14 Jul Say a Prayer, Read a Psalm
What is the very first thing you do when you wake up each morning?
For some people, turning off the alarm and rolling over for ten more minutes of shut-eye is the usual way their day begins. A few people I know wake up and before leaving the warmth and comfort of their beds, they spend several minutes praying. For some folks, as soon as their eyes open, they are ready to leap up, throw on their workout clothes and hit the ground running (literally.) For still others, until they have had their first cup of coffee, everyone else in the house should give them a wide berth.
For a lot of folks, what follows after those first moments of wakefulness is a fairly regular routine. They let the dog out, brush their teeth, power up their phones, eat (or not), dress, read the newspaper or check email, grab some caffeine, maybe exercise—and usually, they do these routine things in a fairly consistent order. I always brush my teeth first thing. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is happening in my world until I have a clean mouth.
These last few months, when our routines have been upended in so many ways, have reminded us of how comforting and grounding these mundane daily activities really are. And that leads me to think about whether we have spiritual routines that also comfort and ground us. In Scripture, King David recognized the importance of having regular, daily spiritual practices. He shares his own experience in Psalm 145:
I will extol you, my God, and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
God’s greatness is unsearchable.
It is striking that David speaks of praising God every day. In exactly the same way that I start each morning with a toothbrush in my hand, David says that acknowledging God’s presence and power is critical. It shapes us as people, informs how we understand our lives, motivates our response to what happens in our world, and is the source of our peace and hope. Without the daily repetition of praise and gratitude, we quickly fall into old habits: looking to others for approval; seeking love in places that can never satisfy us; being driven by our egos to self-centeredness rather than care of neighbor; allowing fear and worry to rob us of joy and peace.
Forming new habits is often difficult which is why gyms are full in January and deserted by Valentine’s Day. But perhaps you are sensing that a daily spiritual routine would be particularly meaningful as you navigate these uncertain times. If so, I invite you to start small. Say a prayer before you get out of bed in the morning or while you’re brushing your teeth. Read one psalm per day (and when you get to Psalm 119 which has 176 verses, split it up, if you need to!) Some folks in my congregation are using this Covid-induced “downtime” to read through the Bible. I love that idea, of course, but if you’re going to do that, don’t let Leviticus sidetrack you!! I suggest alternating between the Old Testament and the New Testament as you work your way through all 66 books. Journaling, meditating, singing a hymn, or reciting liturgy can all be wonderful spiritual exercises that open us to God’s presence and invite us to greater serenity and a more deeply grounded hope.
Whatever practice you choose, see if you can incorporate it into your day with as much regularity as your most familiar activities. I think you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make.
Yours for the Kingdom,