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For a Busy Day

By J.R. Miller


      A Morning Prayer for a Busy or Troubled Week-day

      "Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You. Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground. For Your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in Your righteousness, bring me out of trouble." Psalm 143:8-11

      The sweetest flower needs heaven's sunshine and dew--to perfect its beauty and sustain its life. So does the holiest human life need God. A picture without sky in it is incomplete. Just so, a day on earth without a glimpse of heaven to brighten it, dies without a blessing. We rob our own heart and impoverish our life--if we do not avail ourselves of the help and renewal which we may get through prayer. Prayer lifts us into the very presence of God. It brings down upon us the power of Christ, according to the measure of our need, and the measure of our faith. He who lives without prayer--lives without God. He who lives a life of prayer--walks with God by day and by night. The more we have to do, and the more care we have--the more do we need to begin our days with prayer!

      No day starts well without its morning prayer. We need to get the touch of Christ's hand upon us, to give us calmness and strength as we go forth.

      There is a story of a Christian woman whose life was full of tasks and cares. One morning she had been unusually hurried in getting her household ready for the day, and she had not kept quiet and sweet through it all. She had lost patience and had become fretted and vexed. Her heart had been in a fever of disquiet all the morning.

      When the children were off for school and the pressing tasks were finished, the tired woman went to her own room. She was discouraged. The day had begun most unsatisfactorily. She took up her Bible and read the story of the healing of the sick woman, "He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose, and ministered unto them."

      "If I could have had that cooling, healing touch on my hand," she said, "before I began my morning's work, the fever would have left me, too, and then I could have ministered sweetly to my household." She had learned that the first touch in the morning, should be Christ's. We need his healing touch, before we are ready for any true serving.

      This is especially true of our week-days. We can get along better on Sunday. The air is clearer and heaven seems nearer. We rest from the tasks and toils which ofttimes so fill and overfill our hands on the other days. We do not have to go out into the noisy world to endure its frictions and strifes, and take part in its rivalries and competitions. We can stay at home, in love's quiet shelter, on Sundays, and go to God's house, which is a sanctuary for our souls, a quiet and still resting-place. It is not so hard for most of us to live sweetly and victoriously on Sunday.

      But the week-days try us. Many of us have to rise early and hurry away to work which is ofttimes hard, and which sometimes irks us. Perhaps we are thrown among people who are not kindly and congenial, who sorely try us and sometimes fret us by their spirit that is unrefined, their talk that is indecent, and their conduct that is distasteful. Perhaps the days bring their temptations, requiring us to be continually under sore restraint, lest we yield and say words we ought not to say. It may be that the grinding pressure of the day is too great for our strength, that the burdens are too heavy, the tasks too hard, the hours too long. Some of us must work under masters who are not always gentle and thoughtful, who exact more than is just, and who are lacking in sympathy and human feeling. Some of us have to contend all the day with discouraging conditions in business, meeting losses and sustaining reverses.

      It is our week-days, which test us. Many of us find it much harder to keep sweet and patient and at peace then, than on the quiet Sundays. Then we are within the gates of the refuge, with the dangers and troubles shut out; on the week-days we are out in the open, unsheltered field, where storms beat and suns smite and perils sweep unhindered. The Sundays are oases, with their wells of water and their palm-trees; the week-days are desert, with waterless sands, shadeless stretches, and torrid winds.

      In an old psalm there is a prayer that is most fitting for the morning of a busy weekday. It is not new--but human hearts change not, human needs are the same in all centuries, and therefore this prayer which no doubt brought blessing to a struggling life, when first offered long ago, may bring blessing into struggling lives any of these modern days. The prayer runs thus, "Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in You. Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground. For Your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life; in Your righteousness, bring me out of trouble." Psalm 143:8-11

      If we will make this prayer our own, it will bring blessing and peace into our heart through the most troubled week-days. There are six petitions in the prayer.

      1. To Hear God's Voice First

      "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you." This is a prayer that the first voice to break upon our ear at the opening of the day, shall be the voice of God, speaking in love. We ought to try to see Christ's face--before we look upon any human face, when we awake in the morning. Drummond says, "Five minutes spent in the companionship of Christ, every morning--yes, two minutes, if it is face to face and heart to heart--will change your whole day, will make every thought and feeling different, will enable you to do things for his sake--which you would not have done for your own sake, or for any one's sake."

