Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Unto The Hills Around Do I Lift Up"1 (Lyrics)
Psalm 119:17-18 – Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word. Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (NRSV)
Isaiah 50:4b-5 – Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. (NRSV)
Recently, I had the opportunity to worship in one of the churches that my mother and I used to visit together. It was an early morning service, and the small church — no more than a chapel, really — was nearly empty when I arrived. I settled into a pew and took a moment to still my thoughts and to pray. Preparing for worship is an important time for me, as I ask God to open me to Himself and to His message, so that I might be receptive to "the gracious promptings of His Spirit", as one of my former ministers used to say.
On this particular morning as I sat there quietly — kneeling, as is the custom in that church — the following prayer came to me: "Open my hands, my arms, my mind, and my heart." I didn't recall having thought of those words before, but as I sat there reflecting and waiting for the service to begin, I realized how important each of those can be for us.
Open my hands: If we open our hands, palms face up, we make a traditional sign of openness and receptiveness. This is a symbol with which I am familiar and comfortable, and making that sign helps me to be open to whatever message that God has for me.
Open my arms: How wonderful this is, for it is only with open arms that we can really embrace someone or something. I'm definitely a "hugger" — I love giving and receiving hugs as a sign of affection and caring — so why not a symbolic hug for our Lord and Saviour? Without open arms, how can we fully embrace God or the love of Christ? How can we fully embrace our faith?
Open my mind: One of my downfalls is that I tend to think things through and then overthink them. This was a prayer that God would be in all my thoughts, in all my planning, and in all my worrying, and that I would always be mindful of Him.
Open my heart: Here is where it all comes together. We often hear that "God is love", and we teach and learn about the love of God and the love of Jesus. But what about our love? That is, of course, the first and greatest commandment: to love the Lord our God. For me, this is the cornerstone of my faith: not just believing in God, but loving Him with all that I am.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to be open to You today and always. Help us to receive Your words and messages for us. Help us to embrace You, Your Spirit, and Your Son. Help us to be mindful of You, and help us to love You more each day — with our whole being. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.