The Divine Hours is one of my guides during Lent. The Midday Office (between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) provides what is called a "small verse" for this time of prayer. Today’s small verse reads: "From my secret sins cleanse me. Lord. And from all strange evils deliver me." I have been pondering this verse for several hours, one of the real advantages of such a pre-planned guide.

"Secret sins" is a reference found in the Psalter quite often. Psalm 19:12 comes to mind. The TNIV refers to these sins as "hidden faults," which are distinct from "willful sins" in verse 13. The acknowledgement of my secret sins reminds me that I am profoundly flawed, even in my moral consciousness. This means that even though I am aware of many sins in my life there are sins that still remain "secret" or "hidden," even to me. I am asking God to reveal these sins to me so that I may "discern my errors" and be forgiven. Many times we are content to confess all that we know and leave it at that, failing to recall that we truly err in ways that we do not even realize.

I confess that the term "strange evils" is a new one to me. I did some research on it this afternoon. As I searched the Psalter I came to Psalm 78:49 where I discovered a reference to "evil angels" being sent by God to bring about difficulties that are the result of his judgment. (Martin Luther referred to the devil as "God’s devil," meaning Satan’s power is limited and under divine control.) And Psalm 91:9-10 adds:

If you say, "The Lord is my refuge," and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

The same idea seems to appear in this second text, namely that when we do not take refuge in the Lord harm can overtake us, disaster may come near. These appear to me to be the "strange evils" that the small verse is referring to, underscoring both divine providence and God’s personal interest in our holiness and faithfulness.

This is what Lent is really all about, as I have noted over the last two weeks: repentance and our preparation for the Easter celebration of resurrection joy. Every Christian, whether they follow the church calendar or not, can benefit from such prayers. The fact that such prayers are so uncommon in our midst only underscores our failure to deal honestly and forthrightly with sin. I am asking God for a repenting heart during these days. I hope you will join me.

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