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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 8, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 119:33–40

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
   and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
   and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
   give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
   which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
   for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
   in your righteousness give me life. (NRSV)

This stanza of Psalm 119 reminds me of two important lessons I learned about prayer during college. The first was that I wasn’t giving God enough credit. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a bad habit of only praying for things I thought were possible in my own human terms. It never occurred to me to ask God for more understanding or for the ability to better follow God’s commandments. I prayed for forgiveness, thanked God for my blessings, and asked for things like patience and healing—but other things seemed too big to ask for.

The second lesson I learned was that I could ask God to change my desires. Not only could I ask for strength to stop giving into temptations, but I could ask God to take away my desire for those things in the first place. And I could ask God to give me the same desires for myself that God has for me.

Since then I’ve been pushing myself to pray bigger, to pray for things even if I don’t see how they’d be possible, like healing for badly broken relationships or guidance for decisions with which I’ve spent years struggling. Much to my surprise, asking for those bigger things, even if the answer is “no” or “not right now,” has increased my faith and brought me closer to God. It reminds me that God is so much bigger than I can comprehend and that God’s able to do things that seem impossible.

Generous and loving God, you know the desires of my heart, those that are righteous and aligned to your will for me and those that are wicked and cause me to stray. Purify my heart. Fill it with good and just desires, and strengthen my faith in your ability to do all things. Amen.

Written by Nicole Spirgen, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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