      Perhaps not sufficient use is made of the Bible in the ordinary devotions of Christian people. It is not enough to speak to God, telling him of our needs, our dangers, our sins, our troubles, and to plead with him for help, for favor, for comfort. We must also listen to God speak to us, and we must be quiet that we may hear what He has to say. We must feed our souls on His holy Word. No exercise of devotion is complete, without the reading of some verse or verses which will start inspiring thoughts in our minds. If nothing more is possible, we should take at least a verse for the day. This will prove a blessing through all the hours. It will start a song in our heart, in the early morning, which will go singing until nightfall. It will bring a fragment of heaven down into our common life, to brighten it, and to become impulse, cheer, comfort, encouragement, and hope for us--when cares and duties grow burdensome. It will give us a definite lesson to master for the day; it will set a standard before us toward which to strive; it will speak to us a word of counsel to make the way plainer for our feet; it will become a lamp to shine on our path to show us how to walk.

      It is sweet to look into Christ's face in the first waking moment, to thank him for his love, to receive his smile of forgiveness and peace and his blessing for the day. It prepares us for duty. It gives us fresh courage. "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." After our little time with God in the morning, we are ready for anything the day may bring, and need dread no possible experience.

      It was said that when the rays of morning broke over the plains of ancient Egypt, the harp of Memnon, held in the hands of the famous statue at Thebes, poured out soft, sweet music on the air. The waves of morning light made the music, as they swept gently over the chords of the harp. When the beams of God's loving-kindness touch our hearts at the early dawn, they should start songs of gladness, joy, and peace.

      A strange instrument hung on an old castle wall--so the legend runs. No one knew how to use it. Its strings were broken and covered with the dust of many years. Those who looked at the instrument wondered what it was, and what purpose it had served. One day a stranger came to the castle gate and entered the hall. His eye noted the harp on the wall, and, taking it down, he reverently brushed away the dust and tenderly reset the broken strings. The chords long silent, woke beneath his skillful touch, and all who heard the music were thrilled by it. It was the master, long absent, who had come back again to his castle!

      It is only a legend--but it is a legend with a meaning. In every human soul, there hangs a marvelous harp, dust-covered, with strings jangled and broken, until the Master comes, and with his own hand mends the broken harp and strikes it with his own fingers.

      If we would have a day of songful life--we must open our heart every morning to the Master, Christ. He will repair the strings which sin has broken and put them in tune, and then will sweep them with his skillful fingers. Then we can go forth to experiences of peace and blessing. When the song of God's love is singing in our soul we are ready for the new day.

      2. For Divine Guidance

      The second petition of this morning prayer is, "Show me the way I should walk." We cannot know the way ourselves. The path across one little day seems very short--but none of us can find it ourselves. Each day is a hidden world to our eyes, as we enter it in the morning. We cannot see one step before us, as we go forth. An impenetrable veil covers the brightest day, as with night's black robes. It may have joys and prosperities for us, or it may bring to us sorrows and adversities. Our path may lead us into a garden, or the garden may be a Gethsemane. We have our plans as we go out in the morning--but we are not sure that they will be realized. The day will bring duties, responsibilities, temptations, perils, tangles which our fingers cannot unravel, intricate or obscure paths in which we cannot find the way.

      What could be more fitting in the morning than the prayer, "Show me the way I should walk"? God knows all that is in the day for us. His eye sees to its close--and he can be our guide. There is no promise given more repeatedly in the Bible, than that of divine guidance. We have it in the shepherd psalm, "He leads me in the paths of righteousness." Paths of righteousness are right paths. Of course, God will never lead us in any wrong or sinful way. That is one meaning. All God's paths are clean and holy. They are the ways of His commandments. But there is another sense in which they are right paths. They are the right ways, the best ways for us. Ofttimes they are not the ways which we would have chosen. They do not seem to be good ways. But nevertheless they are right, and lead to blessing and honor. We are always safe, therefore, in praying this prayer on the morning of any day, "Show me the way I should walk."

