Today is Ash Wednesday, the day when we are reminded of out human frailty facing death and sin.
This is also the day when begin our journey through Lent, a beautiful season of reflection.
Last year, TCM put together a devotional. This year, we did not do that.
So we are encouraging you to find a devotional.
Here is one that is free to download: http://www.luthersem.edu/lent/
If you are already signed up to receive Luther Seminary’s GodPause, then you will automatically receive the daily devotional in your email.
Thursday, December 25 – Christmas Day
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may life you up in due time. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
This is reassurance of what I already know. Let God carry our fears of the unknown.
Wednesday, December 24 – Christmas Eve
“For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:36
Patience and endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that God has promised.
Tuesday, December 23
“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.” Titus 2:3 (King James Version)
This gives me some ideas on what I am actually supposed to do while I wait. It also tells me that as an aging woman becomes less valuable in our society that in God’s eyes an aging woman is still valuable and useful in God’s kingdom.
Monday, December 22
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice… Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:4, 6-13 (King James Version)
One of the biggest challenges while we wait is to always remember to rejoice and praise God, the God who hears our prayers and gives us strength to make it through life’s hurdles.
Sunday, December 21 – Fourth Sunday in Advent
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Though we would wish so, our expectations for “good things” have no timetable attached. In God’s time, through his love for us, good and perhaps unexpected results will come to pass.
Saturday, December 20
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:26-28 (The Message by Eugene Peterson)
God knows all about us, what we pray before we prays. God knows our hearts. God promises that everything works for good. This is a reassuring thought.
Last week we at TCM finished up a short study about prayer. I earnestly hope and pray that the several lively conversations have helped to deepen prayer lives and open our eyes and hearts to see God at work.
Here is another portion of that study (one more section to be typed up for this blog):
Some of the best gifts we have are the many resources our ancestors pass down through the generations.
I will have you look through a Lutheran resource (although there are many other places you can find the same exact or similar prayers).
Grab your friendly ELW (that pretty cranberry hymnal in ELCA congregations, officially called Evangelical Lutheran Worship).
Next, I want you to turn to Luther’s Small Catechism. In the ELW, this is found after all the hymns at the back of the hymnal. You may have your own copy.
Turn to Martin Luther’s reflection on The Lord’s Prayer.
Read through the Introduction, Petitions, and Conclusion with their meanings.
We are reminded, each and every time we pray the Lord’s prayer, of who God is and what God provides.
We are God’s children, and God as loving Father provides for children.
We are called to live in a way that keeps God’s name holy (aka special, blessed, distinct).
We trust that we will live in God’s kingdom now and after death.
We pray that God will watch over everything that happens in our lives and that God will seek good for us.
We ask that God will provide all that we need to survive each day.
We live as ones who forgive and are forgiven, knowing that we cannot hold onto grudges and sins if we expect God to let go of our mistakes.
We seek God’s guidance in life to keep us from times, people and objects that lead us astray.
We know that God alone is the one who can protect us from evil.
And we end our prayer with an acknowledgment that God is mighty and powerful, boldly declaring our prayer as truth.
The Lord’s Prayer can be prayed at any time and as many times as you want. This is a simple prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.
A few words can provide so much meaning and cover so many aspects of our lives as we turn to God in prayer: guidance, provision, protection, forgiveness.
Daily prayer shapes each day in our lives but also our lives as a whole: hope and praise in the morning, reflection and mercy in the evening, peace and protection in the night.
Go to the section on Daily Prayer in the ELW. This is the last of the red tabs in the front part of the hymnal before the actual hymns start. As you read through the different prayer services (Morning, Evening, Night), pay attention to your emotions. I ask you to pay attention, because our prayers shape our moods just as much as our moods shape our prayers.
If we are people constantly praying for God to bless us, we look for blessings.
If we pray with words of gratitude, we notice what we are thankful for.
If we pray for safety and protection, we begin to sense someone watching over us.
If we pray only about hopelessness, we become somber and may struggle to find hope.
If we pray for joy even when the situation is less than joyful, we are reminded of where joy can be found.
One of the prayers (found in each of the daily prayer services) contains the following language: “O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us.”
Such a prayer leaves us open to possibility found in future acts with a trust that God will journey with us.
Read through the Morning Prayer (aka Matins).
Notice how the prayer service is all about praising God.
We start by saying “O lord open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” We use psalms that energize us (peppy “Come let us sing to the Lord”). We use prayers that are full of hope, praying that God will bless the new day. The gospel canticle is the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79), which is a song that blesses God for what has been given and for holding true to promises made to ancestors that God will provide salvation, forgiveness and hope in the future.
Just like in our lives, the start of anything is bright and exciting and full of possibility. Mornings are the start of a new day where anything can happen, so we pray that good will happen.
Morning prayer is all about looking forward to the start of something new, of moving towards the future. Such prayer matches the joy of starting a new aspect of life: the birth of babies, watching children grow, heading off to school, starting a new job, etc. There is much hope at the beginning, and we take time to praise God.
Read through Evening Prayer (Vespers).
Notice how this prayer service is about thanking God for the day as the day winds down.
This is a service that celebrates the light even as the darkness arrives. The words are all about God being with us as a light in the dark. We take time to lift prayers to God in a calming manner as the day draws to a close. The psalmody is based on Psalm 141 (“Let my prayer rise as incense”). Incense floats slowly without hurry, and so we do not rush at the end of the day, unlike the energizing movements of morning prayer. The canticle is the Magnificat or the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), a song of praise for what God has done to humble the mighty and to lift up the humble. The prayers are petitions for mercy.
Evening prayer is a reflection on the day while seeking peace in the coming night. We know that there are times when we were lifted up from the depths and there are times when we were humbled because of our pride.
If morning prayer matches the start of a new journey through life, evening prayer matches the times in our lives when we are starting to slow down and look back to see where we’ve been while knowing our journey is not yet ended.
Read through Night Prayer (Compline).
Notice how this service starts with a prayer for “a quiet night and peace at the last.”
After the day is over, we take time to reflect upon all that we did or didn’t do. We take time to confess faults and failings, mistakes made, actions undone. And we are given assurance of forgiveness. The Psalm is one of the prayers for God’s protection. While we sleep, we are unable to defend ourselves and therefore pray for God to watch over us. The suggested scriptures are short messages of peace, of encouraging us to give our cares over to God and to lay down our burdens. The gospel canticle is the Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) which begins “Now let your servant go in peace…” We commend our spirits to God, knowing that we cannot change what we have done but only that we must rely on God’s mercy and protection to see us through the night and into a new morning. The prayers are for rest for the weary, support for the troubled and mercy for the broken.
At the end of the day with night prayer, we pray that we have seen all we were meant to see and have done all that we meant to do.
Night prayer matches the somberness found at the end of one’s journey through life. We take time to reflect on what was done, good and bad. We acknowledge any regretful choices made and seek forgiveness. We turn to God for peace and mercy, knowing that God watches over us when we cannot do anything but rest. And through all of this, we seek the peace that God alone can provide for us.
I hope that such resources will be gifts to you as you continue to converse with God through prayer. Such prayers were considered helpful blessings to generations before us, which is why the prayers were recorded and passed down as aids for those who come next.