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Days 1 - 10

Days 11 - 20

Day 21

Day 22

Day 23

Day 24

Day 25

Day 26

Day 27

Day 28

Day 29

Day 30

Day 31


From Signposts Daily Devotions
by Renée Miller

Days 21-31

Day 21
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. —Philippians 4:6

The increasing complications and complexities of our lives and culture seem to move us further and further away from even the slightest possibility of care-free, worry-free living. We worry that we won't have enough money, that our children will get into difficulty, that we won't accomplish all the tasks on our to-do list, that terrorism will continue to rise, that the moral fabric of our society will continue to decline, that we won't be able to stick with our diet, that our medication won't work.

The list goes on and on. We know intellectually that all of the energy we put into worrying is as useless as trying to fill up a bottomless cavern with water. In the end, our worrying does not change the situation—it only keeps us diverted from living fully and freely.

What if even a portion of the energy we spent on worrying was spent in prayer? Not the kind of prayer that we think requires patterned formulas to be effective, but the kind of prayer that is an opening of the heart to the Holy One whenever a worry, a care, or a fear finds its way into our consciousness. What if instead of allowing our mind to chew on our problems as a cow chews a cud, we simply told heaven about our difficulties and thanked heaven for hearing? We might find our own heart in a richer state of peace, and we might be surprised to find that, when we least expected it, heaven answered with a miracle.

O God, when I feel as troubled as a bubbling pot, turn down the fire until I become still.

Day 22
Pray without ceasing. —I Thessalonians 5:17

It is an attitude of the heart. It is not resting on our knees on the stone cold pavement of an ancient church from one dawn until the next. When we are in love, there is a constant gentle abiding in the presence of our beloved, even though we may not be physically together in space and time. We can feel their presence as surely as we can feel the wind brushing coolly against our face on a fresh spring day. While we go about our normal activities and responsibilities, we may find ourselves silently speaking to them from our heart, but even without words, we know our hearts are one.

To pray continually is to be so in love with the Holy One that love becomes a shroud of presence around our heart. There we meet the Holy One in a sacred tryst. In the silence of that beating place, the contents of our heart is spilled out into the heart of heaven. We may at times stop what we are doing and consciously speak words to our Divine Lover. At other times, we may simply ask the Divine Lover to read our heart. Or, unexpectedly, during an important meeting, or while changing a diaper, or while doing our grocery shopping, our heart will suddenly reach out in prayer—in love—to the One with whom we are eternally entwined. It doesn't take arduous effort to pray without ceasing. It only requires a heart in love with God.

O God, never let my words and heart leave the stillness of your love.

Day 23
I desire, then, that in every place the people should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument. —I Timothy 2:8

There is something about upward movement that keeps the soul disentangled from the sticky glue of earth. It lets the soul be as Jesus said, “in the world, but not of the world.” It seems that even the slightest action of reaching up brings heaven down. Consider a tree that pushes through hard, black soil to grow up, up, up—its branches stretching beyond its roots into the unseen ether above. It maintains its connection with the earth, yet it is not content to lay its branches out all over the land of dirt. Instead it reaches up from ground, through heavy air, as if in reaching for heaven, it might just apprehend it.

Our hands, like the branches of the silent tree, can be the human limbs that signal our desire to reach the heights of heaven. Every time we lift them without anger or argument clouding our heart, our hands are holy, and reach toward the Holy. In every place, in every time, God is looking for those holy hands.

Old Moses stood all night with hands stretched up toward heaven, and refused to lower them until the answer from heaven had come. When his arms became weary of fighting against gravity, his friends came to help hold them up. Suppose if instead of spilling our souls all over the landscape from which we were formed, we joined one another to raise our hands in holiness. Surely heaven would bend down and touch our fingertips.

O God, let my ten fingers become the holy fire that catches your eye and your heart.

Day 24
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. —Jeremiah 33:3

Life moves at high speed, and we spend our minutes, hours, days, weeks and years trying to keep up with its ferocity. Over the course of our lives, we accomplish a consequential amount, but the unanswered questions of our heart and soul are often left unexplored. We fall short for two reasons. First, the sheer quantity of life issues facing us keeps our energy flowing in only one direction. Our time and attention are activity-driven, rather than interior-driven. We find it increasingly difficult to re-direct our energy to what is inward, unspoken, undefined. Secondly, the very prospect of entering the unseen spaces within us, where life's questions lurk, can feel so daunting that we hesitate to dip our toes into water so black.

