A series of biblical readings and prayers from David L. Miller, senior pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL. David is the former editor of The Lutheran magazine and Director of Spiritual Formation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty
shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
I can never bypass the simple fact, O Lord, that you seek my
You come to me again and again to gladden my heart, deliver
me from my fears, raise me when I am down and rescue me from the distress that
seizes my soul.
You preserve me from all that prevents my heart and life
from shining like the sun, hiding me in the heart of your love where I know
what I most need to know.
This winter morning you fill me once more with the grace of
Night has gone. Dawn is breaking. The world wakes, and I
receive another day, another chance to face the sun and feel the rain, another day
to taste and share grace in this crazy world, another chance to laugh with the
lives around me, another day to melt the tears of the troubled, another chance
to find my way and to let you, Lord, find me in the midst of it all.
I am here, alive in a world where love shines in the eyes of
those who assure me of the worth and beauty of my life, awakening my soul to
the splendor of all life
I have another day to be thankful for what is, for who I am
and for all I get to see and do and feel each day.
Thankfulness is powerful. It delivers my heart from sadness.
It lifts me above the rushing waters that wash away peace of mind. It cleanses
the soul of self-doubt, nagging fears and the obsession with troubling
So I will ride the wings of gratitude into the joy and
strength I need to live this day well, thanking you once more for all I have,
all you give me each day.
But it is not such things,
such blessings that most rescue my soul from being lost amid the weight and
troubles of life.
It is you, knowing you, knowing the love you are, feeling
the desire in your heart for me, becoming aware once more that you long for me to live with joy, free from all that
drains the delight of living and loving from my face.
It is knowing and feeling your desire that fills me with the
grace of gladness and allows me to give my heart and mind away as freely as you
give your love to me.
So I come … once more
… to this quiet morning place where I feel your desire for me … and in me,
hoping that the lightness of being will fill me again with gratitude for
another day to know you.
Happy are those whose transgression is
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit. While I kept silence, my body wasted
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as
by the heat of summer. Selah Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Shall I hide from you, O God? I can no more hide from you
than I can hide from myself. Less.
My secrets haunt me in the night, accusing me until I
acknowledge who and what I am. Until then, there is no sleep. The hours are
lost, and energy flags. Morning comes, and fatigue remains for neither body nor
soul can rest in peace without a clear mind and an honest heart.
The heart withers, its strength fades for want of integrity,
not for lack of perfection.
Perfection does not belong to the human realm. It is not
within our grasp. We can move toward greater dignity and humanity, but purity of
heart and completion of what we are as human souls lies beyond earthly
But it is not our imperfection, our betrayals or sins that
most haunt the soul or disturb us in the night.
It is our resistance to be honest about who and what we are,
our refusals to align our lives and actions with the deepest convictions of our
hearts, so that the face we show the world is not the face we see in the mirror.
There may be no greater fear that that of being known, of
revealing who we are, what we have done and the contradictions and confusion we
feel inside. We are each a mystery to ourselves, never quite understanding why
we do or say some of the things that come out of us.
Certainly, sin dwells in our mortal bodies, seeming to have
a life of its own that we can little control.
But our sin and wrongdoing, our failures to be the people
God intends us to be need not be a burden for us, nor a distress in the night.
Failures and sin, our imperfection and offenses are either a
barrier or a bridge.
They are either prevent us from knowing and feeling the
grace of God that always welcomes us, or they are the bridge over which we walk
into arms of mercy and compassion.
They are dead weight that burdens our souls, or they are
wings on which we fly into grace that sets our hearts free to live, to love, to
blessedly be ourselves.
The difference is our willingness--or not--to speak our
hearts to the heart of Mercy.
The choice is always ours, and our happiness rests on your
choice … to hide or to fly into the arms of Mercy.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
In the darkness of early morning, I chant my thanks to you,
hoping my praise will carry me into the sweetest joy of my life.
I hunger once more to feel your presence around me, for I
have known you in the darkness and in the light and on nights when I called out
for the peace only you can bring.
So I call to you again even as I cling to moments I felt
myself inside your love, held as in a cocoon, sheltered so close there was no
separation between my heart and yours.
I remember chanting into the darkness as I lied in a
borrowed bed in Pennsylvania.
Covers pulled over my head, sleep would not come for the joy of having spoken
from the depth of my heart, telling what I had seen and known of you as I
traveled to places far and near.
“Thank you,” I repeated. “Thank you,” over and over. “Thank
you for letting me see and know and praise you.”
