Starting the Day Right

No, this isn’t going to be about breakfast sausage, but about a different kind of morning food – the spiritual kind.  However, the principle of starting the day with wholesome and hearty nutrition is the same.  So let’s take a few moments to talk about “The Breakfast of Disciples.”

Aspiring to be a disciple of Jesus is to want to be like Him.  But how do we go about this?  Unlike the child who wants to emulate their favorite athlete by eating the same breakfast cereal or putting on their hero’s team jersey, our superficial behaviors don’t make us disciples of Jesus.  Nor in all truthfulness do our efforts to ‘be good’ and to obey His commands actually make us like Him.  Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t something we can pull off by ourselves, any more than we can train ourselves to soar like an eagle.  Anyone who has seriously tried to discipline themselves to be like Jesus – to put their heart in perfect harmony with God – soon admits defeat.  Trying – even TRYING VERY VERY HARD will not get us anywhere close to that goal.  The problem, you see, is that it is simply beyond our power to remake ourselves into His likeness.  But yet, that is what He expects of us – in fact, it is what He has promised us.   The solution to that paradox is provided by grace.   What we cannot do for ourselves, the Holy Spirit will do for us, and our job is to allow our hearts to be fertile soil for His work.  But though that may sound like a cop-out, it’s actually a very challenging assignment.  It’s all about letting go of our own self-centeredness.

A much-beloved Christian writer had this to say:

“ … the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it.  It comes the very moment when you wake up each morning.  All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And your first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.  And so on all day.  Standing back from all your natural fussing and frettings; coming in out of the wind.“  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Be honest now, does that sound easy or hard?   If we’re at all honest, letting go of our cares and personal anxieties and priorities and turning our lives over to God is very hard.  So hard, in fact that we can’t hope to do it all at once.   Like an athlete training for a marathon, we need to gradually work up to it.  Though we’ll never get it perfectly right until Jesus finally takes us home to Himself, we can all learn to do better.  Like an athlete in training, the ‘trick’ is to discipline ourselves to daily exercise, starting small, and working up as our ‘spiritual muscles’ gain strength and tone through the power of the Spirit.

Probably the most important of the spiritual exercises is prayer, and beginning the day with prayer is a good first step on the journey of committed discipleship.  But how should I pray and what should I pray for?  Martin Luther’s Morning Prayer is a nice model of a very short prayer that helps to put the coming day in the correct perspective:

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.

Might we suggest that you clip this prayer (or another that you prefer) and put it somewhere that it will be seen first thing in the morning.  Then pause in your morning preparations for a few moments to say it privately, or with someone you love.  See what happens!  We confidently offer this suggestion with a guarantee:  if you do this for 90 days and don’t find it beneficial, you can have your old life back!

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