"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path" (Psalm 143:10). A few days ago, I started making a list of "quotes to live by," a collection of wise sayings that have rung true in my heart over the years and which I want to keep front and center in my mind. One such quote is from Flannery O'Connor's prayer journal: "I don't want to be doomed to mediocrity in my feeling for Christ." A little further down the list is Teddy Roosevelt's reminder that "it is not the critic who counts" but "the man who is actually in the arena . . ." Then comes the important reminder from the missionary Lesslie Newbigin that a pastor's leadership of a congregation begins "first and foremost in the area of his or her own discipleship, in that life of prayer and daily consecration which remains hidden from the world but which is the place where the essential battles are either won or lost.” These words make me want to be zealous in my faith, engaged in the world, and devoted in discipleship. And I need to read such words regularly to inspire me, to remind me, and to stoke those fires.
At the top of this list of quotes, however, is a wise word from an early church leader named Mark the Monk: "Whatever we do without prayer and without hope in God turns out afterwards to be harmful and defective." You can say that again, I think every time I read Mark's words. I can list dozens of examples of times when I've proven the truth of his statement. If we're honest, all of us could say the same. We don't know what's best for ourselves. We may think we do, but the truth is that we don't. So the Scriptures remind us to "trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5) and to pray for God's will to be done rather than our own (Matthew 6:10, Luke 22:42).
Likewise, today's Psalm reminds us to pray for God's guidance: "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path" (Psalm 143:10). The implication is that without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our paths won't be level. Without God's will, our ways become unbalanced and unsteady, slippery and slanted. As we pray this week, let us ask God to lead us on level paths, to steady us where we're wavering, and to show us his will.
Grace and Peace,