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.
If you’ve been reading along in this little series—congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the first week. As a reward to both of us, you the reader, and myself as the writer, I’ve decided to make Sundays a “Grace Day.”
Day Five: Be Attentive To Wisdom
While it is hard to nail down a precise figure (I looked at a number of studies), one large study pulling together a number of other studies reports: “To conclude, a close analysis of [the] Infidelity rate and its growth pattern clearly indicates that nearly one half of all married men and women are involved in extramarital affairs.”
Day Four: Orienteering
Many who know me are quite aware that I am indoorsy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going for a run, a bike ride, or even a hike through the woods or in the mountains. It’s just that I don’t want to sleep out there. I believe God inspired us to create hotels and houses for a very good reason: to return to, enjoy, and sleep in. It’s a very important part of what separates us from the animals.
Day Three: A Heart of Wisdom
When we baptize someone at our church, we always remind our people that baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality. This picture of being lowered fully into the water and rising up again that happens on the outside for all to see, is a window into the soul of the baptized, revealing a heart cleansed, purified, and surrendered to Jesus, and thus saved, transformed, and made a part of the family.
Day Two: Our God Will Supply
It’s important we pause for a moment and look at the simple structure of Solomon’s book of Proverbs. The first nine chapters are extended descriptions of wisdom, largely in story form with instructions from a parent to a child, using at times images of “Lady Wisdom” and “Woman Folly.” They are there to explain two pathways, one that leads to a wise and good life, and one that leads to destruction. And these first nine chapters are there to help us see why we should care about chapters ten through thirty-one, which contain all the individual sayings of wisdom for which the book is famous.
Day One: The Fear of Yahweh
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, English Standard Version) I argued in yesterday’s post how God has hardwired wisdom into all of creation, and that wisdom is an applied skill in working with the grain of his design, and not against it, so that we may have a good life. An immediate question arises: if this is true, wouldn’t that mean a good life is available to all who recognize and pursue this, whether or not they believe in God?
Yesterday I preached the twenty-sixth sermon in The Whole Story sermon series, on the book of Proverbs. One of the main points of the sermon—because it is one of the main points of the book of Proverbs—is how wisdom is this thing that helps you see the way the world truly is, the way it works, so that you can live well inside of it. This is because wisdom is expertise and competence, it is applied skill, seen in the ways the Bible uses the word for craftsmen (Exodus 35:31), goldsmiths (Jeremiah 10:9), and sailors (Psalm 107:27).
This last Sunday, we made our way back into our Whole Story sermon series after a powerful four weeks taking a look at how we can help people ‘move to the right’, out of and away from the kingdom of darkness, and into the kingdom of the beloved Son. The sermon also served the purpose of kicking off our entry into the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, with the story of Job as our first step in that journey.