Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. ~Psalm 143:8~
Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith. ~1 Thessalonians 3:10~
Mornings get a bad rap in busy, sleep-deprived, burn-the-midnight-oil-then-get-up-and-get-to-work world where every day becomes grind; a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual battle just to survive. On the other end, our evenings are filled with playing to-do list catch-up, children’s extra-curricular activities, keeping up with minimal household chores, and so much more.
We are busy. Too busy.
Always moving but rarely arriving at the place we desire to be.
“…if I were to let my life be taken over by what is urgent, I might very well never get around to what is essential. It’s so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters and never starting to live, really live.” ― Henri Nouwen, Letters to Marc About Jesus
When was the last time you let yourself ease into the new day, sipping a coffee while watching the sun rise from below the horizon to shining brightly in the morning sky? Have you ever walked in the fresh, dew-covered grass, enjoying the brisk coolness of the morning before the world begins to awake?
The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day. ― Henry Ward Beecher
As a culture we no longer sit on the front porch chatting with neighbors and passerbyers at the day cools down into evening. Instead we spend our time driving from garage to parking lot, entertained via headphones, televisions, and our phones. We are both more connected than ever while at the same time being increasingly disengaged in the lives of the people around us. We are either so consumed by a drive to achieve—or so distracted by those things which keep from achieving—that we fail to see the value, and the opportunities for meaningful interactions, that each day holds.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. ― Robert Louis Stevenson
In Genesis both work and rest are prescribed to humanity—both are good and necessary, at right times, in correct quantities, and done properly. Work is good and necessary, not only as a means of caring for our families and the community in which we live, but as a part of our God-given vocation of caring for the created world in which we live. Rest, in the same way, is good and necessary, providing the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual renewal that we need.
The exception is the Sabbath, the day on which there is to be no work (Exodus 20:10); a day reserved for rest and doing good (Mark 3:4). This Sabbath rest is to be a time of remembering all that God has done, trusting in God’s provision as we step away from our own efforts to provide for ourselves, and to entering into a time of fellowship with family, friends, and our community.
[Sabbath] declares in bodily ways that we will not participate in the anxiety system that pervades our social environment. We will not be defined by busyness and by acquisitiveness and by pursuit of more,… ― Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance
In the same way that God has given us the gift (yes, it is a gift when we realize fully its purpose and power to transform our lives in meaningfully ways) of a Sabbath day, we might also consider arranging our daily schedule with one or more “Sabbath moments” – short periods of time to intentionally and purposefully separate ourselves from the many busyness and distractions of the day for the purpose of praising God, praying, practicing hospitality, and putting our priorities in proper perspective. These Sabbath moments could take a variety of forms:
- Waking up 30 minutes before the rest of the household;
- A post-lunch “pillow retreat” while the kids nap;
- Sitting in the car for a few moments after work before driving home;
- A morning walk or evening stroll, alone or with a friend;
- Sitting around the table sharing with family the things for which we are thankful;
Susanna Wesley, mother of John Wesley, was said to sit at the kitchen table with a towel over her head as household activities continued all around her. During those few moments she was not to be bothered. I have found morning walks to be a time of refreshing reflection and preparation for the day ahead. Find something that works for you and do it well and do it consistently.
During one moment of personal prayer and reflection, while thinking about how, as a father, I could lead my family in the art of prayer, reflection, and good Sabbath rest, the Spirit gave to me a prayer. I began calling it “Morning Prayer” as we would read it—in part or in whole as part of our regular personal and family devotional time. For the purposes of this book, I have changed it name to “Discipleship Prayer” to avoid the misconception that it can only be used in the morning.
This discipleship prayer, I hope, will be a blessing and an encouragement to you, as it has been for me. Each days reading will focus on a line or phrase from the prayer along with related Scripture, quotes, song lyrics, journal reflections, and more. How and when you use each days reading is completely up to you. My primary encouragement to you is to not read these words only with the goal of simply doing your devotional duty, but rather with the hope of interacting with God, being strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and growing in Christlikeness.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you… ~Numbers 6:24-25~