August 01

Our Father. . . . Give us this day our daily bread. —Matthew 6:9, 11

I was learning to start every prayer by worshiping God, following the model of the Lord's Prayer, when I noticed something else about this verse. I had seen that not till halfway through the prayer was I allowed to bring up my own concerns. And which concerns, in this model prayer, was I told to focus on? The needs of this day alone. "Pray," Jesus says, "about the chores and choices of the next twenty-four hours only."

What about long-term issues? I thought.

I remembered an Ann Landers column about reader mail. In the ten thousand letters sent her each month, she wrote, a single question appeared most often: What if? "What if I lose my job?" "What if a loved one dies?" Illness, crime, even asteroid collisions—her mail overflowed with fearful possibilities.

I remembered how superior I'd felt to these anxious souls. It's silly to waste energy on things that might never happen! My worries are real ones! Or were they, I wondered now. I glanced back through my prayer journal at the problems that had gobbled time, energy, sleep. And every one of them was firmly rooted in the future.

The whole of the Lord's Prayer has become more meaningful as I direct it toward the next few hours. "Hallowed be thy name in my life this day." "Thy will be done in my life and in the lives of those I'm praying for this day." "Forgive me my trespasses this day."

Some of this day's legitimate concerns, of course, may involve preparing for the future, even the distant future—but in day-sized chunks, in quantities I can handle. God alone, the words "this day" tell me, can handle the days to come, held in His safekeeping till they do.

A Daily Guideposts reader recently sent me a prayer of St. Augustine that I've made my own:

Our Father, keep me from stain of sin, love me, guide me, lead me, just for today.

—Elizabeth Sherrill