1/20/2016 6:15:14 PM
The Power of Beginning and Ending your Day with Prayer
I have heard many people tell me that it’s difficult for them to pray. “I just don’t have a lot of time to gather my thoughts and pray.” “I always forget to pray.” “I don’t know what to say or exactly how to say it.” Either they don’t have the time or the words to pray. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to pray from the heart, but so many people just don’t have the confidence. It’s a skill that can be learned over time. However, we do already have so many wonderful short prewritten prayers at our disposal.
If you don’t know what to pray or don’t have a lot of time, look to some of those examples. First look to the best example of prayer. The disciples didn’t know what they should pray for so they asked Jesus. What did Jesus give them? The Lord’s Prayer, which we pray every Sunday. Many other Christians have written prayers for people to use too and we often use them in worship.
Today I want to look at two different (but very similar) prayers that we have at our finger tips: Luther’s Morning Prayer and Luther’s Evening Prayer. These prayers are so special, but they aren’t used very often. I remember in 5th grade, our teacher taught us Luther’s Evening Prayer and we prayed it every afternoon when our school day was over. I have my teacher to thank because I still have that prayer memorized. With this post I hope that you also can appreciate these prayers and use them every day when you get up and before you go to bed.
It is so very important to begin and end our day with prayer. Why? Because it keeps our minds focused on what’s the most important thing in our lives—God. Prayer in the morning sets the tone for our day. Prayer at night sets the tone for our sleep. Prayer gives us peace—peace for body, mind and soul.
Let’s take a moment to fully read these two prayers of Luther. You will already be able to observe how similar they are:
LUTHER’S MORNING PRAYER
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger. Keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.
LUTHER’S EVENING PRAYER
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day. Forgive me all my sins, and graciously keep me this night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.
You may notice each prayer is unique for the time of day they are to be prayed. Let’s look at each part so we are able to appreciate what we pray.
“I thank you, my heavenly Father.” What a wonderful way to start with a prayer! Right away we are realizing who is in control and thanking our heavenly Father for what he has done, either the night or day before.
“Through Jesus Christ, your dear Son.” The only reason we can pray directly to our heavenly Father is because of Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus came and removed the hostile barrier between us and God—sin. In the Old Testament, God showed his people how serious sin was. The people could not enter God’s temple. They needed a chosen priest to intercede for them—a priest who was to be thoroughly “cleansed” before he could enter God’s temple. If a person who was not a priest would enter the temple, he would be struck down dead. Once Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple ripped in two. That symbolized that Jesus had taken away that barrier of sin. Now we can go directly to God through Jesus. That is also why we end a lot of prayers, “in Jesus’ name we pray.” Therefore, prayer is really a privilege from God.
“That you have kept me this night from all harm and danger/that you have graciously kept me this day.” What are we thanking our heavenly Father for? We are thanking him that he has protected us from harm and danger during the night. No thief broke in and harmed us. No natural disaster destroyed our home or took our lives. No sickness or illness caused us to die. God kept us safe. So also we thank God that he kept us safe throughout the day—he graciously kept us safe. It is only out of his underserved love that he watches over us and doesn’t let our danger come our way. Every day is a gift of God’s grace. We first recognize and thank God for what he has done for us.
“Keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you/Forgive me all my sins, and graciously keep me this night.” Now we look ahead and make requests of God, trusting fully that he will be able to answer these requests. In the morning, we look back at the night and then ahead toward the new day. We ask God to prevent us from sinning or allow any evil to fall upon us. First we ask God that we don’t do anything against him or anything that would make him angry. Then we ask that God would help us do things that would please him. In the evening, we look back at the day and then ahead toward the night. First we ask God to forgive the sins we have committed during the day. Then we ask God also to graciously protect us during the night as he had protected us during the day.
It is so important every morning and evening to understand who we are. As long as we live on this earth, we will always be both a saint and sinner. We have our “New Man” created in us through faith which is made holy and righteous by Jesus. Yet we also have our “Old Adam” who still wants to sin every day. Therefore, in the morning, we ask God to keep us from sin so as to curb the Old Adam. In the evening, we also ask God to forgive our sins that our Old Adam committed during the day. In the morning, we ask God that our New Man may please God with our good deeds during the day. In the evening, we ask that our sins will be forgiving so that our New Man can sleep with a good and clean conscience.
“Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things.” Whether it is morning or evening, we place our whole lives into God’s hands. We humbly trust that God has everything under control. Basically we are saying the same thing as we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done.” We often pray for many things that we want to happen, but in the end whatever happens is what God wants to happen. No matter what God wants to happen, it will always be for our good.
“Let your holy angel be with me.” We often say we have a guardian angel that God sends to our aid to watch over us. That is certainly true: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). And as you see in that verse, you don’t just have one guardian angel. You could have dozens—even hundreds or thousands. It is a great comfort to know that God himself watches over you and he uses his angels to protect us as well.
“That the wicked foe may have no power over me.” We ask that God’s angels be with us so that the devil will not have any power over us. Through Jesus the devil already doesn’t have power over us. So why ask it? This is the same request we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.” We ask that God would keep evil from us, or if he permits it to come, that he would use it for our good and would help us bear it. Ultimately we ask that God would deliver us from evil completely in heaven.
“Amen.” “Yes, it shall be so” is a good way to describe that word we end prayers with all the time. We are basically confirming our prayer. “Lord, yes I want all of this to happen.” By saying “Amen,” we are expressing the certainty that our prayers have been heard and will be answered. We are certain God will hear our prayer because he has promised to do so and he has the power to do what we ask.
You can see from these two simple prayers how they can bring your focus back to God. These prayers start your day and end your day well. They give you the peace of mind that you need to work and then to rest. That peace only God through Jesus can give you—peace that your sins are forgiven and your guilt is removed.
Now you won’t be able to say you don’t have time or don’t know what words to pray with. You have two short written prayers before you. Read them every morning and evening. No, not just read them, memorize them so they will always be with you. Take your time. Think about what these words are saying. I still thank my 5th grade teacher for having us memorize them. I pray that they will benefit you as much as they benefit me. God bless your conversation with God.
Here are the readings for your worship preparation:
The First Lesson – Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
For centuries God's people had mourned over their sin. God's Word assured them that the Lord is their joy and strength because he would come to save them from their sins.
The Second Lesson – Acts 4:23-31
For centuries God's people had been waiting for the prophecy of the Messiah to be fulfilled. Finally that prophecy was fulfilled and now God's people praise God.
The Gospel Lesson – Luke 4:14-21
For centuries through his prophecies, God promised a Savior would come. Now Jesus reveals himself as the Anointed one with the Father’s authority to proclaim himself as fulfillment of that prophecy.
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