Do you have a favorite daily devotional guide? I do: The Divine Hours, compiled by the late Phyllis Tickle. In three volumes, one finds rich Scripture readings and prayers for morning, noon, evening, and bedtime for every day of the year.
I follow it every morning, standing at the kitchen counter with my first cup of coffee. If you don’t have the books, just google “divine hours online.” A Vineyard church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, runs the website.
What better way to wake up than with God?
Every morning the closing prayer runs:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Those underlined words are fascinating. I am a finite, sinful human. God is glorious, holy, and majestic. He “dwells in unapproachable light,” and no mortal flesh “has ever seen or can see” God in his full heavenly splendor (1 Tim. 6:16).
How can I possibly fulfill God’s purpose? The same prayer (above) gives one answer: “through Jesus Christ my Lord.” Christ is at God’s right hand interceding for us. Through him, God the Father “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
Power! Hmm, maybe I should pray to win the lottery (if I ever bought a ticket), become famous along with rich, or inherit a beachfront mansion with expenses and taxes paid forever.
But are such (self-serving) miracles really God’s purpose? No, we pray for God’s will to be done and his kingdom to come, not for vain phantasies.
The miracle God works in prayer is most often moving innately selfish believers like me toward goodness, wisdom, holiness, and compassion in everyday matters. “The fulfilling of God’s purpose” (see prayer above) centers on communion with God, listening to others, telling the truth, not wasting time, loving our spouses, testifying to Christ, caring for our children, doing our work with integrity, pursuing purity in thoughts and actions, cultivating hope, and encouraging others, often by self-sacrifice for their sake.
In general, we talking here about seemingly ordinary actions and attitudes that embody love for God and others.
Yet, what seems ordinary may not be. Take bees. How many kinds are there? Five or ten? They sting. In the late summer yellow jackets are a nuisance when you try to eat outside. We may try to swat a bee when we see one.
But without bees to pollinate crops and to perform other important functions, famine would descend. In Missouri, there are nearly 450 native bee species. The more scientists discover, the more amazing their crucial role in ecosystems becomes.
Ordinary bees (as it seems) fulfill life-giving purposes, some of which researchers are only beginning to document and describe.
In our lives, the fulfilling of God’s purpose is usually not heroic deeds or sensational achievement. It is faith in Christ leading to faithfulness to God. He provides the impetus. He deserves the glory.
As God’s miraculous transforms our ordinary, we do, indeed, fulfill his purpose.
Dr. Bob Yarbrough is Professor of New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary.