a long time friend recently. Years ago, our friend gave us a small hymnal from the last century, and it is one of my treasures. This time, just before we left, he pressed into my hand a small black book. On the cover it said Habermann Prayers.

I had never heard of it before, but knowing who it was from, I suspected we’d been handed another treasure. When we got home, I sat down to read it. The book is the English translation of the original German prayers from the 16th century. I quickly read who “Habermann” was. Here is the first part of the preface:

This little manual of prayers herewith offered to English speaking
Christians in their own language, has long been one of the treasures of
the German people. With the exception of a few prayers, as hereinafter
noted, it was originally written by one of God’s noblemen, by one who
“lived and moved and had his being” in the things of the Kingdom of
God. Dr. John Habermann (known also as Avenarius, Latinized form of
Habermann) died 1590 as superintendent at Zeitz, was a famous preacher
and a distinguished scholar of his day. He was noted for his profound
knowledge of oriental languages especially of the Hebrew. Still it is
not this but the fact of his little prayer book that has endeared him
to his fellow Christians. And this manual of prayers is the mature
product of an inner life rich in the grace of God. On every page it
bears the stamp of one for whom the communion with the eternal Father
in heaven through the faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior, is a blessed
reality. Nothing more natural therefore also than that he should “live
and move and have his being” in the language of the Word of God…

You can read the complete preface, and the entire text of this beautiful Christian prayer book from nearly 500 years ago at this link here. Note the language of deep reverence for God in sharp contrast with so much culturally influenced material today. I hope the hymns, Psalms and prayers bless your soul as you come to the Lord in prayer. In that I am writing this on Saturday late afternoon, here is the beautiful prayer for Saturday evening, before the Lord’s Day.

Praise be unto Thee, Thou great and unchangeable God! Praise be unto
Thy goodness and mercy! Praise be unto Thy eternal wisdom and truth,
that Thou hast preserved me during the day now past from all danger and
harm. I pray Thee, graciously perfect Thy goodness which Thou hast
begun in me, and suffer me to rest this night under Thy protecting
shield, and cover me with Thy wings. Suffer me to put my trust under
the shadow of Thy hands, that I fear no evil. Keep me, O God, as the
apple of the eye. Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings. Lord, Thou art
the portion of mine inheritance; my salvation is in Thy hands. Grant
unto me, according to Thy goodness, that neither fear nor trembling
come over me, and no terrors of the night overwhelm me. Be merciful
unto me, for in Thee do I put my trust, and under the shadow of Thy
wings do I find my refuge.

I seek the Lord in the time of need; my hand
is outstretched in the night without ceasing; for my soul has none
other comfort; and I know of none other helper in heaven or earth but
Thee alone. At midnight when I awaken, I meditate upon Thy name, so
altogether lovely, upon Thy goodness and fidelity, vouchsafed unto me,
and I praise Thee because of Thy righteous judgments. When I am
troubled I remember God, when my spirit is overwhelmed I speak of my
Savior. For He redeemeth my life from destruction and saveth me from
the snares of death. Lord God, my Savior, by day and by night do I cry
unto Thee, pardon all my transgressions, which during this day and the
week now past I have committed against Thee. O Lord, deliver my soul
for Thy mercy’s sake. Thou art gracious and just, and our God is
merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple. I was brought low, and He
helped me. Therefore will I rejoice and praise Thee, and sing aloud
upon my bed. For the days of my life will appear as noonday, and
darkness as the morning’s light, and I will rejoice that Thou, O God,
art my hope and my rest in life and death. I lay me down, and none will
terrify me. Thus do I commend my body and soul into Thy hands, Thou
Faithful God. Thou hast redeemed me through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

~ Psalm 141:2

Robert Philip on Communion With God

“The highest human honor is access to the king.  Even a single interview with the monarch is highly coveted, and if obtained never forgotten.  How much more should access to the ‘King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible’, be prized and improved. But alas, it is not so in general.  We are naturally averse to ‘draw nigh unto God’.  We invent excuses for the neglect of prayer and are prone to hurry over devotion.  The time which ought to be sacred to God is often sacrificed to the world; but we seldom sacrifice to God any of the time which belongs to the world.  There is nothing that we have more reason to be ashamed of than our low views upon the subject of secret prayer.

In the Old Testament, the high priest had access annually to the mercy-seat in the holy of holies; and when within the veil God communed with him from between the cherubim.  He could say with certainty as he entered with blood and incense, ‘I will hear what God the Lord will speak for He will speak peace to His people’.  Now with such an introduction as the typical blood of the atonement, and such a welcome awaiting him, what should we have thought and said of the high priest if he had neglected to go into the holy of holies, or had not gone to the mercy-seat, or had come out before he heard what God the Lord would speak.  Had any priest been guilty of this neglect, all hearts would have been shocked at his impiety, and all voices united in condemning him.  We should have expected to hear that, like the offerers of ‘strange fire’, he was suddenly consumed by fire.  But is it not more shocking and sinful not to draw nigh unto God now that the eternal throne is the mercy-seat, the blood of the Lamb our introduction and plea?  And access to God on the mercy-seat is now daily.  At all times, in all places, and under all circumstances, we may ‘come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need’. Why, then, is this freedom of access so little prized or improved?  The Ark of the Covenant was, no doubt, splendid, and the golden mercy seat sublime, and the cherubim majestic; but these were only ‘shadows of good things to come’; whereas we have in our closets the ‘good things’ themselves.  There we may behold the brighteness of the Father’s glory in the face of Jesus and see His person and work in all that was shadowed within the veil.  All the real value of the holy of holies and its magnificent mercy-seat was, that there God heard and answered prayer.  The types are now useless and the answer of prayer secured by the intercession of Christ. The closet is preferable to the temple if communion with God be our object.  When we retire to it we meet God only, we speak to God alone.

“Alone with God! How solemn and sublime! Such access to Him has no parallel in heaven itself.  We could not have entered within the veil of the temple, even if we had lived when the temple was in all its glory; but, if we could have entered to pray before the mercy-seat, what would it have been compared with thus meeting in the ‘closet’ with nothing but God, and with God all to ourselves?  Why should we ever be reluctant to pray, or heartless in prayer?  Secret prayer is a private interview with God, as real as that at the bush in Midian, or that on Mount Peniel, vouchsafed to Moses and Jacob.  If therefore we would readily welcome such visits from God as the patriarchs were favored with, what ought we to think of the daily privilege of visiting God in secret, and being noticed, heard and remembered by Him for good?  Truly prayer is access to God.  How willingly and cheerfully ought we to enter our closets, and pray to the Father who seeth  in secret and rewardeth openly!”

–Robert Philip, taken from Communion with God; A Guide to the Devotional Spirit

Published and available through Reformation Heritage Books.