New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all your creation, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

"A Liturgy for Morning Prayer," Upper Room Worshipbook

Used by permission from the Book of Common Worship, © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved. This prayer appears in “A Liturgy for Morning Prayer” in Upper Room Worshipbook.

Today’s Reflection

NOT LONG AGO, during a particularly stressful season of church ministry, my spiritual director (and friend) suggested I go into the sanctuary to pray, but “not those eloquent prayers you pray on Sunday mornings and at meetings. Simple prayers,” she said. “Whatever your heart prompts you to say. Raw.

I thought of the time Frederick Buechner’s therapist told him to write with his left hand a dialogue between himself and his long-dead-by-suicide father. His right hand, a novelist’s hand, formed words for effect, created and crafted meaning. Writing with his left hand might allow him to discover meanings deeper than he could invent.

Wondering if I could pray “left-hearted,” I entered the sanctuary and took a spot on the left side, the lectern side – away from the pulpit, away from “my” side. For what seemed the longest time, I just sat there, restless and uncomfortable and alone. Voices behind me in the hallway signaled that Family Night supper was about to begin, but I did not want to see anyone. I hunkered down, hiding.

I tried to clear my mind. I tried to focus. I could do neither thing. I was jittery, as if the silence of the empty room were a predator closing in for the kill. I tried to turn off my brain and turn on my heart. Instead, my memory raced, careening through recent days and disappointments. …

“I don’t want to be the pastor anymore,” I growled to the pew in front of me. “Not here. Not anywhere!” I leaned back and saw the rafters of the sanctuary. They looked like the ribs of a ship, or a whale. I was Jonah, in the belly of the fish, squatting in salt water and darkness and vomit.

I do not know how long I sat there; less time than it felt like, I am sure. But snapping upright and snorting – enough of this! – I grabbed at the pew in front of me to wrench myself up in spite of my legs and get the hell out of there.

I was already standing, weakly, when I glanced down and saw [the hymnal] in the pew rack. My chin twitched. I paused. Then, as if my knees were water, I collapsed back into the seat. With trembling hand I reached for the hymnal and turned quickly to page 878, “An Order for Evening Praise and Prayer.” How often had I turned to this very spot over the years? Prayed these very prayers? This time, though, when I looked down, it was as if I had never before seen them. These were not my prayers, but they were not not prayers, either. …

Tears flowed, and I knew, I knew, that I was not alone. Not at all. I was not even praying alone. No matter what I felt or didn’t feel when I began the liturgy, the liturgy itself proved that I was praying with others, even in that moment. I was part of the community, the family of God, the body of Christ. I may have been by myself in the sanctuary, but I was one of many – only one, yes, but one of the great we that is the church.

– Thomas R. Steagald
A House of Prayer

From pages 9-10 and 11 of A House of Prayer: The Power of Praying in Community by Thomas R. Steagald. Copyright © 2014 by Thomas R. Steagald. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.

Today’s Question

Try praying “left-hearted” today. What was the experience like?Share your thoughts.

Today’s Scripture

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13, NRSV

This Week: pray for the peace of Christ. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section.

Did You Know?

In need of prayer? The Upper Room Living Prayer Center is a 7-day-a-week intercessory prayer ministry staffed by trained volunteers. Call 1-800-251-2468 or visit The Living Prayer Center website.

This week we remember: Dorothea Dix (July 18).

Lectionary Readings

(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

Sponsored by Upper Room Ministries ®. Copyright © 2018 | PO Box 340004 | Nashville, TN 37203-0004 | USA


  • robert moeller Posted July 20, 2018 6:12 am

    Not quite the same, I’m sure, but recently I wrote a left handed note to myself as a little boy as part of counseling. I was trying to communicate, ease the tension of a situation long ago when my Dad wanted to build a birdhouse, and I did not. In comparison to today’s reflection, it is tiny, but I sense the idea of trying to write from the heart and not the brain. It was a great challenge for me, letting my feelings out.

    Thankfully, God knows our feelings even when we don’t say them or even think them. That’s very reassuring. God knows us better than we know ourselves. To have someone, our Creator, God Almighty, in such a relationship is beyond words. Thank You, Lord.

    Thankful for a good day yesterday, a good walk, food shopping, progress finding a new counselor, and more reading and understanding of assembling the cab and boiler on the Bismarck steam locomotive.

    Prayers for Marcy’s breathing, heart, migraines, health insurance, and well being; Julie’s hands, especially the one that needs surgery, her home situation, and a good helpful lawyer; Lou, her job, house, children, and Mom; Mary’s job, colleague, and parents; Andrea’s daughter, grandson, and husband Lowell; may Gloria, Larry, Becky, and Jill each receive the help they need at this time. Prayers that Richard White’s pacemaker implant went well,
    Arnolds Vilcin’s recovery from heart surgery continues, Bob Jones has the medical help he needs for his back, hip, and throat, and Joan Duffy knows God’s peace as she deals with cancer.

    Blessings to all the UR family, thankful for your visits and posts.

  • Jill Posted July 20, 2018 6:34 am

    I feel like my prayer this morning was a bit like this. It was very raw. Thursdays are emotional days – as dad and I spend time together golfing. I know it is so therapeutic for his soul. As soon as he gets in the car – he starts to unload. But in such a tender manner. His heart is breaking and the love I see evidenced is so incredible, so very close to the agape love I have been studying in 1 John summer Bible study. We cherish our time together. I usually see my counselor on Thursday afternoon, and we unpack everything. She is on vacation – so I didn’t see her yesterday. Luckily I rode with my friend from church and tennis – to our tennis match last evening, and we spoke quite a bit on the way home and in my driveway.
    God is, indeed, near. And I am finding comfort in Psalm 3:3 this morning…But You, O LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
    Yes, Father, renew my dad, my sister and I – as we desire to be obedient to You as we care for mom. Sustain us, as only You can. May we seek only Your strength.

  • Mary Ng Shwu Ling Posted July 20, 2018 7:55 am

    Very grateful for the support and generosity of our students’ parents who contributed snacks for our racial harmony day celebration. The students had food tasting of tradition food and it was more oike a buffet where the children could go for second and third rounds. We even had enough to pack a full goodie bag for each child and even extra to give to my tuition kids from outside the centre.

    Thank you God for supportive students’ parents and their generosity. I feel so blessed and happy working here.

    I am also very grateful that the parents paid up the fees quickly after one gentle reminder.

    Thank you God for hearing our prayers.

    Grateful for the weekends. Working tomorrow from 8am to 1pm. There will be an appointment for parents who are interested to place their child at our centre next year to view the place tomorrow. Praying that it will be a fruitful time preparing for next week’s work.

    Blessings to all!

    • Mary Ng Shwu Ling Posted July 21, 2018 3:21 pm

      I mean … traditiinal food and it was more like a buffet.,

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