Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer.

“Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me the joy of your saving help again, and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.”

(from the Book of Common Prayer, page 137, in the section “Daily Devotions”).

These excerpts from Psalm 51 are intended to knock the wind out of the Adversary every morning. These sacred words go right to the heart of the matter as the day begins… praise, purity, renewal, God’s presence, joy, rescue, and sustenance. Perhaps most importantly, there is an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, which isn’t all that common in the Hebrew Bible. But with the psalmist David, a man after God’s own heart, we find a deeply spiritual servant of God who is well aware of the Holy Spirit. These rich words need not be limited to the solitary pray-er. They can be applied to a group of loved ones and made into an intercessory prayer for them. It is deeply satisfying to include the family or other loved ones in this prayer. Merely substitute a plural for the singular, and ask God to apply the prayer to them. Create in us a pure heart; renew the right spirit in us; cast us not away; take not your Holy Spirit from us; give us the joy; sustain us. With this expansion of the intended recipients of the prayer, we are reminded of the plurality of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Can there be a better way to express your love of family members than to pray these holy words over them?

Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. In a world of unclean lips, how do we purify our mouths? That was the first question that came to Isaiah’s mind after witnessing his astounding vision of the King on His heavenly throne with attending angels. “I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). The best way of cleaning our lips is to praise God. It seems wise to make that our first task in the morning, before we even speak to anyone else. The following are recommended words of high praise to consider if our minds are a bit foggy first thing in the morning:

  1. “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens!” (Psalm 68:19);
  2. “Awake my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord,  among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”  (Psalm 57:8-11);
  3. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His Name.” (Hebrews 13:15);
  4. “Blessed are you, O Eternal! Our God, King of the universe, Almighty and merciful Father, who is praised by the mouth of His people, lauded and glorified by the tongue of His pious ones, His servants. With the songs of David, your servant, will we praise you, Eternal, our God, with laudatory hymns and psalmody, magnify and exalt and glorify you, invoke your Name and proclaim your sovereignty. Our King, our God, sole Being, eternally existing! O King! Praised and glorified for evermore be His great Name. Blessed are you, O Eternal King, who is adored with praises.”  (Jewish Morning Service);
  5. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  (Ephesians 1:3);
  6. “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your Name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.”  (Psalm 145:1-3);
  7. “Blessed and praised, glorified, extolled and exalted be the Name of the Supreme King of Kings, blessed be He! Who is the first and the last, and besides whom there is no God. Extol you Him who surmounts the high heavens by His Name, and exult in His presence; though His Name be exalted above all blessing and praise. Blessed be the Name of the glory of His kingdom for evermore, the Name of the Eternal Blessed from now and until everlasting.”  (Jewish Morning Service);
  8. “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your Name, O Most High; to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night. For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts! You, O Lord, are exalted forever!”  (Psalm 92:1-2, 4-5, 8).

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Just as our lips need cleansing, so does our heart. In the course of every day, our hearts reveal the deep stains that need to be washed away by the Holy Spirit. Only a thorough hand-scrubbing by the Lord will purify our heart. Only Living Water will wash the stain  away. For the dirt is ground deep into the fabric of the heart. The stains include hidden agendas in the heart, kept secret even from ourselves. Often we are mysteries unto ourselves, aren’t we? We can surprise ourselves with our double-mindedness and questionable convictions. How can we ever see deeply enough into our psyche to determine if our motives are really pure? Can we consciously choose to have innocent knee-jerk reactions to situations in life? Will we ever have spotless, involuntary impulses? These are deep internal matters, ground-in stains, and here we find ourselves right where God wants to work. He wants us to be gradually purified at a subterranean level. He longs to see our motivations become unmixed with inner sinfulness. He yearns that our heartfelt reactions become clean and upright. God wants our unbidden thoughts to be righteous, and our random feelings to be filled with goodness. This purification process is a continuous cleansing, ongoing. Our vision of God will only sharpen as we ask the Holy Spirit to wash us clean at that deep, deep level. Ask for a daily bath down into the heart. We are unable to cleanse our own hearts at that level. Only the Spirit.

