Two Phrases to Frame the Music of our Days

My husband, John, has gotten into the habit of listening to the Brandenburg concertos as he spends time with the Lord in the morning.

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The other day we were sitting at Starbucks together and he said, “Did you know that a lot of people talk about how Bach put ‘SDG’ – ‘Sola Dei Gloria’ at the end of his compositions meaning ‘to God alone be the glory’.

But most people don’t know that he also put ‘JJ’ – ‘Jesu, Jusa’ – ‘Jesus, help me’, at the beginning of each composition.”

I thought, what a cool discipline.  A reminder I need too.

Jesus help me.

I’m super visual, so this is the picture that comes to mind.

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That’s a pretty natural prayer for most of us when we get in trouble or realize we’re out of control.  The hard part for me is that I’m such a “doer”.  I often opt for prayerless striving and neglect a posture of dependence until it’s absolutely necessary.

I’m more likely to shoot up a “Holy buckets, Lord I’m in a bit of a jam!” at the last minute, than to pray, “Lord please help me to love well today.  Help me to forgive well today.  Help me to speak truth. To serve with humility. Because without Your help I’ll default to my self-centered agenda.”

But the phrase Bach used at the end of his compositions is even harder for me.

To You alone be the glory.

 One of the ways I’ve been challenged to really examine my life through the lens of glorifying God is to ask the“so that” question as I pray my “Jesus help me” prayers.

None of us will ever have completely pure motives, but I want to examine my heart.  When I pray that my foot would be healed, is it “so that” I might finish a half-marathon to check that off a list of accomplishments?  That’s not a bad thing in itself, but is it also “so that” others might see the power and joy of Jesus in me and be drawn to Him?

When I pray that I would hit a goal of raising $5,000 dollars for clean water for Zambia, is it because that accomplishment would validate me, or “so that” God’s kingdom would be furthered in a corner of the world and suffering would be alleviated?

images-1G.K. Chesterton wrote, “How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.”  

Both of these prayers require a “smaller” me and a larger God.  Can you relate?

7 Comments

  1. ‘The hard part for me is that I’m such a “doer”. I often opt for prayerless striving and neglect a posture of dependence until it’s absolutely necessary.’…

    YES! So relate to this… the endless striving. God is bringing me to a new place of pausing BEFORE I enter in to the next thing in order to be fully present. I love the idea of adding this prayer, ‘Jesus help me’, to that space… Jesus help me listen. Jesus help me see You. Jesus help me notice. Jesus help me understand.

  2. This is so striking Laura!… the JJ before each piece Bach wrote and the Chesterton quote. Men who actively knew the greatness of their God. I am reminded of John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease..”

  3. Thanks for the lovely reminder of Bach’s dedication and dependence. This will be a perfect devotional for our choir rehearsal tomorrow evening!

  4. annefherman@gmail.com

    October 23, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Yes yes yes …..I TOTALLY relate! Exactly what the Spirit is convicting me of (my motives?). So grateful for your honesty and transparency Laura ! You are Beautiful and real…what a blessing you are!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. I’ve probably shared this before, but here’s a prayer of the Optina Elders that’s a humbling way to start the day:

    “O lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to your holy will. At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to your holy will. Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is under your care. Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone. O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love. Amen.”

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