“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:11 (NIV)
This verse from the Psalms has been a prayer of mine for many years. A very special person in my life taught me how to “pray the scriptures” and I find myself coming back to this one over and over again.
It is the cry of my heart – the summation of so many things that I struggle with on a daily basis. The first part, “Teach me your way…..and I will walk in your truth” (emphasis mine) is something I cling to because I am tempted so many times to walk in my OWN truth. The part of me that thinks I have it all under control and everything figured out will often find itself knocked flat on its face. It is in those times especially that I have to remember that if God’s ways are not like my ways, His truth probably isn’t a whole lot like mine either. As I get older, I find myself wanting to hear and read Scripture, certainly – grow spiritually, of course – but most of all, I just want to walk side-by-side with God and know Him. Truly have His companionship in my day-to-day life. And that’s not something you can just read about or learn about – you have to pray it, live it, breathe it.
The next part of that verse talks about “an undivided heart”. Let me just tell you – this is a concept that rings so true in my life because I feel “divided” ALL of the time. Between family, work, friends, and the campaign that seems to consume my mind, my heart feels split into several different pieces. It’s a daily struggle to find balance in my chaos.
At church yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to serve as Lay Reader for the first time. For those of you unfamiliar with Episcopal services, a Lay Reader assists with the worship service by leading the “Prayers of the People” which is a responsive prayer time for the congregation where we lift up our church, our nation, our sick and needy, etc. The person then also helps prepare the table for the Eucharist (communion) and serves the chalice of wine to each participant. It was a moment I won’t soon forget. It’s a humbling experience to be a part of and in addition to those things, it was also my turn to be the “Lector” for the service, meaning I read each of the lessons from Scripture yesterday morning, except the Gospel lesson. How fitting that the Psalm for yesterday started with 86:11 – as soon as I read it, drank in the familiar words, the entire service changed for me. What started out with fears about messing up an important step in the preparation for communion, or leaving out someone’s name in the prayers, or spilling the chalice all over a brother or sister, became this very intimate, very poignant moment for me and God. With the words of the Psalmist, He reminded me of the prayer that I had quit praying, but still needed. With those words in mind, I remembered why I was in that sanctuary to begin with, and with my attention now where it should be, I felt as though I was able to worship Him with every word, every intention, and every action.
Which is how it should be. Isn’t it in Christ that we “live and move and have our being”? Aren’t we supposed to constantly abide in His truth? Shouldn’t the closeness I felt to the Father yesterday be something Christians experience daily?
Yes, yes, and yes! So why don’t we? Why don’t I?
Distractions. Pure and simple. Because I’m like you and you’re probably thinking, “Well, yeah – it’s easy to focus and stay on point when you’re in the middle of a worship service, surrounded by your church family – it’s the other 6 days of the week that are hard!” And it’s true – finding that kind of intimacy with God can be extremely difficult the rest of the week – it was even hard for me yesterday until I allowed Him to purposefully still my heart and quiet my distractions. Before we sing our final hymn on Sunday mornings, we pray this prayer together, as a congregation:
Eternal God, heavenly Father,
you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
and you have fed us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
“grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart“
I don’t think God intended for our hearts to be divided. In fact, I know it. Because we cannot serve Him like He intends if our hearts and minds are divided. I also don’t think it was a coincidence that our organist was playing “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” while we were preparing the table yesterday.
So here’s where I am today: this concept of keeping an “undivided heart” or “singleness of heart” is going to be a challenge. It’s not one that I will ever completely conquer as long as I am human. But it is something to strive for, to pray for. I believe that God very willingly gives us those things that help us grow in our walk with Him……sometimes we just have to ask. And sometimes, we just need the reminder to do just that.