Morning Prayer: Psalm 143
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul (Psalm 143:8).
For people who pray (and everyone prays at some time or another), much of the focus of those prayers is directed to an unknown future and the decisions that go with it. Today, if there’s something you’re trying to sort out, something that looms in front of you with confusing options that offer no clear path, you would do well to linger with Psalm 143.
There’s an oft-used phrase for those moments when we’re mired in indecision: “Paralysis of analysis.” We gnaw incessantly on possible scenarios and outcomes, never finding the confidence we need to risk a next step. That’s what the Psalmist expresses in 143:4. The ESV says “my heart within me is appalled.” The NIV and CSB use the word “dismayed.” The NLT captures the idea by saying, “I am paralyzed with fear.”
In Psalm 143 we find three petitions or requests for such moments.
First, there’s a simple request for knowledge (v. 8b) “Make me know the way I should go.” Perhaps we might include here our prayer for “insight.”
Second, we ask for the readiness to act (v. 10a). “Teach me to do your will.” Our request for insight or knowledge speaks to how we’re thinking through a matter, weighing the options. But at some point, we need to act. We want that action to be in line with what God wants.
Third, we ask for guidance (v. 10b). “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” In this we’re asking God to go in front of us and bring us along on the right path – the level ground or the way that offers “firm footing” (NLT).
Knowledge or insight as we think things through.
Conformity to God’s will as we take action.
The Spirit’s guidance to make our steps firm.
These are good and basic ways to pray when you don’t know what’s next or which way to go. But remember, these are prayers, not incantations. These petitions will not magically remove all risk or uncertainty. These prayers don’t give us the luxury of not needing faith.
That’s why we need to offer one more prayer that provides the backdrop or context for the other three.
But First . . .
Before those three requests the Psalmist prays, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust” (v. 8a).
What’s the first thing you do every morning?
How do you start your days?
How many waking moments pass before you turn on the TV or look at your phone?
To pray Psalm 143 is to begin the day in a posture of listening. I’m not insisting that you have to wake up early for prayer time like the monks – but let’s not ignore the obvious.
The Psalm models a seeking after God at the start of the day.
This seeking is largely a posture of listening or hearing. It is attentiveness to what God says before we rush to what we want to say or ask. The listening is an expression of trust.
This listening requires time for silence and stillness. Yes – I’m reading this into the text, but I don’t how we can hear of his steadfast love when the Today Show is dominating the room.
By the time you read this your day will be well under way. But maybe you can find a few moments to read through Psalm 143 and make it your own prayer.
Where do you need help with knowing which way to go?
2 thoughts on “Which Way to Go?”
Hello Mark, hope you and Marni are doing well. We are having a hot summer in Atlanta. Your Dad lead the devotion at The Current Events class this week, and it was so good to chat with him. Take care, Margo
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Thank you Mark. I wondered where these daily notes had gotten to for several months now. Something magic happened and here is is. I talked to your folks last month in Cumming, GA where we have bumped into each other a time or two at lunch. They like Midway Mealhouse……….me too for 20 years. Be well Brother, -Dick Beacham