So much going on in the world right now; and I notice many who are attempting to market new ways and trends in prayer. Humanity has always craved peace, and nearness to God, and the sense of belonging that comes from intimacy with Him; so it is tempting to think we need to find “the right way” the “new and better way” or “the more real way” …
There are not many ways to pray. Prayer is much more simple. There is one God to whom we pray, and He has taught us to call out to Him. When the disciples wanted to know how to pray, they asked Jesus. And He taught them! (see here )
When we ask Him, He will not add to His Word, or reveal something which was unknown to the writers of the New Testament. It is tempting to think that would be best, but we have something greater. We have His Spirit dwelling in us, urging us to pray. He will not tell you individually a secret way of communing with Him. We learn to pray as we pray, and as we spend time in His Word. The indwelling Spirit is our Helper and Comforter, He illumines our minds to understand the Word–and thus to understand the passages that teach us about prayer.
We learn to pray from His Word.
When Jesus taught His disciples, the prayer we see written out is not meant to be a chant. He was teaching. Here is the example, we make the example our own rather than only repeating it. It is a great one to memorize, but as you “pour out your heart before Him” you are not a parrot, you personalize the example. Likewise, so many beautiful prayers found in Scripture can become your springboard.
We pray in the Spirit. With the Sword of the Spirit. We do not pray in the Spirit apart from the Word; or by trying to sit and “listen” to all the thoughts rumbling around my own heart and mind. The heart is deceitful–we quiet those other voices as we abide in the Word.
Ephesians is chopped up by many, we need to keep the verses together. We take on the whole armor of God, the list of armor ends with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Then we are commanded to pray:
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints… Ephesians 6:18
We pray in the Spirit. Rather than in the flesh. We abide in His Word, we remain and continue and rest in it–as true disciples (John 8:31ff)–and we pray with an “inner man” that is being renewed, that is being made more like Christ, that reflects His desires and Truth.
We memorize His words, meditate on them, muse upon them, and our prayers reflect Jesus’ desire for our prayer life:
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish… John 15:7
Your “wish” will not be selfish if it is the fruit of abiding in His words. Your wish will not be so temporal as you abide in His words. Your wish will be borne of humility, dependence, trust, awe, and will be in line with His desires–as you abide in His words.
No Trendy Prayers
No new book promising “pray this and you’ll be blessed” should take up any space in your house. As you read the Scriptures, you’ll notice examples of praying people. (quick, turn to Romans 15:4, and now back to this…) These praying people show us that prayer can be conversation, and worship, and a time to present our thoughts and feelings and desires and requests…
Too often we are offered “techniques” to help us pray, but remember, this is not how Jesus led His disciples into prayer.
When I quite honestly do not know how to begin, I usually read through the prayers found in Ephesians, Colossians, and the Thessalonians, or a few Psalms, and while reading I find a voice–and I cry out. Little by little, we learn to pray without ceasing as we stop simply “thinking things over” and we pray.
And though the Psalms are not meant to “replace” our prayers, they are a great catalyst. Psalm 119 especially. Why? Did this psalmist actually face anything similar to you or me?
You will notice that this Psalmist was much in the Word. He did not have a devotional. He did not read a small portion, check a box, and walk away for the day. He did not read one verse, say “well, that’s enough.” He knew more than his teachers, and still longed for more. When he was tempted to sin, when he had given in to temptation, he prayed.
If we long to know Him, we will never tire of His Word; and in His words we will find the confidence to turn to Him in all our afflictions, in our all our temptations, and in our repentance.
This Psalmist was a great example of what was said earlier: We memorize His words, meditate on them, muse upon them, and our prayers reflect Jesus’ desire for our prayer life.
Set some time aside this week to slowly ponder Psalm 119, and here are a few helpful things to journal through as you read each small section:
What sort of season of life is he in? What circumstances is he facing? What struggles is he facing? What is the mood (“life is easy” or joyful, or “woe is me,” or angst, etc…) of his prayers? How does he interact with the Word? What does he say about the character of God? Notice any praise? What truths does he declare and cling to? What sort of things does he ask for?
I write more on this specific Psalm in the book Deep Simplicity: Meditations on Abiding in Christ, available here.
From page 37: [while considering Psalm 119:1-2] Walking, that is bodily acting upon His righteous ways. Observing with the senses, thoughtfully engaging the mind to notice how God has created the world, and how His decrees carry out His work. Seeking God with the heart, the seat of emotions and desires, and the place where all our choices and plans are devised. To abide in Him is to keep these together, to be whole, rather than tearing them apart.