Wherever I traveled in those days I went looking for you,
not just for stories to tell or adventures to share, but you.
Sharing the grace amid the pain of those places carried me
into your heart, so that your love surrounded me. I knew you as close as my
breath, as warm and inviting as the covers pulled over my head.
I would tell my stories, no, your stories, stories of your
life amid the life of this broken but beloved world. Gratitude would fill me that
you should allow me to see and tell … and in the telling to know you more
I went looking for you, and you found me. I told stories,
and you found my heart in every one, moving me to chant my thanks into the
Now, the morning comes once more, and I thirst to know you as
fully as in those moments of sharing and telling. In knowing you, my soul swells
with joy, and I savor the sweet satisfaction of soul you bring.
So I chant my thanks for the day, for the light, for one
more chance to love and be loved, hoping my soul will be lifted into your
And from the darkness of my soul comes that voice I know.
“Go into the day,” you say. “I am there. Go, see, tell and share. I will find
you amid the stories of your life, and you will know me in the telling. This is
your way with me and my way in you.
“It is not my way with everyone, but I will come and satisfy
the soul of all who hunger for me. They need only open their hearts to see the
places I find them, the way that leads to joy, the place I shadow their lives.”
Because your faithful love is better than
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as
long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
I watched a girl stand and sing, eyes closed, thick black
hair falling on her shoulders, framing Latina
She spread her arms at her side, lifting them slightly as we
sang, “Glorious light of heavenly glory,” the evening hymn with which we put
the day to bed, giving it back to you, Holy One.
She is 11, I later learned, a guest among us, but her age
doesn’t matter, only her beauty.
Standing by her mother and sister, she sang, and I fell
silent, feeling privileged to be in the same room with her, breathing the same
air, caught up in the same song, lifted by the same love.
I am not worthy to stand near the sincerity of such a soul
who, at tender age, loves you Lord, already finding her true home in a love
better than life itself, a love that surely honors and savors her beauty.
I want to kneel at her feet and thank her for saving my weary
soul on a cold February evening.
You are her beauty, Holy One, shining through the simplicity
of the love that pours from her. I see her and know that your love seeks only
one thing … to love us so that we shine with the glory of this girl who has no
idea of her beauty, but most certainly knows you, its Source, and knows you
better than I can.
You fill the hearts of children, Holy One, lifting them
above us, their elders, so that they may teach us simplicity of heart.
Your glory shines in the simplicity of loving, trusting
hearts, moving us to lift our arms and souls to praise you beyond our tortured
questions and cynical doubts, beyond our fears of showing our hearts and
looking foolish, beyond our minds’ futile attempts to understand and manage you,
so that we may maintain the illusion that we are in control and do not really
But I do. I need to see your glory in the sanctuary and be
raised to life again and again by you, by your love, which is better than life
… and stronger than death.
O God, you are my God, I seek
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
It is not water for which I pray, O Lord. It is for you.
You are the water of life, the freshening coolness I crave when
the way is unclear, when my efforts teeter at the edge of failure and the
goodness I would grasp slips through my fingers.
You are the comfort that moistens my withered heart and makes
it large again. You make rivers of hope spring up in me, so that my heart
expands and I know all is well, and everything will find its place.
Your gentle love quenches my parched heart, worried and
wasted by fear and doubt, by the melancholy and pessimism that comes so easily
You come with living water that cools my fevered mind and saves
my heart from death. You wash away the sadness of this dry soul, restoring that
smile of joy and anticipation, the smile of knowing that love abides and always
You lift my heart from gloomy despondence into lightness of
being so that I rise into my better self, a soul of grace and joy as I know you
in my depths.
There are moments I want to disappear. My heart gets so lost
in sadness and disappointment. I despair of happiness and wonder if I have or
can give anything of value.
I thirst, O Lord, for this confused heart to be known and to
know the joy of communion with other souls who know and love you.
You find me each time my soul withers. You tilt back my head
and pour waters of life and joy, hope and peace, love and lightness from your
inexhaustible heart into my own, and I live once more.
Until the next time thirst chokes life from my heart. And it
always does, sooner or later.
Still, I will not despair but live. I will not grow weary or
faint. I will not sink beneath my sadness. I walk with joy into each new day knowing
the cooling freshness of your love will find me each time I get lost.
Music of your gentle heart will reach my ear, beauty will
appear before my tired eyes, smiles will shine on this heart of mine, and I
will drink from that stream of life and love that never runs dry.
I will taste the wonder of your love that has always found
me through the years, and with a full heart I will sing with joy, thanking you
finding me … once more