A Prayer for Waking
Dr. Connie Befus
Most of us awaken gradually, realize where we are, figure out what day it is, and then remember what we are supposed to do or what we were worried about yesterday. Then we are off and running, in our heads, with our agenda. Often, we consult our phone and let whatever is there hijack our attention.
There’s a better way to start the day, given us by our Lord in Psalm 143: 8-10. It is a prayer for waking, a prayer that orients our thoughts and lives in a correct and godly way:
Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning
for on You do I lean and in You do I trust.
Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk,
for I lift up my inner self to You.
Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I flee to You to hide me.
Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.
Let Your good Spirit lead me into a level country
and into the land of uprightness.
“Cause me to hear your loving-kindness in the morning.”
This prayer starts in exactly the right place—not what day it is, not what we have to do or what drives us. No. It starts with us asking our Lord, without whom we can do nothing, to help us attend—pay attention to—HIS loving-kindness. The first thing we need to know and remember is that we are deeply loved by the almighty, all-present God of the universe.
As we wake up, we have been, and are, surrounded and sustained by God’s lovingkindness. If we wake at all, it is because we have been kept alive, kept breathing, by the will and word of God. We are dearly loved, and nothing in the coming day (or any day) can change that.
What a way to start the day! Knowing we are profoundly loved, protected, and provided for. We really ought to attend to that truth, focus on it, let it ground us and guide us.
I prefer the word attend to the word hear, because we often hear things without paying attention. But this truth, the truth of God’s ever-present loving-kindness, is way too wonderful to only “sort of” hear. It is the truth we should lean on and trust: it is our ground of being. We need to choose to attend to that reality, immerse ourselves in it, and then let it strengthen us all day long.
“Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my inner self to you.”
Perfect. That is absolutely what I need—the Lord’s guidance in how to live this day: what to do, what to leave undone, how to handle the interruptions that come. Actually, how to receive the interruptions as from him. What to pay attention to—and what to ignore. How to be kind and attentive to people—and deaf to unkind thoughts and selfish motives.
I can only “walk” in the right ways, the appropriate and wholesome ways, by lifting my inner self up to God for his influence, guidance, and strength, by staying in touch with Him, by keeping his presence and adequacy in the forefront of my mind. Then I can live this day—even if it’s not the day I expected—in harmony with the one who made me and loves me.
“Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I flee to You to hide me.”
Deliver me from whatever might harm me: the evil one, random accidents, mean and abusive people, critical people, inadvertently harmful people. And deliver me from me—please. I can be my worst enemy.
God can deliver us when we run to him to hide. He doesn’t necessarily avert harm, as we know, but he does hide us. He hides us in his presence, in the safety of knowing he’s in charge. He will stay with us, help us through whatever comes. Often, we are hiding right out in plain sight: we are hiding in him right in the presence of the enemy: that difficult person, that cancer, that fraught situation, Satan. Right in the midst of danger our soul can draw strength and security from being safely hidden in God. Some of God’s people have been known to hide in him on the scaffold, in fiery furnaces, or while facing lions.
“Teach me to do Your will.”
This is what I want, in this day: to do his will. Asking God to teach me, however, means I am willing to be taught. It means I will choose to be teachable. I am going to keep my eye on my teacher, observing and learning. I am going to keep my ears open for the quiet word of help, the nudge in the right direction.
I am obtuse, actually, often stubborn, generally not listening well. But I can at least begin the day asking to be taught, trusting my God for his patience in teaching me.
“For you are my God.”
Learning to do God’s will happens as I acknowledge God as MY God. Using “my” in reference to God is a possessive and intimate statement. It implies submission to him; it acknowledges his right to direct and control me. It acknowledges that I am not God, I am not in control: I am not going to try to control life in this day. Instead, I am going to submit myself to God, accept what he sends, and try to cooperate with whatever he is doing.
What God does, what we do.
Notice that throughout this morning prayer there is a consistent duality between what God does, and what we do. “Cause me to attend to Your loving-kindness;” we ask God to do that. Then, “for on You do I lean and in You do I trust,” is our part. We ask God to help us attend to his loving-kindness, and then it is our job to lean into him and trust that love.
“Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk,” is God’s part; we are asking for his guidance. “For I lift up my inner self to you”—that’s our part: to be paying attention, watching for his clues, responsive to his nudges. God does not make us pay attention to him. It’s up to us what we attend to and focus on. If we choose to attend to him, we will have his help throughout the day.
“Deliver me from my enemies; I flee to You to hide me.” Only God can deliver me from enemies, hold my soul together in safety. But it’s up to me to “flee to him to hide me.” How much peace and safety I feel depends on my remembering where I am hidden as opposed to worrying about the enemies.
“Teach me to do Your will,” means that I acknowledge that he is Lord; I am servant. Any taking of control on my part stands a good chance of wrecking the accomplishment of his will. But hand in hand with him, (“for You are my God”) God working in me, me relying on him—that’s where I can begin to experience what the apostle Paul talks about in Romans 12:2, “But be transformed by the renewal of your mind; then you will be able to test and prove what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
“Let Your good Spirit lead me into a level country and into the land of uprightness.”
The prayer closes with this sentence. (Well, the psalm goes on, but I end this morning prayer at verse 10; I need to get up, after all.) What does this phrase mean? The New Living Translation renders it: “Lead me forward on a firm footing.” Amen to that. In my own words I would say, “Be kind enough, dear Lord, to lead me today by paths that aren’t too rocky or steep. Level would be nice. Please be clear in your guidance, so that as I listen to you I can proceed as you want me to. And I would love to be, in this day, a person of kindness and integrity, who helps others into wholesome living.”
“What a great prayer for starting the day!
In this prayer for waking, we acknowledge first who God is—the almighty creator whose character is loving-kindness—and then who we are: his dearly loved child. We ask for his help and acknowledge our dependence on him. We begin depending on him right away, while barely awake, and set the tone for leaning into him and living out of his strength all day.
I encourage you to memorize this prayer in whatever version speaks to you. Memorize it so you can start praying it before you even open your eyes. Pray it before you check your phone or get out of bed.
And then live in it, and live it out, the rest of the day.
Dr. Connie Befus
Congregational Care Coordinator
Dr. Befus began serving as Congregational Care Coordinator at FPC in May of 2017. Before moving to Lakeland, Connie, who is a psychologist, served as Director of Member Care for missions organizations. Connie and her husband, David, also served in various ministries in Latin America for more than 17 years. Connie earned her Master’s in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Miami, Florida. She grew up in Africa as the child of missionary parents and has lived in seven countries. David and Connie have a son and daughter, both married, and one grandchild. Connie enjoys occasionally consulting or providing workshops for mission agencies and loves to read, walk, or garden.