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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Morning Prayer (Psalm 5)

Morning Prayer (Psalm 5)

“O Lord, in the morning thou dost hear my voice: In the morning, I prepare a sacrifice for Thee, and watch,” (Psalm 5:3) We have an image of a person bringing a sacrifice to God each morning in this Psalm. Eugene Peterson writes in his book, Answering Prayer, p.66 “Sacrifice isn’t something we do for God, but simply setting out the stuff of life for Him to do something with. On the altar the sacrificial offering is changed into what is pleasing and acceptable to God. In the act of offering we give up ownership and control, and watch to see what God will do with it.”

The act of offering our lives to God as a sacrifice is mentioned many times throughout Scripture. In Romans 12:1 Paul begs his fellow Christians to present their lives and their bodies as living sacrifices to God. “I beseech you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your lives and your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

We offer our life each morning to God and then we “watch” to see how He directs our day. We watch to see what God will do with our hopes and fears. How He will direct our actions for the day! Morning prayer places us before the watchful God and reminds us to also watch for His guidance. The word “watch” seems to be the main word in the morning prayer of Psalm 5.

And we need to watch. The daylight world of action is often dangerous, full of enticements for us to go astray. We need to “watch” and be careful, because there are possibilities for evil actions in each new day. Psalm 5:5-6 lists some of the dangers. “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight. You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood: The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful person.”

And then the writer in Psalm 5:8 asks God for guidance into obedient action. “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies: Make Your way straight before my face.” We cannot be obedient in our own strength, especially when our enemies are tempting us to anger. We need Gods’ help, especially when it comes to our enemies, and He is always ready to give it. He will speak to us but we need to be listening.

The writer of Psalm 5 asks God to judge his enemies. He reminds God of how bad his enemies are and then asks God to do them in. This part of the prayer doesn’t sound “nice” to our ears. Let’s listen. “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth: Their inward part is destruction: their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue. Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels: Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against You.” (Psalm 5:9-10)

Enemies, especially for those who live by faith, are a fact of life. And it is so easy (and sometimes fun) to spend our energies judging and hating our enemies. But hatred and judgments can destroy us. God tells us that we are not created to judge and hate. Our job is to give the problems we have with our enemies to God and let Him judge them. He is big enough for the job. Romans 12:19 tells us “Never take revenge beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Perhaps the writer of Psalm 5 is giving his enemies up to God and asking Him to judge them, since revenge isn’t his job. In fact his job (and ours) is to forgive our enemies.

Psalm 4 is an evening prayer and it is introduced first - evening and morning made up the ancient Jewish day. There seems to be a rhythm to the prayers of the ancient Jewish worshipers. Their new day began at sundown with an evening prayer. Sleep (passivity) was the first order of their day where they let God work His will in them while they were dreaming. But then in the morning they would wake up to activity. And they needed to pray again (watch) for Gods’ leading in that activity. There was a rhythm here of evening and morning prayers.

As Christians we need to consistently spend time with God in prayer. If our prayers and Scripture meditation are hit and miss, our devotion to God may also be half-hearted. But if there is a rhythm to our prayers, -if we make time with God a high priority, it will affect a permanent change in our lives.

This month a popular magazine published an article by the famous Dr. Oz. The good doctor gives eight prescriptions for a healthy heart in this piece. First off Dr. Oz says to rise early each morning and start the day with six minutes of yoga. This practice will calm and strengthen the heart he insists. Many people make a habit of rising early to exercise, practice yoga, or run with the hopes of maintaining physical health. And this is good.

But what about our spiritual health? Can we develop disciplines for the spiritual too? The writer of the Psalms had the habit of beginning each new day with a morning prayer. He offered himself and the new day to God as a sacrifice. And then he watched to see what God would do, how God would lead.

My prayer life has been hit or miss. I like to pray when I feel like it in my own way. Public written prayers have always been difficult for me to pray. But of course there is a time for individual prayer and there is a time for praying as a body with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am inspired by the example in Psalms where prayer becomes a rhythm in the lives of Gods’ people and I need that rhythm in my life as well. I am going to follow the example and spend a few minutes before God each morning. Offer God my day, my life and then watch to see where He will lead. Would you like to join me?

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