Daily Devotion for July 2, 2013
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer to Find God in Nature
Morning and evening, Lord, I beseech Thee, suffer my cry from this wood to reach Thee; these are Thy presents, Thy heart I find in the dark forest in sleet and wind.
As on the sea Thou sailest before, a cloud, that our ship might see this shore, so now Thou walkest, these trees Thy feet, and in this brook Thy heart doth beat.
Lord, I am fearless, Thy mercy shown, for where Thou art there is nought unknown; what are these seemings save Thine own? O grant Thy servant his grace of days, whose hours shall all be filled with praise: here Thy new works must numb’red be and fair names fitted to beast and tree. All to be learned, all to be loved, thus ever fresh Thy kingdom proved.
(based on The Kid by Conrad Aiken)
Prayer for Freedom from Fear
O Lord, I beseech you to deliver me, and all of your children, from the fear of the unknown future; from fear of failure; from fear of poverty; from fear of bereavement; from fear of loneliness; from fear of sickness and pain; from fear of age; from fear of death. Help us, O Father, by your grace to love and fear only you, and fill our hearts with cheerful courage and loving trust in you; through our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
Prayer for Unknown Needs
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on my weakness, and mercifully give me those things which for my unworthiness I dare not, and for my blindness I cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
May God Almighty send me his light and truth, to keep this day and all the days of my life. And may His mighty hand protect me, and all my brothers and sisters who have joined me in prayer this day, blessing our homes and our lives.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Once to Every Man and Nation
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
Paul's Conversion (Part 2)
(Saul, a Pharisee who was traveling to Damascus, seeking followers of Christ to arrest and return to Jerusalem for execution, heard a loud voice on the road. He was struck blind and weakened; his friends took him to Damascus.)
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.
The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, it was if scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Notes on the Scripture
The old hymn that Daily Prayer uses on occasion, Once to Every Man and Nation, actually began life as a poem by the great American poet and Boston brahmin, James Russell Lowell. Lowell considers that we each make a choice at some time in our life, a very profound choice that determines the course of our future, between “the good or evil side.” And in Boston, 1845, the “good side” necessarily included Christ.
We all make a lot of choices throughout our lives, and most of us — possibly all of us — make some decisions to do the right thing, and some decisions to do the wrong thing. In fact, people do both almost simultaneously sometimes; imagine someone mailing a check to an African mission on his or her way to meet an adulterous lover. So that can't be what Lowell means.
Our actions and our thoughts are always mixed. Every person exists in a grey area between absolute good and evil. But Christianity, more than any other religion, gives us one moment when we make a black or white choice: Do we give our hearts to Christ? Do we undergo a sincere baptism? For when we die to sin and are born again, our fundamental relationship to good and evil changes.
A person being baptized (or taking whatever step he takes to make a solemn commitment to Christ) does not swear never to sin again. It would be a false oath. It is an important part of knowing Christ that we try, as hard as we can, to reflect our love for Him in righteous living, but good works is a secondary tenet of Christianity. There is only one primary tenet: That we accept Christ in our hearts and bind ourselves to Him forever.
The decision not to follow Christ may not seem momentous to the person who rejects Him. To this man or woman, living as an atheist or agnostic may simply seem natural. Or to a “cultural Christian”, somebody who grew up in a church-going household and went through the motions of baptism or confirmation just because it was expected of them, it may seem that they never really decide.
But God knows. We may not be like Paul, and be hit by a bolt of lightning and told, “Tell me yes or no.” But God knows what is in our spirit and in our heart, and He knows the very second that our decision is made, for Him or against Him.
One thing important for Christians to realize: Commitment to Christ is not an emotion. Many Christians feel like phonies, sometimes, because their brains or emotions still have moments when they question their faith, perhaps even the existence of God.
If you have undergone a sincere acceptance of Christ, you are not a phony. You are a flawed human being who must have the grace of God to wash away your sins. It is accepting and believing in this forgiveness that makes us Christians, not our perfection in faith and works. For, ironically, it is our very faith that teaches us not to expect perfection in this life.