I’ve just finished an extended time of rest with my family and friends, away from the regular demands of ministry (and the rest of life, for that matter). One of the benefits of time away is the break it creates with normal routines. You have the luxury of space in your day. A slower pace. Unplanned and unhurried time, opening the way to new rhythms as you get some distance from how you’d been living, maybe in ways that weren’t healthy, sustainable, intentional, or enjoyable.
One of the greatest joys of my time of rest were daily appointments of communion with God that had no boundaries. I could just read his Word. I could just sit quietly, letting the RPMs of my mind cycle down to almost zero. I could just talk to him with a freedom flowing from an empty iCal.
This new rhythm revealed how unhealthy my regular, not-on-vacation rhythm of communion with God had become. Hurried. Distracted. Restless. Anxious. Bounded. Enter this morning, the dawn of a new day, Monday morning, post-vacation communion with God. A reading of and meditation upon Psalm 55. A Psalm that Alex Motyer titles “The Balanced Life.”
That’s God timing for you, folks.
In this Psalm, King David writes this:
“As for me,
I will call out to God,
and Yahweh himself will save me.
Evening and morning and noonday,
I will muse and murmur,
and he is sure to hear my voice.
In peace he has ransomed my soul from the battle I had…
The transcendent God will hear…”
(Psalm 55:16-19, Motyer’s translation)
See it there? The rhythm David discovered?
‘Evening and morning and noonday, I will muse and murmur…’
That, my friend, is a rhythm, and a healthy one at that. Unbounded—David isn’t relegating his praying and his pursuing to any one portion of the day; rather, he will enter into communion with his Father throughout the day. He is confident that God will hear his voice, God himself will save.
That’s so good.
But it’s worth thinking about this further. Digging a little deeper. Alex Motyer offers this ‘Pause for Thought’ in his daily devotional of the Psalms. I quote it at length, because its that helpful. And it is my prayer that it will help you in your pursuit of our Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Regularity, setting specific times apart for prayer—and keeping to them in a disciplined way—is something the Bible encourages. We all find the story of Daniel’s practice in prayer moving to read (see Daniel 6:10). How, in spite of the king’s foolish, self-glorifying edict, he went to his upper room, with its windows towards Jerusalem, and knelt down three times a day. We sense not only the old man’s yearning heart for the city of God, but his confidence in prayer and his commitment.
I wonder if Daniel had caught the vision of the threefold discipline from Psalm 55:17, ‘evening and morning and noonday’? How to end one day, and begin another; how to stop in the middle of a busy life and turn to God.
Isaiah made a forecast that the Servant of [Yahweh]—Jesus—would practice the discipline of what we used to call ‘the morning watch’ (see Isaiah 50:4), and Mark 1:35 records an occasion when he did just that. In Acts 3:1 we find Peter and John keeping the statutory hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and the devout Cornelius testifies to the same prayer discipline (see Acts 10:30).
Should we be ‘evening, morning, and noon’ people? The answer is, ‘Why not?’
Two truths are important before we make excuses about the busyness of life today. First, prayer is a simple thing, not necessarily prolonged (see Matthew 6:7-8), and secondly, none of the passages we have referred to says anything about the time when we pray or for what length of time. As soon as we think of starting the day with God, our minds begin thinking about four or five a.m. or some other unearthly hour—because we read somewhere that some great prayer-warrior was always up and about by then!
‘Setting aside time’ means just that—doing what is possible for us within our God-given day and our God-given abilities.
Time to read a verse of the Bible; time to call upon God.
And here’s a final thought: Psalm 55 begins with prayer (Psalm 55:1) and ends with trust (Psalm 55:23). If we say we are those who trust, those who are saved by faith, then a primary way this shows itself is to balance life’s demands with life’s prayers.
(Alex Motyer, Psalms by the Day: A New Devotional Translation, p. 147, paragraphing and emphasis mine)
Turn your ear, O God, to my prayer,
and do not hide yourself from my plea for grace.
And, for my part, [O God],
I keep trusting in you.
Just a brief reminder that a great way to prepare for the service this coming Sunday is to read the text we will be studying together.
One of the dangers of reading the stories of those followers of Jesus that we find in the Bible is we can treat them as if they are almost super-human.
Preparing For Sunday May 12, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
This last Sunday, I preached the first of two sermons on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Here was the sentence I began unpacking, which is my summary of both letters:
Martin Luther warned that the people of the church are always in danger of their hearts straying from the truth of the good news of the kingdom of God found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.
The Whole Story: Ephesians-Week Two
I attempted to show in the sermon this past Sunday that Paul offers us two anchor points for our lives, and upon which our lives depend.
Preparing For Sunday 19 May 2019
What do you think of when you see these two words together?...