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Friday, September 30, 2016

Today’s Reading | Psalm 138                 

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
   before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
   and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
   for you have exalted your name and your word
   above everything.
On the day I called, you answered me,
   you increased my strength of soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
   for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
   or great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
   but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
   and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
   your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
   Do not forsake the work of your hands. (NRSV)

The language of the psalmist is full of praise for God and beautifully and extravagantly grateful, especially for God’s steadfast love. That is mentioned twice. But did you notice that the psalmist ends with “Do not forsake the work of your hands,” which made me wonder if sometimes the writer had doubts, felt abandoned, couldn’t seem to connect, had a dry spell.

This happens to many of us—feeling overwhelmed, wanting to lift our lives and selves up to God but we just can’t do it. How are we to reach out to God at times like this?

A wise person once advised me to take a minute and try to find one thing to be grateful for each day—just one thing. Guess what? This simple practice can open us up to noticing even the seemingly insignificant things and places where God is at work in our daily lives and to express gratitude for them.

The fifteenth-century monk St. Ignatius Loyola created a daily discipline for prayer called Examen that can also help us when we’re feeling the absence of God’s steadfast love or when prayer doesn’t come easily.

This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius created:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

Try it when you’re not feeling God’s love or when you are unable to pray. It’s uncomplicated and provides a path to noticing that God’s never-ending love is indeed always with us.

Good and gracious God, we thank you for your steadfast love. Help us to remember and be thankful for this love and all that we have received from you even when we find it difficult. Help us to spend a few moments with you every day, knowing that you are present and love us always. Amen.

Written by Martha Brown, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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