"Dear, Lord, three things I pray..." I know that sounds like the opening to a bad Ben Stiller rendition of the Lord's Prayer, but there are
three things that I pray every morning that help me begin my day centered on the gospel.
I don't offer these as a formula or mantra, but just as a practical way to live a gospel-centered life. (I, for one, have found that it is easier to espouse a gospel-centered theology than live a gospel-centered life!) Embracing these principles each morning applies the gospel to my heart, helping me to subdue my idols, counter my propensity to works-righteousness, and grow in the grace of God. Enough intro. Here are the three things I pray:
Unmerited Love and Grace
"God, because I am in Christ I know there is nothing I can do today that would make you love me any more, and there is nothing I have done that makes you love me any less."
As Martin Luther said, the default mode of the human heart is "religion." Even after we are converted, our hearts gravitate back toward works-righteousness unless we continually set them on the gospel. This prayer helps me remember who God has made me, by his grace, in Christ. According to John 17, God loves me now as much as he loves Jesus. Wow.
On that basis, the notion that I can add to or take away from his love becomes absurd.
Joy In Christ's Sufficiency
"God, your presence and approval is all I need to have joy today."
This prayer helps me battle against my natural proclivity to idolatry. John Calvin described the human heart as "a perpetual factory of idols." We were made to worship, but we substitute the creature for the Creator (Rom 1:25). We turn anything that we find pleasing into an idol, looking to it for happiness rather than to God. This sentence helps me remember that I don't need man's praise, monetary blessing, success, or even "happiness" to have joy.
Resting In God's Goodness
"God, everything the gospel tells me about your intentions for my life is TRUE."
In the gospel, God shows me that his intentions for me are blessing, not cursing; hope, not despair; and resurrection, not death. This completely changes how I approach the day. I realize that God's plans for me, my family, and my ministry are good beyond even my wildest imagination. The sky is literally the limit (Ps. 103) on the salvation he wants to work in and through me. It helps me to, in the words of William Carey, "expect great things from God, and then attempt great things for God."
Abiding Through Meditation
Meditating on these three things allows me to leave the house "abiding" in Christ, which is, as Jesus said, the way to abundant fruitfulness. Meditation, though a lost art among Christians, is essential for gospel-centered living. It is different from Eastern meditation, where you cleanse your mind of everything, commune with Enya, or lie naked in the grass and listen to John Denver. It is meditation on God's promises, which brings God's presence into our lives.