The path away from the whirl of activity and into the interior world of ‘great and hidden things' is by way of prayer. When first we decide to follow this path, we feel fidgety and unfocused. Being still seems as foreign to us as it would to a busy squirrel searching feverishly for nuts scattered on earth's dark soil. We may need to drink stillness in small doses, until it feels more natural, more delectable. But when once we stop our exuberant and endless activity, and quietly begin to call to the Holy One, shades of images begin to cast themselves across our soul's terrain, and we find ourselves discovering diamonds that before had been hidden from sight. Even the smallest moment of stillness, the smallest cry to the Holy One, begins the unveiling of what makes us truly human, truly holy. Even that small moment in God's presence can be one of whispered awe.

O God, let me stop my frenetic scratching and scurrying so that the mysteries of life can be revealed to my hungry, silent soul.

Day 25
Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.
—Isaiah 65:24

We are accustomed to living in a world where action is always followed by reaction. In fact, reaction cannot occur without an action being taken. We tend to approach our relationship with heaven in the same way. If we gather our thoughts, make out our holy ‘to-do' list for God, set aside the time to be free of other responsibilities in order to pray, or prepare ourselves to pray by entering a silent and holy church or cathedral, then God will notice the actions we have taken and respond to our efforts. The concept that God answers before we call seems implausible, if not entirely impossible.

Yet, we have had some small experience of this as children. When we were young, we were sure our mother had eyes in the back of her head. She seemed to know our intentions even before they became physical actions. We were almost afraid to think too hard, lest our mother detect our thoughts and halt our action before we were able to enjoy its fruits. As adults, we know that our mothers had no such power, but heaven actually does.

God reads our hearts long before words have been articulated there. God knows what we need, what we've done, what we're planning to do, what will open our soul, what will close it. This can be the greatest comfort when we can't seem to find the right words for prayer, when prayer is nothing more than our ceaseless flowing tears, when our needs linger unspoken because we have too little time to pray. Heaven's timelessness becomes our great ally, and we feel united with heaven even while our hearts feel tethered to earth.

O God, let your ears always be open to the cry that has not yet found form in me. Hear and answer in your mercy.

Day 26
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. —Romans 8:26

At times, there are no known words. No words that adequately describe the emotions lodged within our soul. The feelings are tangible; so real we can taste them and twirl them on our tongue as if they were our fondest delicacy, or spit them out as if they were unsavory fodder. Prayer seems far away, something lost on the unseen air, while the sensations in our soul pulse in steady and heavy rhythm. We may know that prayer could calm the inner turmoil, but the words are just not there—we are submerged in the feelings that cry incessantly for attention.

As if from nowhere, a fragment of gentleness seems to seep stealthily into our soul. Its fragrance is soft, its presence palpable. For the slightest moment we are diverted from our unstable emotions, and enter into a space charged with the Spirit of heaven. It is as if a pinpoint of light has been spotted on the dark, moonless horizon and that pinpoint of light transfixes us. We focus all of our energy there and the troubles that were beyond words are left behind, dropped like a bag of bricks off our weakened shoulders. In that moment we know that the words that were unknown and unspeakable within us have been breathed in holy sighs for us—in a language known only to heaven. Quietly and without fanfare, heaven has lightened our load.

O God, when my heart is too heavy for words, let the whispering sighs of the Spirit be my voice.

Day 27
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. —Psalm 39:12a

Tears always seem to soften a human heart. When a friend is going through a difficult time and tears seem to be their only companion, or when a child falls and skins a knee and tears as big as raindrops well up in their eyes, or when our own heart has been so broken by sadness that salty tears stream silently down our cheeks, humans are moved. When we see someone else's tears, our heart begins to fill with compassion. When our own tears fall, others around us reach out to try to comfort us. What words alone can't do, tears affect without any vocalization.

There are times when the only way to pray is through the prayer of tears. They may be tears of the deepest anguish or tears of the greatest joy. Tears become the currency for prayer when words cannot express the emotions simmering in the soul. And, God's heart, like our own, is never hardened. Even Jesus, in his extreme agony, offered up prayers with tears, and God heard them with compassion. True tears cannot be manufactured. They always arise from a deep mystical place in the heart where manipulative machinations have no power. They seem to come almost unannounced, and surely unbidden. Perhaps, it is this alone that turns the eye of the Holy One to us. Our tears signify our recognition of our own helplessness and our readiness to be cared for by the Holy One, and in that supreme bowing of the head, God reaches out to touch and to heal.

O God, as water can smooth the hardest stone, let my tears always call forth the softness of your heart.

Day 28
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him… —Psalm 37:7a

The answers come as surely as the day is birthed from night, as surely as summer follows spring, as surely as the tide rises and falls. It is not always that we doubt that the answers will come, but we have not the patience to wait for them. A seedling so small it could be blown away by the slightest whisper is placed in a crevice of black earth to grow into its fullness. Water feeds it, the sun warms it, the soil protects it, and in the proper measure of time, it is brought forth in all of its glory. Its unfolding cannot be hurried, or its fullness will never be unveiled. There can be only a silent and patient waiting.

