When I turned to the lectionary this morning, I began the section called Morning Prayer. In the world of monasteries this period is called Lauds. Lauds come from the Latin word for “praise.” It is easy to see our English word, applaud, in the Latin, Laud. I like the fact that Morning Prayers is a time for praise. In a sense it is time to awaken to the new day and applaud what God has done again.
Because of our technology, it is easy to live life without the sense of nature’s rhythms. When it begins to get dark, we simply flip the switch and the lights come on. So we continue life as if it is the middle of the day. If we want to continue reading or sewing, we have no problem. If we want to wander around in the house at 10:00pm, we are in no danger of running into things we can’t see.
However if we were to live in the middle of nature without electricity, things would be different. We would be much more sensitive to dusk as it begins to erase the day’s light. We might be more eager to arise early in the morning before the dawning of a new day. We would await the light from the darkness of the night. In effect, we would be ready to applaud God---Lauds---when the dawn of new light appears.
I have come to appreciate these Morning Prayers---this time of Lauds. I like the lectionary giving me some set readings. I appreciate people who know the Bible and, especially, the Psalms. I like how they arrange readings to fit the situation. So it is that I eagerly turn to the lectionary each morning.
The first Psalm I encountered this morning was a perfect fit. I engaged the first verse of Psalm 108 and had no need to go further. The Psalmist begins that Psalm by saying, “My heart is ready, O God---my heart is ready.” I wanted that Psalm to be my words for the day. I also wanted to tell God that my heart is ready. I decided to ponder this one-liner.
What does it mean to say to God that your heart is ready? There are two important words here: heart and ready. I know enough about the biblical text to know that the language of “heart” is the biblical way of talking about the whole person. But it talks about the whole person at a deep level. Clearly “heart” is used metaphorically. The Psalmist is not talking about the beating organ in our chests that pump the blood to keep us alive. However, that real heart undergirds the metaphorical heart.
My heart is the “real me.” It is that true self, as Thomas Merton and so many others have identified. Quakers have preferred the language of “center.” My heart is my center. It is the authentic me. A Quaker is aware that only the person who knows his or her center can, thereby, live a centered life.
Life lived from the center---from the heart---is a concentrated life. Notice how the word, concentrated, works: Concentrate comes from “con-center.” A con-centered life is a life centered “with” (the “co-“) oneself and centered with the Divine One. The opposite of a centered life is an “eccentric” life.
Eccentric means one is living “away from” the center. “Ec-“ is the preposition that means “from” or “away from.” Eccentric understood this way does not mean “weird,” as it is often used in common language. An eccentric person is someone who is “off center.” This is the person whose life is out of whack---off balance. I cringe at this description because it can describe me on some days.
So it is that I pray with the Psalmist, “My heart is ready, O God.” That word ready is a great one. To be ready means we are ok to play the game. We are prepared. To be ready means we want to act and to be part of the action. When we say to God that our hearts are ready, we are saying, “let’s go.”
That’s what I wanted to say to God this morning: “Let’s go!” Some days I really do feel that my heart is ready, O God. Other mornings I find that I am not quite ready. On those mornings those first words of Psalm 108 are more aspirational. On those mornings the verse becomes more like a prayer: O God, make my heart ready! Today I was ready.
I awoke and wanted to applaud God for bringing me through the darkness of the night. While I slept, God kept watch. God brought me through safely. And when I arose, I offered lauds---praise. This day is a gift. I am ready to embrace the grace that I have to make a difference. My heart is ready, O God. And I will put my whole heart into this day.