My Morning Prayers
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is tell God that the day is His, not mine. I recognize that He is my Lord and my God, and my first job is to live for Him.
My next prayer happens when I turn to what I call my morning devotions. I’ve been building out my own liturgical prayer over the years, and it keeps growing sentence by sentence. It goes like this: “You made me, you saved me, you own me and you love me. There’s nothing that I have that’s not from you; there’s nothing I have that’s not a gift. You are good, and I will choose to rejoice in the trials that come my way today because they give me the opportunity to become more like you. I will choose not to fear the future because you will be with me.”
I start with “you made me,” because that’s fundamental to my obligation to live for God. Before I was forgiven for my sins, I was made by Him and for Him. That God created me entails my obeisance. Some people think of God as arrogant to demand our total allegiance – just who does He think He is? Well, He’s God. If God didn’t create us, then His demand for our servitude would be a naked power play – might makes right. But the fact of His making us means we owe Him everything. My life is a gift in a way, but much more it’s a responsibility.
“You saved me.” Saved from what? From my sin and the separation from God that it entails. God is totally “other,” totally good, and totally intolerant of rebellion – which is what sin is. The only way I can have a restored relationship with God is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. My faith in the saving work of Christ demands my obedience – not as a means of saving myself but as an expression of gratitude. Anything less would show my ingratitude and call into question whether my faith in Christ was genuine.
“You own me.” His creating me and then saving me means that He owns me. No other response would be appropriate. Full stop.
“You love me.” This one is important. God is not a tyrant but a lover of our souls. Think of who loves you the most, and then infinitely multiply that love to understand God’s love for us. He wants what is best for us, and He wants us to flourish. The “antitheist” Christopher Hitchens was glad not to believe in God since He would be a “celestial dictator.” But recognizing both God’s omniscience and His perfect love for us makes him more like a celestial lover.
“There’s nothing that I have that’s not from you; there’s nothing I have that’s not a gift.” What good thing do I have that I can’t ultimately trace to God? My parents, my genes, my daily food, my friends – they all come from God. He who created ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) is responsible for the goodness I enjoy. Recognizing my gifting snuffs out any room for arrogance or boasting and plants me in the realm of gratitude. And gratitude is the secret ingredient to a life of joy.
“You are good, and I will choose to rejoice in the trials that come my way today because they give me the opportunity to become more like you.” This one is challenging. I tend to measure my day by the extent to which things go the way I want them to go. Choosing to rejoice in things going awry transports me to an unseen world where the most important thing about my day is becoming like God. Sadly, trials and disappointments and sickness and other nasty things give me greater opportunities to be transformed into the likeness of God, but only if I humbly submit to Him and His ways amidst my suffering. And if it’s true that we were made for God and to become like God, then my sanctification is more important than living a life free of hardships. Suffering is not the summum malum (“greatest evil”); putting anything before God is.
“I will choose not to fear the future because you will be with me.” This one was added recently, because the older I get, the more I tend to fear the future. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I find myself thinking about all of the terrible things that happen to people and I worry they will happen to me or my loved ones. Indeed, they might all come to pass.
The reason not to fear isn’t because we can falsely believe our greatest fears won’t be realized, but because God promises to be with us in the future – until the “very end of the age.” And if God is with us, then good can come from suffering. Plus, what good is there in fearing the future? It’s bad enough to experience it when it happens, but there’s no point in compounding our hardships by pre-living them. Shakespeare said, “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.” And Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Fear is a misuse of our imagination.
On this, my 59th birthday, this is what I believe.