Sunday, July 21, 2013
Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life: Suggestions for Morning Prayer
“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.”
One of the greatest aids to spiritual growth is establishing a rhythm of prayer. Just as rhythm gives “backbone” to melody and harmony in music, so a spiritual rhythm helps to give strength and structure to our devotional life with God, freeing us from the mood of the moment.
Many, if not most, Christians during the past two thousand years who have walked with God over the long haul have found the value in establishing a morning and evening routine. Far from being a form of legalism, such a pattern of morning prayer and evening prayer becomes the steady rhythm of breathing for our spiritual lives.
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales offers some insightful—and very practical—suggestions for daily morning prayer.
1. “Thank God, and adore Him for His Grace which has kept you safely through the night, and if in anything you have offended against Him, ask forgiveness.”
2. “Call to mind that the day now beginning is given you in order that you may work for Eternity, and make a steadfast resolution to use this day for that end.”
Each day is an opportunity to start out on the right foot. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and we can tap afresh into his grace and faithfulness to empower us to love and serve him.
3. “Consider beforehand what occupations, duties and occasions are likely this day to enable you to serve God; what temptations to offend Him, either by vanity, anger, etc., may arise; and make a fervent resolution to use all means of serving Him and confirming your own piety; as also to avoid and resist whatever might hinder your salvation and God's Glory.”
Thinking about the potential challenges of the day is not enough: we must be ready to obey the Lord if the temptation indeed comes. “Nor is it enough to make such a resolution,--you must also prepare to carry it into effect,” states de Sales. “Thus, if you foresee having to meet someone who is hot-tempered and irritable, you must not merely resolve to guard your own temper, but you must consider by what gentle words to conciliate him. If you know you will see some sick person, consider how best to minister comfort to him, and so on.” De Sales—like the Scouts—wants to think things through and be prepared for the day!
4. “Next, humble yourself before God, confessing that of yourself you could carry out nothing that you have planned, either in avoiding evil or seeking good.”
Our plans are worth little without committing them to the Lord. De Sales continues, “Then, so to say, take your heart in your hands, and offer it and all your good intentions to God's Gracious Majesty, entreating Him to accept them, and strengthen you in His Service, which you may do in some such words as these: ‘Lord, I lay before Thee my weak heart, which Thou dost fill with good desires. Thou knowest that I am unable to bring the same to good effect, unless Thou dost bless and prosper them, and therefore, O Loving Father, I entreat of Thee to help me by the Merits and Passion of Thy Dear Son, to Whose Honour I would devote this day and my whole life.’”
More than our own will power, we need his strength to carry out our good intentions. There is our part, and there is God’s part. As Paul asserts in Philippians 2:12-13, we need to actively and passionately engage in the process as we “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling”! However, we do so because the Lord enables us to, “for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Let us likewise seek the Lord in the morning, engaging our whole heart and will and determining to act in full obedience. Let us offer our good intentions to the Lord, receiving his grace to follow through with all he directs!
*All quotes are taken from the online free edition of Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/devout_life.txt
© 2013 Glenn E. Myers