Spiritual renewal is a daily quest, a morning petition. Transformation. Renovation. Scholars have used words like steadfast, reliable, firm, when translating the “right” spirit. If I am faltering, Lord, renew a steadfast spirit within me. If I am tempted to unfaithfulness, renew a reliable spirit within me. If I become inconsistent and start to waver, Lord, renew a firm spirit within me. Actually, Lord, renew your Holy Spirit within me. Only then will my heart be like new, prepared for the day. Purify my heart, Lord, and keep it pure, as good as new.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Is there anything more terrifying than to contemplate the absence of God in our lives? To be thrown out of the presence of God? Hebrew scholars say that the word “cast’ is much too tame for the Hebrew word used. The translation more accurately is more like a violent fling. to violently throw out or thrust away. To be flung from God’s presence implies disgust on His part, extreme judgment, casting away someone who is irredeemable and worthless. It implies the Spirit being taken away in anger. What could be worse! Can anyone imagine life without God in our midst? This is our worst fear. We tremble at the thought of being divorced from our Lord, abandoned, disowned, orphaned. Jeremiah reminds us of an absolute truth. Once someone has known God’s presence, it is unthinkable to consider His absence. “Lord, you are in the midst of us, and we are called by your Name. Do not forsake us, O Lord our God. For the sake of  your Name, do not disown us.” (Jeremiah 14:9,21).

Thanks be to God, we need not fear this most terrifying predicament, the hellish absence of God. The Hebrew word for “in the midst” means in the very center of, in the direct middle of. God’s presence is openly and freely available to all, in the very middle of us. Jeremiah is pleading with the Lord to remain in His people’s midst, to stay in the center among them. He can’t even imagine what life would be like without God’s presence. Without God, there would be no light, only darkness and confusion. Without God, there would be no life, only death and destruction. Without God, there would be no goodness, nothing but evil and sin. Without God, there would be no hope, only despair and defeat. We desperately need for God to live up to His Name, Emmanuel, God-with-us, or life as we know it would simply disappear into nothingness. This world would fall hopelessly apart, nothing would hold together. God’s presence is the glue of the universe. God’s presence within us has the same effect, the same impact. Without God, we would simply disintegrate into darkness, despair, evil, and spiritual death. But as is said repeatedly in Scripture, Have no fear. The Lord is with you, from now unto eternity.

Give me the joy of your saving help again, and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. Every day we need to be rescued from sin, temptation, and our unreliable spirit. Every day we need His saving help. This is true of each of us and all of our loved ones. Can there be a more profound prayer, that we experience the relief and joy of God’s salvation, every day? We have acquired the first installment of our salvation, but not the last installment. We have been saved by being joined to Christ in baptism and faith. We are being saved as we live into the process of growth in Christ. We will be saved by the mercy of God at the Last Judgment. We have received His saving help; we are receiving His saving help; we will receive His saving help on the Last Day. All three senses of salvation, all three senses of His saving help. In praying for our loved ones, do we sometimes forget to pray for ongoing salvation: our steady transformation, our deliverance from sinful tendencies, our protection from the Evil One? We are all in need of saving help, again and again. Every morning this line from Psalm 51 should be on our lips of praise. Grant us the joy that comes when we have again experienced His saving help.

To be sustained: to live for the long haul; to have one’s life maintained, kept vital; to be supported and have one’s weight carried; to be given the ability to endure, to be given spiritual stamina. In order to be sustained, one has to withstand those powers that are trying to diminish our spiritual character and vitality. We can only be upheld and sustained by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. To be bountiful is to be plentiful. The Spirit of holiness is full to overflowing with that which is life-giving and sustaining. Translators of “bountiful” have used words like noble, vigorous and generous. The generous and vigorous Spirit of God overflows with the grace and power needed to sustain us in our daily life. Praise be to God.