      God has many ways of answering this prayer. When we ask him to show us the road--He puts his Word into our hands, and says, "Take, and read." The Bible is of use to us only when we read it and ponder its teachings, and then set ourselves to obey it. This suggests again the importance of reading the Bible in our morning devotions. Otherwise, how shall we learn what God would say to us in answer to our prayer?

      There are other ways. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father. No matter through what source, or at the lips of what messenger, the counsel or the wisdom comes--it is from God. When you are in some perplexity about duty, and pray that God would cause you to know the way in which you should walk, you may find the answer in a book whose words, as you read them, make the way plain and clear to you. Or you may find it in the quiet words of a friend to whom you turn with your question. Happy are the young people who, in their days of inexperience, when all life is yet new--have a wise older friend to whom they may go with perfect trust with the questions that must always arise. Far more than we realize, does God show us the way through human guides. He thus hides himself in the love and wisdom, of those who are dear to us.

      It is from the mother that the little child receives the answer to this prayer. "God could not be everywhere present--and therefore he made mothers," said the old rabbis. Teachers come after our mothers, as the guides of our youth. Then all through the days, God reveals himself in the lives of those who touch us with their love, and influence us through their wisdom and goodness. In the olden days angels came to tell men what God would have them do. No doubt they come yet, ministering unseen and unheard, whispering in our ears many a suggestion which sets our feet in safe and right paths. Yet there are human angels--for angels are only God's messengers, those whom he sends.

      God answers our prayer also in his providences. One day after you have prayed your morning prayer, you are sent in from your busy life, to lie down on a sick-bed; probably you do not think of this as God's answer to your request to be shown the way--but it is so. Your path leads into the shadows, and you must suffer a while. No doubt this is the right way. You are learning some lesson that you could not have learned out in the crowded street, in the open field, or in the busy mart.

      There are certain song-birds which are taught new songs by being shut up for a time in the darkness. Another bird with the song that is to be learned, is brought and placed near the little prisoner, where it sings its sweet notes over and over. The bird in the darkness listens, catches the song, learns it; and when it is taken out into the light, it knows the new song and sings it everywhere. So God ofttimes takes his children into the darkness, that he may teach them some song they would not learn in the busy world. In the shadows of the sick-room, they hear the sweet things they are to learn.

      Comfort they had never known before, breaks out as in strains of heavenly music from old familiar Bible texts which they had learned from childhood. Friends come and tell them precious things about the love and grace of God, and sing hymns of faith and hope, in their quiet chamber. The Spirit of God whispers in their ears, the things of Christ. After all this experience, the curtain is drawn and these children of God go out into the world to sing in the light--the songs they have learned in the darkness.

      Life is full of these strange answers to our morning prayer, "Show me the way I should walk." Sometimes a sore disappointment comes, or a keen sorrow, or a misfortune, as we call it, seeing but the earthly side, and the beginning of the experience. Our plans are rudely set aside. Our hopes are laid in the dust. "Surely this is not the way!" we say. Yet why should we doubt that it is so--when we have asked our Father to cause us to know the way? Shall we not rather sweetly accept His guidance, believing that the path in which we are led--is the right one?

      If Joseph had prayed this prayer the morning he left home to go on the errand to his brothers, he might have wondered on his way to Egypt, as a slave--if that were the right answer. But as the years went on, he learned that there had been no mistake that day. If he had escaped from his brothers or from the caravan, he would have only spoiled one of God's thoughts of love for him. So it is always, when we put our hand in God's and trust him. He may lead us through valleys of shadows--but beyond the gloom, we shall come to green pastures. It is safe, as we go out into the unopened day, to pray, "Show me the way I should walk."

      3. To Be Kept from Evil

      The third petition of this morning prayer is, "Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You." The day is full of dangers--dangers we cannot see, and from which we cannot protect ourselves. Disease lurks in the air we breathe, and hides in the water we drink, or in the food we eat. Along the street where we walk, on the railway over which we ride, there are perils. Any moment we may be stricken down! There may be enemies who are plotting against us, conspiring to do us harm.

