We have routines for many things, probably including how, when and where we pray. Books on prayer tell you perhaps what you ought to be doing, but mostly we find what suits us individually and stick to it. It often suits me to pray as soon as I wake up in the morning, before I get up and start doing things. And I don’t have to think of words, because this is the point at which I really do use a hymn as a prayer, generally the same one every day, which I know by heart.
‘New every morning is the love’ – written by John Keble, from his collection of verses, The Christian Year. No 6 in our Common Praise hymn books. The opening verse is a sort of check list. It’s morning, yes, and God’s love is still there – the proof? ‘Our wakening and uprising prove’ yes, I’ve woken up but I can put off rising for a little while yet. I’ve been ‘Through sleep and darkness safely brought’, yes, perhaps it there has been some wakeful darkness when I couldn’t get back to sleep, but I have been brought through to the morning and ‘restored to life and power and thought’. Body and mind still seem in working order; I don’t have to go through a mental MOT, but it’s there behind the words if I want it.
Let’s look at the second verse, which gets down to detail. ‘New mercies each returning day hover around us while we pray (Notice that it says ‘we pray’. Not ‘I pray’ or ‘you pray’- even when one is on one’s own it is a joint activity, and all the better for it.) ‘New perils past, new sins forgiven’ – I don’t know about you, but I usually find that it is the same old sins that need to be forgiven, rather than new ones. ‘New thoughts of God’ yes, I do try to have new thoughts about God from time to time, ‘new hopes of heaven’, well most of my hopes seem to concentrate on this world rather than on the next, but Jesus said ‘the kingdom of heaven is among you’ so perhaps that counts as well.
The next verses are about ‘hallowing all we find’ and the idea of sacrifice. Sacrifice is too big an idea to go into detail now, but I think it means dedicating our activities to God, not so much giving things up to God but consciously sharing with him whatever we are doing – meeting people, working in the garden, and so on, whenever we can.
Very ordinary things can be done with God in mind, and if we are too engaged to do that consciously at the time, we can recollect them at the end of the day, and offer them, our activities and the people we have encountered, to God then.
The final verse is speaking directly to God and looking towards heaven, as the Victorians were rather more accustomed to do than perhaps we are nowadays. But the last two lines sum up our prayer hymn as we ask God to help us, this and every day, to live more nearly as we pray. So now, as we turn to our prayers, let’s begin by saying John Keble’s whole hymn together as a prayer, with an Amen at the end of it.
New every morning is the love
our wakening and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life and power and thought.
New mercies each returning day
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiven,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.
If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.
The trivial round, the common task,
will furnish all we need to ask,
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us daily nearer God.
Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
fit us for perfect rest above;
and help us, this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray.