Monday of Lent IV – Prayer of the Week

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“I have to fix the fence; can you help me?” In his retirement, my father had purchased a small property in rural Missouri and had a few cattle. I was visiting on vacation. “Sure,” I said. It was not how I envisioned my vacation but had been wise enough to pack some older clothes. I relished the opportunity to spend some time with my father. It was a pleasant, albeit less than productive afternoon as I recollect. A tool refused to function; wire was not where it should have been. It was a typical project with my father. I loved every minute of it.

My father passed away fifteen years ago, my mom about eight years ago. I would love to sit at the breakfast table over a cup of coffee and talk about what we were going to do today.

We pray in this prayer that we might serve God with a willing obedience. The adjective is key here. Obedience is not hard to force. Threats and rewards often work. But God is not after that sort of obedience. He wants the willing obedience, the sort of obedience you want to do. A wise man once told me that heaven is when the difference between what you must do and what you want to do completely goes away. I would like to serve God that way. I still have some work to do to make my obedience willing, but that is the way I want to live. I want to do what I have to do because what I have to do is always what I want to do. Pay attention to the two parts of this request which precede the willing obedience. They are important steps to getting to this willing obedience. First, we pray for a hearty acknowledgement of God’s good gifts to us. Second, we pray for a thoroughgoing thanksgiving for God’s benefits. Again, those words which describe are important. First, we acknowledge with the heart, then we thank for everything good, and only then can our obedience be willing. Do you struggle as I do with the willingness of my obedience? Start with acknowledgment. Follow with thanks. Obedience willingly follows.

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