March 4th

1st Saturday of Lent

Day 4

If I have had time and opportunity to go through the Lord’s Prayer, I do the same with the Ten Commandments. I take one part after another and free myself as much as possible from distractions in order to pray.  I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands.  That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly.  Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.


Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3: 3-6


I begin with a confession:  I am highly distractible.  I actually set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes to be sure I stay in the kitchen for the whole 10 minutes when I am trying to clean up after a meal.  If I don’t, I may go take the wash out of the dryer and fold it, or check something on my phone, or jot down an idea for the choir, and then the clean-up task is still waiting to be done.  So I seem to need the structure of the time limit, and if the job isn’t totally done after 10 minutes, at least it is much closer to being done, and I can stick with it to the end.

This distractibility carries over into devotions I try to do.  How can I stay on task so it is meaningful time spent with God? So this new-to-me idea, in Luther’s structured guide to work through the Ten Commandments, is very helpful to me.   I like the beautiful imagery of “a garland of four strands.”  The four strands engage both my mind and my heart.

As I try to follow Luther’s guidance, the first strand is instruction, and in the Small Catechism, that is laid out succinctly in his “What does this mean?” that follows each commandment.  He is clear that following each commandment is not just “You shall not…” but includes also “You shall…”  There is much to ponder there.

For the second strand, a thanksgiving, I find it is quite easy to give thanks for the wisdom of the commandment, and for Luther’s interpretation, and for our God who is so loving and trustworthy.  That part feels very good!

The third strand is confession, and for each commandment I can find ways in which I have fallen short of keeping the spirit of the commandment. (For the fifth commandment, for example, I certainly haven’t murdered anyone, but have I helped and supported my neighbor in all of life’s needs?  I confess I have not!) I feel a sigh at falling short of God’s hopes for me.

The fourth strand is a prayer.  Here I pray for God’s help in keeping that commandment and being alert to the needs of others, both near and far.  In prayer, I am in relationship with God, and feel God walking with me.

So this idea of a guided devotion is, I think, very helpful.  For those of you who may share my distractibility, I think you will like this discipline.  And even if you focus easily and well, the beautiful strands of this garland will enrich your life.

Dear Lord, help me to leave behind the trivial tasks and distractions of my day. May I not rely on my own insight, but trust in you with all my heart, for you are my Lord and God.  I pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen

Bess Sproul

Put a coin in your bank, if your glass is half empty or smile at someone if it’s half full. It can make someone’s day.