As I was praying this morning, my mind was led to the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, and my prayer became a combination of those two scripture passages. I love when my prayers become scripture – what better way to glorify God than to pray His Word to Him!
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus taught that we should first glorify God and ask that His will be done before we ask for ourselves. Several years ago I began using this model for my morning prayers. Praise God for his gifts, ask that only His will be done in my life, that He provide for my earthly needs and forgive my sins and missteps along the way, and that He walk beside me throughout my day and keep me on the right path – His path.
Psalm 23:4 says “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Dark valley? Most often I heard this psalm at funerals and associated a dark valley with death. The rod and staff being a comfort always seemed odd to me; I pictured very strict discipline using those tools. If we’ve died, why did we need discipline? and how in the world did discipline provide comfort?
Then I read Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm and my heart was opened to what that really means! A shepherd uses the rod and staff to gently and lovingly discipline the the sheep to stay where they belong – to protect them from those dark valleys where lions and other predators wait to pounce. The rod is extended to stop a sheep from stepping off the path, much like a parent extends an arm in front of a child when making a sudden stop in the car. The curved end of the staff is used to pull a lost lamb back from whatever danger it has gotten into, like a mother who rushes to protect a child and sweeps him quickly into her arms. What a comforting thought – God, reaching out to protect me from temptations in the dark valley, pulling me close like a father caring for his daughter.
This morning, for reasons only He knows, my prayer drifted from praising Him to thanking Him for all the times he walked beside me in the valley of shadows and disciplined me. My thoughts traveled through my youth, young adulthood, marriage, parenthood and more. I won’t go into all the missteps I’ve made in my life, I’m sure you have enough of your own to imagine where my mind went and why I am so thankful for God’s love and forgiveness.
I am conscious of my sinful nature and I know that even as a Christian and a child of God, I still make mistakes. I still think, say and do things that I shouldn’t – only now God has taught me to recognize these missteps and pull myself back. And each time I whisper a prayer requesting forgiveness and thanking Him for loving me even when I mess up.
O gracious heavenly Father, your kingdom is here in my heart, and will be everywhere one day. Let your will be done in my life, write your Word and Truth on my heart. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your only son to save me. Thank you for washing my sins away and giving me a heart of flesh. Thank you for shining the light of your love in my life. Thank you for walking with me in the dark valley and leading me away from danger. In Jesus’ name – Amen.