Just for Today
The best way to seek God's help in devotions, is just for the day. This gives definiteness to our praying and our reading of the Bible. It is one of the many evidences of God's thoughtfulness for us, that he gives us time in short measures, just a little at once. George Klingle puts this well in his lines:
"God broke our years to hours and days,
That hour by hour, and day by day,
Just going on a little way,
We might be able all along to keep quite strong.
Should all the weight of life,
Be laid across our shoulders, and the future rife
With woe and struggle, meet us face to face
At just one place,
We could not go!
Our feet would stop; and so
God lays a little on us every day,
And never, I believe, on all the way
Will burdens bear so deep,
Or pathways lie so threatening and so steep.
But we can go, if by God's power
We only bear the burden of the hour."
In our morning devotions, therefore, we would better think of only the one day on which we are entering and seek wisdom, guidance, strength, and help for it. Let tomorrow alone — with its possible cares, duties and needs. It is not yours yet, and you have nothing whatever to do with it, until you come up to its edge.
But today is before you, and it is your duty and your privilege to live it well — faithfully, sweetly, Christly, victoriously. This is the one thing that you are set to do, and for this you desire in the morning to make the most adequate preparation possible.
"Lord, for tomorrow and its needs,
I do not pray.
Keep me, my God, from stain of sin,
Just for today."
If we will thus think only of our need for the one day, it will give point and definiteness to our devotions. We have a special errand to God, a special reason for entering into our closet to be alone with him for a while — we must get ready for the day. We must get strength and wisdom. We cannot know what lies before us in the unopened hours. We have never been over the day's path before. A little while with our Master before we set out, will give us all the preparation we need.
Henry Drummond says: "Five minutes spent in the companionship of Christ every morning — yes, two minutes, if it is face to face, and heart to heart — will change your whole day, will make every thought and feeling different, will enable you to do things for his sake that you would not have done for your own sake, or for anyone's sake."
Here is the testimony of another:
"One hour with thee! When busy day begins
Her never-ceasing round of bustling care,
When I must meet with toil and pain and sins,
And through them all your holy cross must bear.
Oh, then to arm me for the strife — to be
Faithful to death, I'll kneel one hour with thee."
This suggests not only the object of closet devotions, but also the kind of devotions that will give us what we need. We must get help from God, and we must get something of his word into our heart.
Mary Lyon used to say that she feared nothing so much as that she would not know all her duty, and that she would not do it. Many people do not know what all their duty is, because they do not seek to know it. Then many who know their duty, do not do it. One petition in very old morning prayer is in these words: "Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You!" Psalm 143:8. The path of a single day seems a very short one — but short as it is, none of us can find it ourselves.
So we need God daily. Our morning devotions are helpful, only as they bring God more and more really into our life. As a mere formality they mean nothing, are of no value whatever. But if we sincerely and trustfully commit our life to God in prayer before we go forth, getting into close personal relations with him — then our day will be blessed and brightened, not because we prayed and read our Bible in the morning — but because in these exercises, we really put our hand into God's hand and gave our life to him for keeping and for service.
Of Moses it was said, referring to his long service, "He endured, as seeing him who is invisible." He did not see God — no man can see God — but he lived as if he saw him. His faith made God an actuality in his life, his presence as real as was the presence of the incarnate Son of God to John or Mary.
The daily morning prayer used by Doctor Arnold, of Rugby, is one which all busy people might well make their own. "O Lord, I have a busy world round me; eye, ear and thought will be needed for all my work to be done in this busy world. Now, before I enter on it, I would commit eye and ear and thought to you. Bless them, and keep their work yours, that as through your natural laws my heart beats, and my blood flows, without any thought of mine — so my spiritual life may hold on its course at those times when my mind cannot consciously turn to you to commit each particular thought to your service. Hear my prayer, for my dear Redeemer's sake. Amen."