Saturday, February 19, 2011

Morning Family Prayer

Psalm 5:3 and a number of other verses in scripture establish a pattern of morning prayer among the lives of those devoted to seeking God. In my own life I have sought to develop habits of morning prayer, but as I become busier with mission work and I spend longer nights in an irregular schedule I find it harder and harder to keep a consistent practice of disciplined morning prayer. In spite of my own lack of discipline (for I confess that this is what it must be), the constant has been morning family prayer with the two American Baptist missionaries who are my close mentors, friends and landlords. Because of the husband's international travel, the couple created a consistent morning prayer devotion and discipline that centers around Celtic liturgy, meditation on the scripture and daily petition to the Father. No matter where they are in the world, they can practice the same prayer together whether together or apart. During my time with them, I have found their invitation into their morning prayer practice an invaluable blessing.

The prayer is structured by Celtic Daily Prayer, developed from readings from prayers published by the Northumbria Community in Celtic Daily Prayer. They altered the prayer briefly as they found their own hearts gripped by the words. Praying liturgy that's based on the Bible often means praying the Word of God, and I find myself convicted often as I recite words that belonged to the mouth and pen of David and the disciples in moments of zeal and passion. I often quote them in the weariness of the morning and the apathy of fuzzy-headedness, but my heart responds to the fire and zeal that the should pour out of my heart regardless of the physical circumstances. I want the ability to say without hypocrisy that regardless of the circumstances I live to experience the heart, and the beauty, and the glory of God.

In the name of the Father,
and of the son
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

One thing I have asked of the Lord.
This is what I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever,
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and to seek Him in His temple.

Do you seek the heart of God with all your heart?
Amen. Lord have mercy.
Do you seek the soul of God with all your soul?
Amen. Lord have mercy.
Do you seek the mind of God with all your mind?
Amen. Lord have mercy.
Do you seek the strength of God with all your strength?
Amen. Christ have mercy.

The scripture readings use a small portion of the Old and New Testament, which is followed by reading devotional material, for 2010 we read Sieze the Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and we are currently reading Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs.

As the opening liturgy is recited I find myself disturbed every time I call or respond to the question "Do you seek the heart of God with all your heart?" Many mornings I can only say the words because I know the response includes "Lord, have mercy." Am I really seeking the heart of God with all my heart? Am I seeking God's heart, His feelings, His burdens, His concerns, His yearnings for this lost and dying world, His love, with all of my heart. Am I seeking His heart with all of my time? with all of my strength? Is it the focus of my emotions? Am I, like Jeremiah, caught in a vortex of Holy emotion, torn by the affections of a Holy God? Lord, have mercy.

I yearn to be a man who seeks the heart of God with his whole heart. I want to chase God down. I want to be a man who is always after God's heart. I want to be absorbed in the passionate love of God and like Jesus, channel the compassion of God with a ministry empowered by the Holy Spirit. Every morning my heart leaps, sometimes in excitement and sometimes in terror, at the prospect of seeking God's heart with all of my heart. In all of my life, I cannot think of ever being more convicted by a question. That question alone keeps me from rattling off the liturgy on automatic pilot. It humbles me. It frightens me. And when we come to the Word of God, I find myself searching for God's heart within the words.

We read from a NRSV XL, their favorite translation in a large print easy reading format, which is helpful for bleary-eyed mornings.

The short scripture readings precede prayer and often our prayers are influenced by stories of Jephthah, Jesus and Paul as the narratives of the faith stir our hearts to prayer.

Opening the word prayerfully means opening our hearts and minds to God, His will and His Holy Spirit. I am convinced that there is no better way to wake up.

The scripture is followed by the history of the Church as told through the Christan martyrs whose blood was part of the spread of the gospel throughout the ages to our generation. Much of church history is told in the simple stories of the martyrs and the Voice of the Martyrs 2007 update of Foxe's Book of Martyrs tells the stories of the martyrs from the stoning of Stephen to the modern day persecution of the church in the 10/40 window. These stories fan the flame of zeal for Christ as we realize that truly those who overcome are those who do not love their lives even to the death. Can I live today with a love that's willing to die? Can I live as a martyr waiting to leave his life behind finally and totally? Will my day be worthy of the blood that brought the message of the savior's blood to me? In the words of Leonard Ravenhill, "Is what you're living for worth Christ dying for?" The stories of the martyrs humble and convict even as they inspire and stir. May the Lord make us like them. May the Lord make us like Jesus.

Our morning prayer is concluded with the reminder and the promise and blessing of peace.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you.
Wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

In the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


  1. Thank you for this word. It is a timely reminder to seek out the Lord in every circumstance. This week it found me at the ER experiencing Atrial Fibrilation. And now has me experiencing medication side effects and adjusting to a new life. It is scary as God walks with me down a path I would not have chosen, but a path that he has used to share my testimony of faith to those I would not have otherwise come in contact with.

    May God continue to bless you and your ministry. Praying for you.

  2. I'm praying for you Keven. I saw the report on Facebook. May the Holy Spirit strengthen you, bless you, heal you and give you peace in this difficult time.