      There are certainly spiritual enemies, who are seeking to destroy us! The sunniest day is full of them. No African jungle is so full of savage and blood-thirsty wild beasts--as the common days in our lives are full of spiritual enemies and perils. These dangers are unseen--and hence cannot protect ourselves. "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy! He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!" 1 Peter 5:8

      What, then, can we do? As we go out in the morning we can offer this prayer, "Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You." We can thus put our frail, imperiled lives--into the hands of our almighty God.

      "Cast your burden upon the Lord--and He shall sustain you." Psalm 55:22. We are not promised that our prayers shall take the perils and temptations out of our day. It is not thus, that God usually helps. We are bidden to cast our burden upon the Lord--but we are not told that he will lift it away from us. The promise is that we shall be sustained and strengthened in bearing it.

      We need the burden! It is God's gift to us, and has a blessing in it, which we cannot afford to miss. Prayer does not take our trials away--but it puts our life into the hands of God--so that in His keeping, we shall be kept from harm while we pass through our trials. It brings God's grace into our heart--to preserve us from falling into sin; and God's strength into our life--that we may be victorious over our enemies.

      Not to pray as we go into the day's dangers and trials--is to meet them without the help of Christ, and surely to suffer hurt, and possibly to fall into sin.

      A writer says, "A sorrow comes upon you. Omit prayer, and you fall out of God's testing--into the devil's temptation; you get angry, hard of heart, reckless. But meet the dreadful hour with prayer, cast your care on God, claim him as your Father, though he seems cruel--and the degrading, paralyzing, embittering effects of pain and sorrow pass away; a stream of sanctifying and softening thought pours into the soul, and that which might have wrought your fall--but works in you the peaceable fruits of righteousness."

      There are some people who omit private prayer in the morning, praying only in the evening. But how can any one safely go out to meet the perils and evils of all kinds, which lie hidden in the sunshine of the fairest, quietest day--without having first committed the keeping of his life to God? A young girl recently told how that one morning, being late and hurried, she did not offer her usual prayer before leaving her room. After she had gone to her work, her little brother, who slept in the same room with his sister, came to his mother, evidently much distressed about something. He told her that Alice had not said her prayer that morning before she went to work, adding, "I'm afraid something will happen to her today." Then, after a moment's thoughtful pause, he said, " I'm going to say her prayer for her." And the little, loving intercessor fell on his knees beside his mother's chair--and made an earnest, tender prayer for the sister who had forgotten that morning to pray for herself. The child felt that there were dangers in the great world, amid which his sister would not be safe that day, unless the hand of prayer had drawn the divine shelter down about her.

      If we understood what perils there are for us in any common day, if our eyes were opened that we might have a glimpse of the enemies that wait for us in cloud and sunshine--we would never dare to go forth from our door any morning--until we had asked God to keep us from harm and deliver us from evil.

      4. To Be Taught to Do God's Will

      The fourth petition of this morning prayer is, "Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground." A little earlier the prayer was, "Show me the way I should walk." But knowing the way is not enough; we must also walk in it. Mary Lyon said she feared nothing so much, as that she should not know all her duty, and that she should not do it. When we ask God in the morning to show us the way--we must ask him also to teach us to go in the right path. "Teach me to do Your will . . . may your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground." A great many people know their duty--and do not do it. Perhaps none of us do all the duty we know. Indeed, none of us do all that we sincerely intend to do. At the best, our performance falls below our ideal.

      While the spirit is willing--the flesh is weak, and therefore we blunder and come short in our holiest endeavors. Our clumsy hands mar the lovely ideals which our souls vision. It is not enough that we be taught what we ought to do; we need to add the prayer, "Teach me to do your will."

      Our hearts are not inclined to do the things that are right. It is not easy to be godly. The tide sets ever against us. We need to be taught and trained and led with strong hand--in the way of God's commandments. We do not go far in the path of holiness--until we find that we must be saved almost in spite of ourselves. Paul's experience in the seventh chapter of Romans, is soon discovered to be a very common one in earnest Christian living. "I do not understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do."

      Yet we are not to despair of learning the lesson of true and holy living, because we find it hard, even impossible, to unhelped human nature. Nothing is impossible to the grace of God. If the gospel of love only caused us to know the way in which we should walk, we might despair, for alone we never could walk in this way, however well we might know it. But the gospel does more--it also teaches us how to walk, how to attain the beauty that seems so hard to attain.

