Welcome to the daily prayer guide for the month of September! Today is Wednesday, Sept. 7.
As we try to focus on God’s glorious and eternal nature, it might help to borrow words from a hymn, words penned by Joachim Neander in 1680. Try lifting them as the opening part of your prayer time: “All my hope is firmly grounded in the great and living Lord; who, whenever I most need him, never fails to keep his word. God I must wholly trust, God the ever good and just. Thank, O thank, our great Creator, thru God’s only Son this day, God alone, the heavenly potter, made us out of earth and clay. Quick to heed, strong in deed, God shall all the people feed.”
Now consider an aspect of prayer we have not yet raised in this series: confession. Think about your sins, your actions not aligned with God’s plan, and confess them in prayer, asking God for forgiveness.
Having praised God and confessed sin, move to any petitions you may have. Again, remember your family members, asking that the truth of Jesus Christ be firmly implanted in their hearts. Continue to remember the sick, the lonely, the anxious, the needy and the spiritually lost. Pray for them by name.
Pray for your church and its role in the world, seeking spiritual strength for its leaders.
Before moving to the Bible verses for the day, let me say something about the experience of reading Scripture during prayer time. Some of what we read can shock us. Yesterday’s readings were a good example. In Psalm 101, David went from a very righteous-sounding disdain for sin to a declaration that he would destroy the wicked under the control of his kingly hand. It is an assertion that stings the ears of people raised on democracy and due process. Jeremiah foretold terrible destruction for sinners, evoking images that are hard for us to bear.
For modern people, these verses create a problem when we fail to allow for context. Holiness sometimes had to be learned in hard ways by pre-Christian people living in cultures very different from our own. Don’t shrink back from such readings, though. Meditate on them thoroughly, keeping in mind that prayer time, just like Scripture, can be challenging.
As the monk-writer Thomas Merton wrote, “It is of the very nature of the Bible to affront, perplex and astonish the human mind. Hence the reader who opens the Bible must be prepared for disorientation, confusion, incomprehension, perhaps outrage.” (Opening the Bible, 1970, page 11.)
With all that in mind, take time to read these Bible verses in a contemplative and meaningful way: Jeremiah 20:1-18; Luke 18:18-30.
Give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer. At this point, I am going to assume you know it by heart. I also offer you an eighth-century Irish prayer for the middle of the day:
“Dear, chaste Christ, who can see into every heart and read every mind, take hold of my thoughts. Bring my thoughts back to me and clasp me to yourself.”
Again, give yourself a few minutes of silence before resuming your day.
As you review your day, pay attention to how conscious you were of God’s presence.
I hope you are continuing the meditative prayer time in the evening. Don’t be surprised if you have a breakthrough in this area this week. If you are just beginning to try meditative prayer, you can review “Life and Breath” and “Under Water.“
If you’re struggling with meditative prayer, instead focus more deeply on your reflection about the day. A pad and pen might help; you could list “pros” and “cons” about earlier events, seeking God’s guidance regarding what you might have changed. As you exhale, release sin, and as you inhale, accept grace.
Have a blessed evening and good sleep.