"Guide, guard, and direct us."--Is it a flawed prayer?
Those of us past a certain age remember a line in many public prayers, particularly closing prayers, that went "Lord, please guide, guard, and direct us." What ever became of "Guide, guard, and direct us?"
There is no central agency or authority that directs all congregations to do or not do anything within the brotherhood of the churches of Christ. Rather the more parsimonious explanation is that a number of people studied Matthew 6: 7 of the Sermon on the Mount in light of this much-repeated phrase, and simultaneously decided to make a change in their prayer lives. In Matthew 6, Jesus was telling people how to pray, and He admonished "And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. " If people examined their hearts and realized that they were using this phrase because they didn't have anything else to say on the way to "Amen," then they made the right choice in omitting it. In 2021, we almost never hear "Guide, guard, and direct us" today.
Other than the possibility of mindless repetitiveness, there is nothing inherently wrong with that prayer. Let us look today at what that phrase implores of God, and see the blessings that can come if we truly allow God to guide our lives, guard us physically and spiritually, and direct us. Expecially let us look at the benefits of letting Him direct us.
Guide us. We need God's guidance so very much. It was Jeremiah who wrote that it is not within man to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23). Man is not wise enough to plan and direct his own life; he needs wisdom, and God is the author and giver of all wisdom. James 1: 5-8"But if any of you secketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways. "
How do we get that wisdom? 1. Ask. 2. Read. The Bible was written by God for us. It is life's instruction manual, both for this present life and for the one to come. The Bible will instruct us about God's ways, but it will also instruct us about man's ways. The Bible will make us into good beginning psychologists and sociologists. The Bible tells us about ourselves and our thoughts, our fears, our ambitions, our habits, our behavior. The Bible is also the master textbook about how people behave when in groups, which is the essence of sociology. We should attend to the Bible. Of the value of wisdom, the Proverb says
Pro 1:1- 10 "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction; To discern the words of understanding; To receive instruction in wise dealing, In righteousness and justice and equity; To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion: That the wise man may hear, and increase in learning; And that the man of understanding may attain unto sound counsels: To understand a proverb, and a figure, The words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; But the foolish despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, And forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be a chaplet of grace unto thy head, And chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, Consent thou not. "
Wisdom, the Lord's guidance, is found all over the Bible. So much sorrow, grief, pain, and loss could have been avoided by hearkening to the words of the book of Proverbs, written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. The alcoholic could have avoided his addiction by reading and listening to the guidance of Proverbs 23: 29, verses following. The man who never wanted to face the wrath of a jealous husband should have read and understood Proverbs chapters 5 and 7. Life is better when simple and married, faithful to one woman. Proverbs about laziness are scattered throughout the book, but for samples see Proverbs 6. This proverb has morphed into Aesop's fable about the grasshopper and the ant. Proper attitudes about money are reflected in Proverbs 22, along with more admonitions to be industrious rather than lazy.
The Bible is our guidebook, not only for this life but for the one to come. Whereas we measure this life in the space of typically 70 ro 80 years, the eternity that awaits us cannot be measured by years. It will be limitless. This is one assignment we have to get right.
Guard Us. Granted, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,..." Hebrews 9: 27 (ESV), reminds us that we are all going to die one day unless Jesus comes first. But that doesn't mean that God wants us to be flippant, indifferent, or irresponsible about the life that He has put into our bodies. We have a stewardship pertaining to the length of our lifetimes as well as all of the other opportunities we are given (Luke 19 12-27). For that purpose, we try to be careful about putting ourselves in physical danger unnecessarily. Jesus wasn't afraid of death, but he didn't step off the paparet of the temple for a frivilous reason either (Luke 4: 9-12). So we take precautions, and we call upon God to guard us.
The Twenty-Third Psalm may be the most familiar of those supplications. It is totally appropriate to ask God to defend and watch after us. For another Psalm of protection, see Psalms 91: 1- 11 "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." God is our defender, our protector, our shield.
We have read of the martyrs of the first century. Stephen (Acts 7) was the first Christian martyr. All but one of the apostles (John) died as matryrs for the cause of Christ. There has been a time and place for standing up for what is right in the Lord's Kingdom at the price on one's life, and that time may come again. However, the vast majority of Christians in the first century did not die by martyrdom. Jesus's prophecies in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 prepared His followers for the time when they should flee Jerusalem for their lives (if they were there), and their noting of the times and of the seasons enabled them to know when it was time to leave. People who listen to God's word have a perspective on history-in-the-making that people of the world do not have.
There has been, and may still be, a place for martyrdom. God places high value on Christians who die in the Lord (Revelation 6: 9-11 "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.") However, God also places a high value on the living sacrifice of those who live their lives to their natural end and die in him (Romans 12 1.2). Although martyrdom has taught us much, the majority of us today do our martyrdom by putting Christ first instead of ourselves in our daily lives. Our God is not a bloodthirsty God when it comes to His people.
Direct Us. The crucial test comes when it is time to allow God to direct us. Will we crucify our sinful selves (our bad habits) and take on a new life, a life in Christ? Colossians chapter 3 tells us to mortify our old sinful habits of sin and replace those with the good works that God commands. Jesus said "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" John 14 14. God directs us through His Word about how to live this life and live it more abundantly. Will you let Him take control?
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