      The little child has feet--but it does not know how to use them. The time comes, when it must learn to walk. The mother begins to teach it. The lesson must be learned slowly. It is not enough to tell the child what it is expected to do, or to explain to it the way men and women walk, or to show it an example of good walking. The little feet lack both strength and skill for the exercise. The wise mother sets about teaching her child how to walk. She tries first to get it to take a single step, and then two steps, and patiently trains it until by and by the child can walk and run easily at will. So must we be taught to walk in God's ways. We have to learn in short, easy lessons, one step, and then another, and then another, until at length we can walk and not be weary, and run and not faint.

      How is this prayer answered? In what way does God teach us how to do his will? First, he sets the lessons for us in the Scriptures. Our morning Bible reading gives us a copy, as when a scholar is given a clean white page with a beautifully written copy at the top of it. He is to try to write on the lines of the page like the copy. If he is only a beginner, his writing falls far short of the beautiful top line. But if he is diligent and faithful, the successive lines show evidence, at least, of striving to learn. Our Scripture text for the day is the copy set for us.

      It is, for example, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Naturally we are selfish, and think only of ourselves. We are not disposed to give much thought to others. We are quite apt to pass by on the other side when we see one who is in some trouble or need. At least, we are not likely to stop to help our neighbors carry their loads. But as we go out in the morning with our bit of Bible lesson in mind and heart, intent on letting it into our life--we soon begin to find that we cannot give our undivided attention to ourselves. Our text stands by us like an angel mentor, sharply reminding us at almost every step that here and here and here--are overburdened ones whom we must try to help a little with their load.

      One such new lesson set for us every morning will keep us ever learning how to live, how to do God's will. We cannot learn our lessons in any one day, for they are long; but if we are earnest and diligent, we shall always be at school and shall be continually advancing in our spiritual education. Then, while we apply ourselves to our lessons we have the help of the divine Spirit. When we strive to learn our lessons, doing our best to put upon the canvas of our life the beautiful things of God's thought and will, and when we grow weary--not of--but in, our effort--God will assist us.

      In faith and love we may go forth, morning by morning, praying, "Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God."

      5. Life For The Day

      The fifth petition of this morning prayer is, "For Your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life!" We have no strength for the duties and conflicts of the day. Life is too hard for us. Its burdens are heavier than we can bear. Its duties are too serious for our unaided wisdom. Its sorrows would break our heart--if no divine help or comfort came. Our life is too scant in its own fountains; we must have God!

      No one is ready to go forth into any common day--until he has received divine strength. And this is promised to everyone who will seek it. It comes in many ways. You are in sorrow, and, opening the Bible, you read words of comfort. As you read and believe, there comes into your soul a blessing of strength and peace, and you are strangely comforted. Or you are entering into a temptation. You have no strength of your own to meet it. Again there comes a word of Scripture with its promise of help, and with the word comes strength which nerves your heart, and you are more than conqueror through Christ.

      6. Deliverance From Trouble

      The last petition of this wonderful morning prayer is, "In your righteousness, bring my soul out of trouble." We can never plan our life so as to miss sorrow. Indeed, the ministry of pain is indispensable in human life. Gardeners, sometimes, when they would bring a rose to richer blooming, deprive it for a season of light and moisture. Silent and dark it stands, dropping one fading leaf after another, and seeming to go patiently down to death. But when every leaf is dropped and the plant stands stripped to the uttermost, a new life is seen then working in the buds, from which shall spring a tenderer foliage and a brighter wealth of flowers. So, often, in celestial gardening, every leaf of earthly joy must drop before a new and divine bloom visits the soul."

      Thus it is that sorrow itself works blessing and good in the believer, when he is truly in communion with Christ. Deliverance from the trouble is not always granted; ofttimes this would not be a kindness; it would be the taking away of a rich blessing. We are not delivered from it--but in it we are kept from all harm, and receive good instead.

      Such is this old-time morning prayer for a busy or troubled week-day. It is as appropriate for us as it was for those who centuries ago breathed out its words and found their day made safe and bright by the protection, the grace, and the love of Christ.

      "Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You. Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground. For Your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in Your righteousness, bring me out of trouble." Psalm 143:8-11

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