A Prayer for Waking
Most of us awaken each morning with a gradual realization of where we are, what day it is, and then a flood of remembering what we are supposed to do that day. Then we are off and running (in our head at least) with our agenda and what drives us.
There is a better way to start the day, graciously given us by our Lord in Psalm 143, verses 8 through 10. It is a prayer for waking, for orienting our thoughts and our lives in a correct and coherent way, that hopefully can stick with us throughout the coming day.
Here is how those verses read:
Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning
for on You do I lean and in You do I trust.
Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk,
for I lift up my inner self to You.
Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I flee to You to hide me.
Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.
Let Your good Spirit lead me into a level country
and into the land of uprightness. (Amplified Version)
This prayer starts in exactly the right place—not what day it is, not where we are physically, not what we have to do or what drives us. No. It starts with us asking our Lord, without whom we can do nothing, to help us attend—pay attention to—HIS lovingkindness. The first thing we need to know, remember and focus on is that we are loved—deeply loved by the Almighty, all-present God of the universe.
As we wake we have been, and are, surrounded, nurtured and sustained by God’s lovingkindness. If we wake at all, if we draw breath, it is because we have been kept alive and kept breathing by the will and word of God. We are dearly loved, and nothing in the coming day (or any day) can change that. We wake up loved and we will continue to be loved and cared for throughout the day, no matter what happens.
What a way to start the day! Knowing we are profoundly loved, protected and provided for. We really ought to attend to that truth. We ought to focus on it, let it ground and guide us. I prefer the word attend to the word hear, because we often hear things without paying attention, without absorbing the content, without letting the meaning of what we hear affect our perspective and behavior. But this truth, the truth of God’s ever-present loving-kindness, is way too wonderful to give only a fraction of our attention. It is the truth we should lean on and rely on: it is our ground of being, our means of action. We need to choose to attend to that reality, immerse ourselves in it gratefully, and then lean on it all day long.
“Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my inner self to you.” Perfect. That is absolutely what I need—the Lord’s guidance in how to live this day: what to do, what to leave un-done, how to handle the interruptions that come. Actually, how to receive the interruptions as from Him. What to pay attention to—and what to ignore. How to be kind and attentive to people—and deaf to unkind thoughts and selfish motives.
I can only “walk” in the right ways, the appropriate and wholesome ways, by lifting my inner self up to God for his influence, guidance and strength. By staying in touch with Him—not by talking to Him so much as staying connected, keeping His presence and adequacy in the forefront of my mind even as I do other things. Or at least keeping Him as the constant backdrop. Then I can live the day—even if it’s not the day I expected—in harmony with the One who made me and loves me.
“Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I flee to You to hide me.” Deliver me from whatever might harm me—or those I love: the evil one, random accidents, mean and abusive people, people who are inadvertently harmful with the most naïve intentions, critical people. And deliver me from me—please. Sometimes I am my enemy.
God can deliver us when we run to Him to hide. He doesn’t necessarily avert the accident, the illness, as we know, but He does hide us. He hides us in His presence, in the safety of knowing He is in charge. He will stay with us, help us through it. Often, we are hiding right out in plain sight: we are hiding in Him right in the presence of the enemy: the difficult person, the fraught situation, Satan. Right in the midst of threat or danger our soul can draw strength and security from being safely hidden in God. Some of God’s people have been known to hide in Him on the scaffold, in fiery furnaces, or facing lions.
“Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.” This is what I want, in this day, to do His will. The request to be taught, however, implies an interchange—interaction, relationship, intimacy. I can be taught by God because I am asking for instruction, because I hope to be teachable. I am going to keep my eye on my Teacher, observing and learning. I am going to keep my ears open for the quiet word of help, the nudge in the right direction. At least, I want to want to learn from my God. I am obtuse, actually, often stubborn, generally not listening well. But I can at least begin the day asking to be taught, trusting my God for his patience in teaching me. It IS possible, Scripture suggests, even through trial and error, for God to actually teach me how to live out His will. Sometimes I can feel it happening during a day. How cool is that?
Notice that this happens—learning to do God’s will—as I acknowledge God as MY God. “For You are my God” is a possessive and intimate statement. God lets us do that—call Himself “ours.” Doing so implies submission to Him; doing so acknowledges His right to be God. Doing so acknowledges that I am not God, I am not in control: I am not going to try to control life in this day. Instead I am going to submit myself to God, accept what He sends, and try to cooperate with whatever He is doing.
Notice that throughout this morning prayer there is a consistent duality between what God does, and what we do. “Cause me to attend to Your loving-kindness,” we ask God to do. Then, “for on You do I lean and in You do I trust,” is our part. We ask God to help us attend to His lovingkindness, and then it is our job to lean into Him and trust.
“Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk,” is God’s part; we are asking His guidance. “For I lift up my inner self to you”—that’s our part. God does not make us pay attention to Him—that is where He gives us free will. It’s up to us what we attend to and focus on. If we choose to attend to Him, we will have His help and guidance throughout the day.
“Deliver me from my enemies.” Only God can deliver me from enemies, or hold my soul together in safety. But it’s up to me to “flee to Him to hide me.” How much peace and safety I feel depends on my remembering where I am hidden as opposed to worrying about the enemies.
“Teach me to do Your will,” depends on my acknowledging that He is my God. He is Lord; I am servant. Any taking of control by me stands a good chance of wrecking the accomplishment of His will. But hand in hand with Him, God working in me, me relying on Him…that’s where I can begin to experience what the apostle Paul talks about in Romans 12:2, “But be transformed by the renewal of your mind; then you will be able to test and prove what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In this prayer for waking we acknowledge first who God is—the Almighty creator whose character is lovingkindness—and then who we are—His dearly loved child. We ask for his help and acknowledge our dependence on Him. We begin to do the depending right away, while barely awake, and set the tone for depending on Him all day.
The prayer closes… (Well, the psalm goes on, but I end this morning prayer at verse 10: I need to get up, after all.) Verse 10 says, “Let Your good Spirit lead me into a level country and into the land of uprightness” (in the Amplified version). The New Living Translation renders this phrase “Lead me forward on a firm footing.” Amen to that. In my own words I would say, “Be kind enough, dear Lord, to lead me today by paths that aren’t too rocky and uphill. Level would be nice. Please be clear in your guidance for me, so that as I listen to you I can proceed as You want me to. And I would love to be, in this day, a person of kindness and integrity. And I would like to help build and become part of a land, a place, where integrity and wholesome living are the norm.”
What a great prayer for starting the day. I encourage you to memorize it in whatever version speaks to you. Memorize it so you don’t have to turn on a light and read, so that you can begin praying it before you even have your eyes open. Pray it before you toss off the covers and get out of bed. And then live in it and live it out the rest of the day.