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~ That the Blind May See ~
Lauds, morning prayers upon rising, are typically jubilant, praying and seeing in celebration of a new day in the spirit of Christ’s resurrection; a time of hope, promise and anticipation.
Praying vespers, or evening prayers, is both wondrous and challenging. These prayers are reflective of the passion of Christ, which occurred in the evening watch. Vespers invites a reflecting and assessment of our faith journey that day. The feelings incorporate a mix of gratitude for the labor that promises to bear future fruit and sorrow for the sins, deficits, and grieving of the Holy Spirit, knowing we could have done more and become more. Considering every moment of the day, my heart is not fully focused on the purity of Christ’s word and presence. There are moments of self-absorption and selfishness. Too many of them.
So before sleeping, I ask God for forgiveness and His empowerment to fulfill the calling of Christ, for my spirit alone is unable. As Jesus observed, my spirit is willing but my flesh is indeed weak, and the two are intricately connected.
Here is what astounds me every day: Despite my failings and deficits of spiritual practice the previous day, when I awake I am again greeted with a most beautiful sunrise, good health, a reposed and fresh body and soul. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24).
The soft light of the rising sun begins to illuminate the landscape. The day shift animals are clamoring, playing, and greeting the day in celebration of play and song. Photosynthesis in the leaves of plants and trees begin again their magical work of food production powered by light energy from 93 million miles away.
Whatever the ways we hurt the Holy Spirit the previous day seems forgotten by Him and His creation. He is saying again and again, morning after morning, “Here you are – a supreme gift, a new day, fresh with renewed life and energy and promise. Use it in joy, gratitude and wisdom.”
And we endeavor to do so, succeeding in some areas, falling short in others. Yet our God does the resplendent giving again the next morning. “His mercy is renewed every morning.” “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you” (Psalm 143:8a, NIV).
We pray for health, strength and renewed mercies. How many times and how many of God’s children wake up annoyed, cranky, hurried, quickly mumbling prayers of “help get me through this day,” oblivious to health, strength, and the sunlight always present whether or not hidden by clouds. This is like a very peculiar child waking up late on Christmas morning, stumbling past the presents under the tree, asking his family to give him some things to make him happy. His parents would be scratching their heads in wonder. Perhaps our heavenly Father scratches His too.
Jesus did scratch His head over nine lepers He healed. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18, NIV). Then Jesus told the man, “Your faith as restored you to health.” “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality – faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses” (Hebrews 11:1, Amplified Bible). What is not revealed to the senses (such as physical sight) can still be perceived through the eyes of faith. Not only was the man’s physical disorder removed, Jesus declared his entire personhood to be restored to health. The man clearly saw his gift for what it was along with its implications and then sought the Giver. With such vision, we can do the same, every hour of every day, starting with our prayers immediately upon rising from sleep.
We can also peer into the heavens at another, the most wondrous gift, beholding it through the eyes of faith (and manifested in experience). The apostle John saw this: “Yes, that old snake and his angels were thrown out of Heaven! That snake, who fools everyone on earth, is known as the devil and Satan. Then I heard a voice from heaven shout, ‘Our God has shown his saving power and his kingdom has come! God’s own Chosen One has shown his authority. Satan accused our people in the presence of God day and night. Now he has been thrown out!’” (Revelation 12:9b-10, CEV).
The prophet Zechariah saw this: “I was given another vision. This time Joshua the high priest was standing in front of the Lord’s angel. And there was Satan, standing at Joshua’s right side, ready to accuse him. But the Lord said, ‘Satan, you are wrong. Jerusalem is my chosen city, and this man was rescued like a stick from a flaming fire.’ Joshua’s clothes were filthy. So the angel told some of the people to remove Joshua’s filthy clothes. Then he said to Joshua, ‘This means you are forgiven. Now I will dress you in priestly clothes.’ ...After this, the angel encouraged Joshua by telling him that the Lord All-Powerful had promised:
“’If you truly obey me I will put you in charge of my temple, including the courtyard around it, and you will be allowed to speak at any time with the angels standing beside me. Listen carefully, High Priest Joshua and all of you other priests. You are a sign of things to come, because I am going to bring back my servant, the Chosen King’” (Zechariah 3:1-4, 6-8, CEV).
Throughout the Old Testament, “angel of the Lord” references Christ, God in His Incarnate form. “Chosen King” or “Branch” in some translations is a messianic title given Christ in His salvific work. Satan, the accuser, is again at his destructive work. Joshua had been “rescued like a stick from a flaming fire” and stands before Christ in “filthy clothes.” Are we not like Joshua? His filthy clothes are replaced with priestly robes and is given a promise. He, “and all of you other priests...are a sign of things to come...” “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9, NIV).
As the sun illuminates our mornings, this is a wondrous vision to gaze upon. It dominates our hearts in desire and gratitude. We are told to “make your desires known before God.” Because God knows our desires before we even think them, this must mean that, before God, in His presence, we are to know and meditate upon our desires. Often, what we think we want is a shadow of what is truly desired in the depths of our hearts, to be revealed to us in prayer and contemplation.
The gifts of God are typically too overwhelming, exceeding our capacity to receive them, and upon receiving them, to faithfully care for and administer them responsibly. Our prayers for the needs and desires God already knows about are to prepare us, to enlarge our hearts. On the earthly realm, parents plan to provide certain gifts at the right time to their children, such as a mountain bike or perhaps a car. These are not given without comment or dialog. Child and parent talk about the coming gift, what it entails and means, and the responsibilities that come with it. Through such dialog, the child’s heart is prepared to receive the gift in gratitude and able ownership. That’s why we pray to the Father in anticipation of receiving the gifts He has already prepared for us.
In the evening we pray in celebration of the gifts of the day and
in frequent sorrow for not fully seeing them and not fully dedicating them
to the honor of our God in our work. In the morning we behold undeserved
renewed gifts with seeing eyes that are often blinded by the terrors, hopelessness
and anxieties of the dark nights through which we keep watch for the rising
of the Morning Star.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Prayergear.com © October 24, 2003
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