The layers of our lived lives are no different. We find it difficult to live in ambiguity, to have no resolution to the troubles and questions that beset us or those we love. We want to do something, say something, effect something. We want to coerce clarity so that we are not bobbling around like a buoy on agitated water, feeling adrift and unsure. We can become frustrated with our prayers when nothing happens immediately.

We begin to wonder if God has heard us, if God will answer us, if we have asked amiss, if God is mad at us for something, or even if there is a God. The difficulty lies not with God, but with our unwillingness to be still—to wait in patience. Instead of being so focused on having everything ‘fixed,' we might find our souls more peaceful if we would just sit in stillness, and let our eyes watch for the subtle changes, the movement from anxiety and agitation to revelation and fullness.

O God, when I would choose results over serenity, let the breath of your Spirit bring my soul to a place of stillness.

Day 29
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. —Psalm 104:33

Prayer comes from plying the strings of the heart. There in the center of our being, our heart beats the rhythm of life, and plays the melody of emotion, feeling, and compassion. The unrestrained symphony of the heart is heard by the mind and transposed into linear thought; chains of vowels and consonants are formed into words that become our uttered prayers to God. The vocalization is always an articulation of what is birthed first in that pumping organ of life-force.

While this seems to be the usual and normal pattern for prayer in our lives, there are times when the symphony is better-left unarticulated, left as music that floats upward to heaven without restraint. Sometimes our inner melodies need be nothing else but the chords of care that play themselves into the air. At other times those melodies will be accentuated by the lyrics we place with them—word and melody forming a balanced offering to God.

When we see prayer as the music of the heart, there is less anxiety about ‘getting it right.' We are free to let the tune flow unrepressed from our heart, through the unseen air, into the ears of heaven. Our heart is surely lighter, and heaven's heart is surely glad. So sing until your heart is empty.

O God, let the songs in my heart sing themselves into the highways of heaven, right into the vastness of your embrace.

Day 30
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness. —Psalm 138:2a

Whenever it becomes clear that heaven has heard and answered our prayers, we find our hearts grateful and we are moved to offer thanks. At that point, prayers of thanksgiving do not need to be forced, or even coerced. We find ourselves so thrilled that what we have been asking for has been granted, that our gratitude pours forth in words from our heart without the slightest hesitation. The reason for this, of course, is that what had been troubling us, concerning us, hurting us, no longer has any hold over us. While such thanksgiving is important, we are still very much centered in ourselves. In other words, it is all still about ‘us.'

But there is another expression of thanks that is focused not on us but on God alone. It is the gratefulness that arises in the soul when there is a revelatory recognition of the real nature of God. When we suddenly realize the breadth of God's love and faithfulness—not just for us—but for the entire world, the entire creation, our soul can be so overcome that warm thanksgiving tears slide down our cheeks.

These moments of pure adoration are so un-selfconscious, so unplanned, so unexpected, that we will remember them as times of great sacredness. We may even find ourselves transfixed, transformed, transfigured by them. In those moments when we taste the pure goodness of God, and thanksgiving spills out unbidden from our soul, we may find that we begin to respond differently to life. We may begin to see that it doesn't take many such selfless moments to completely alter our understanding of ourselves and God.

O God, let the power of your inestimable love be so real in my life, that my only response can be the lowering of my head and the folding of my knees.

Day 31
Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. —Psalm 139:12

We experience our lives in movements—first this, then that. First, joy then sorrow. First, belief then doubt. First, creativity then a lack of imagination. First, light then darkness. At times we feel like we are being volleyed between emotions and realities with a pattern as regular as a tennis ball bouncing over the net at Wimbledon. This random lobbing can leave the fringes of our soul feeling unraveled.

When we are in a movement that is pleasant or pleasurable, we are distressed when it is casually sliced away by its competing movement. When we are feeling a movement that is unpleasant, we want only for it to be sliced away in order that we can return to our pleasant and pleasurable state. It is difficult to find the place of balance between the two – that place where the tennis ball is perfectly poised over the middle of the net.

To start slipping gently into that balance, we need to avoid the desire to stay with the good emotion, or push away the negative emotion. Rather, the balance is found in the great truth that even though the movements appear separate and distinct they are really one whole. There is no need to try to escape the ‘darkness' or grasp at the ‘light,' because the Holy One is present in both. All is one—all is held in the endless and unrimmed tenderness of the One who made both the darkness and the light.

O God, help me let go of my need to keep things separate and distinct so that my soul can be held in the awe of balance.


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