Our prayers include (even if only subconsciously) petitions for shelter, for security, and for a legacy that will endure after our death. We want to be remembered. As Israelite pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem to worship at the temple, they sang songs (the Psalms of Ascent) as they journeyed. Among them was Psalm 127. Although not a prayer, it identifies shelter, security, and legacy as beyond assurance unless the Lord provides them. Our security depends ultimately upon our submission to God’s will. At our wedding, I promised my wife that I would keep her safe, secure, and on the edge of adventure. She says that I have overachieved on the adventure part. I pray that I will do better with the safety and security.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1-2).
The psalm discourages expending all our energy as if our effort alone earns all our desires. Too many people regret having spent too little time with their family. Too many wish they had taken more time to “see the scenery” during their lives. Work, yes, but work with joy and balance your work with rest and time spent with your family. Remember your dependence upon God – “Unless the Lord builds,” “Unless the LORD watches,” our work is vain or meaningless.
I have fond memories of playing basketball with my sons, cooking with my daughter and older son, discussing the science fiction universe of Frank Herbert’s Dune with my younger son, bowling 227 in a one-on-one match with the older son, and running with my younger son. I cherish even more memories of worshiping with my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren; baptizing my older son; and singing hymns alongside my younger son at Harding University Chapel. I’ve written about my older son’s death here. My other children continue to inspire and amaze me, and I pray that they will continue to grow to be more and more like Christ.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-6).
My memories of my children’s youth include several long journeys by automobile in the United States and Europe. We visited the Atomic Energy Museum in Oak Ridge, TN; we rode on a gondola after we arrived in Venice, Italy. We drove through snowstorms in Virginia in December. And one day, as my daughter sat beside me as we traveled, she leaned over and listened intently to a song on the radio before nudging me and saying, “Dad, this song is so you!” Her younger brother told me once that he admired most that I never give up. If that is part of the legacy that I bequeath to them, I will be quite happy that I dreamed the impossible dream and reached for the unreachable star. I will not be ashamed “at the gate.”
Let’s pray prayers of gratitude for shelter, for security, and for the children God has given us. I also thank God for those who read my posts and prayers on this blog. I started writing “Call for Fire Seminar” six years ago this past week. Thank you for traveling along with me!
- Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version
O Lord, we hesitate sometimes to relinquish control. We imagine that we can overcome without you. We think that we have earned the housing we enjoy, what sense of safety we may have, and we take pride in achievements we have “earned.” Thank you for loving us and providing for us. We pray that you will continue to give us shelter, that you will protect us on our journey, and that you will guide the children you have given us into abundant lives. Thank you for those children. Thank you for showing us reason to live and dream dreams that only are possible because you are there to make them reality. In Jesus’ name, amen.