Have you ever had one of those really frustrating days? Nothing is going your way. The clock radio was full of static when it woke you up in the morning. You were out of milk for breakfast. The traffic was heavy and slow, and someone just cut you off. You can feel the frustration growing in you and you need a release.
One morning last week I came across a prayer for that kind of day. I haven’t said much about the prayer book that’s part of my daily devotional reading for this year, My Personal Daily Prayer Book by Christine A. Dallman and Margaret Anne Huffman (©2003 Publications International, Ltd., Lincolnwood, IL). Each day’s page begins with a Bible verse and then provides a prayer. Sometimes the prayer is a quotation. Sometimes it’s written by the authors of this prayer book. Usually the prayer is very informal, very personal.
Here is the page from May 12, last Tuesday:
They refused to obey… they stiffened their necks…. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them. [Nehemiah 9:17]
The people around me are driving me nuts, God. Traffic was backed up on the tollway, the checkout counters were flooded with carts and strange characters, and the sidewalks were crowded and crunched. My mood overtook my manners today, and I stubbornly refused to say “after you,” “excuse me,” and “please” until I heard a three-year-old in the parking lot say politely to her mother, “Thank you.” With an apology on my lips, help me climb out of this rut of irritation and shame and make amends. Help me learn from my mistakes and do better for the rest of this day.
The next day, May 13, the authors were still talking about having a bad day. The Bible passage was:
Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. [Habakuk 3:17-18]
The prayer was:
Murphy’s law sometimes seems to characterize my life, God, but I don’t want to have a defeatist attitude. You allow difficulties to come my way to refine my character. Help me see setbacks as challenges and not as curses. Help me approach problems as opportunities to learn and grow and not as insurmountable walls. Teach me to have a tenacity of faith that can find a reason to be happy, even in adversity. Amen.
Some days an extra comment or quotation follows the prayer. On May 13, a short poem (almost a limerick, except the first line doesn’t rhyme) ended the page:
‘Tis easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows along like a song;
But the man worth while
is the one who will smile
When everything goes dead wrong.
[Ella Wheeler Cox, “Worth While”]
I smiled when I read that. The inevitable experience of having a bad day on occasion doesn’t mean I can’t smile and make the best of the situation. Despite everything that seems to be happening around me, I know God still loves me, and that should help lighten my mood.
Fortunately, I’ve been having lots of good days lately, and very few bad days. However, I’m going to try hard to remember the pattern of the prayers (and the near-limerick) from May 12 and 13, and to pray a similar prayer the next time my day starts with static on the clock radio, no milk for my cereal, and way too many rude people crossing my path.