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Saturday, September 01, 2018

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1 O God, my faithful God,
true fountain ever flowing,
without whom nothing is,
all perfect gifts bestowing:
give me a healthy frame,
and may I have within
a conscience free from blame,
a soul unstained by sin.

2 Give me the strength to do
with ready heart and willing
whatever you command,
my calling here fulfilling--
to do it when I ought,
with all my might--and bless
whatever I have wrought,
for you must give success.

3 Keep me from saying words
that later need recalling;
guard me, lest idle speech
may from my lips be falling;
but when, within my place,
I must and ought to speak,
then to my words give grace,
lest I offend the weak.

4 When dangers gather round,
oh, keep me calm and fearless;
help me to bear the cross
when life seems dark and cheerless;
help me, as you have taught,
to love both great and small,
and, by your Spirit's might,
to live at peace with all.

In this hymn, we beseech God to cleanse us on the inside. As we infer from Jesus' teaching in Mark 7, this is exactly what we need. If we had a window into the prayers of the characters in that story, we might hear the Pharisees and scribes saying, "Thank you, God, for not making me like this riffraff around Jesus who don't even know to wash their hands." Meanwhile, the disciples themselves had been schooled to pray, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (see Luke 18:9-14).

While we probably aren't so brash as to thank God that we aren't like others, we do have a less overt version. It usually takes the form of gushing gratitude for how we've been "blessed," so that our prayer of confession is crowded out. Only by opening our hands as beggars for the "perfect gift" of God do we gain the strength and will to be a blessing for the neighbor. How much better that is than merely feeling fortunate compared to them!

Faithful God, my heart strays from you, even as my words and actions may seem religious. Renew a right spirit within me and make me ready to do your will. Amen.

Mark D. Williamson, '05
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Dodgeville, Wis.

This God Pause daily devotion is brought to you by the alumni of Luther Seminary.