Spiritual Growth, Devotional
Worshiping God and Growing Through Prayer
by Ed Vasicek
As some of you know, I was reared in a very formal, ritualistic church. One characteristic of such churches is that prayers are read, usually without meaning, and are rarely understood. I often wonder if these religious leaders receive special training to learn how to remove the meaning from prayer and Scripture reading!
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against praying the same prayers over and over. Such meaningless repetition, Jesus tells us, does not please God. A quantity of words cannot compare to a prayer offered from the heart. Indeed, one freedom we believers have is the right to enter God's presence crying out "Abba Father."
One unfortunate misunderstanding of Jesus' teaching is the notion that praying written prayers is somehow unspiritual or uppity. Repeating prayers over and over, reading prayers without concentrating on their meaning, or praying contrary to sound doctrine are certainly abusive practices and are displeasing to God. But it is possible to pray a written prayer in a meaningful way.
I often use written prayers at weddings, baby dedications, and sometimes at funerals. I once attended a wedding where I heard the minister pray a spontaneous prayer, something like, "Lord, we just want to thank You for salvation. We just..." In my book, "justs" are on the "what's not hot list" for wedding prayers.
More recently, however, in an attempt to improve my prayer life, I began to experience the blessing of written prayers. For years my prayers were almost entirely acts of intercession, where I was asking God to heal someone, save someone, or straighten out a particular mess. And that's great. But there are other aspects of prayer, such as worship or humbling ourselves before God, that are lost when we have an agenda of intercession. Indeed, it is wonderful, at times, to pray without making any tangibly physical requests at all!
The question arises, "How do we engage our minds to both concentrate on our prayers and develop those prayers (at the same time), particularly when we are not interceding? Sometimes the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings we cannot utter, as Romans 8:26-27 tells us. But, most often, prayer is not merely spiritual, it is also mental. Written prayersperhaps even authored by ourselvescan sometimes help us pray with meaning while freeing us from the pressure to create our prayers in the process.
Sometimes it is also refreshing to "pray a Scripture back," namely to talk to God about a verse or group of verses. "Lord, by faith I put on the helmet of salvation. Father, protect my mind from thoughts that would displease You. I take upon myself the breastplate of righteousness..." etc. Psalm 36:5-10 can be incorporated as part of a beautiful prayer of worship. You get the point.
I have a software program called "Sage" that is a collection of classic Christian resources. I have found it invigorating to pray some of the prayers originally authored by John Wesley (making a few theological changes as I pray). Indeed, it is freeing to escape the "intercession only" trap and commune with God, to worship Him, to ask Him to develop my character and walk, to humble myself before God, and to heartily concur with the author of the prayer I might pray, adding my "Amen."
God does not call us to "say prayers" but to pray. If your prayer life needs some doctoring, try using solidly evangelical prayers and pray them with meaning. Maybe the ancients had a few good ideas. Don't get away from simple, spontaneous praying, but try adding written prayers into your prayer mix.
Here is an example of a prayer I have written. You might consider writing some of your own to share and/or to file away for your own use.
My Gracious Father,
Your Word tells me that You are the Father of lights. Your holiness and purity shine forth and are a contrast to the occasional flickers I possess through Your work in me. Yet I know your Spirit dwells within me and that you have set Your undying love upon me. Thank You for producing light within my life. May I more and more reflect Your holy light as the rule, not the exception.
O Mighty God, thank you for redeeming my soul from destruction, my mind from futility, and my heart from emptiness. Without Your Son in my life, I could do nothing that could please You, nothing that would last. As I see Your patience with me and Your willingness to condescend to me, I am ashamed of my impatience with others. When I think of how Your Son humbled Himself for me, I feel the disgrace of my pride in judging others. Help me to emulate your patience and humility so that others may see I truly partake of the Divine Nature and that, as a result, You might be glorified in the process.
Abba Father, Your Word is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet. Yet it is my nature to forget the light or to think I need no lamp. I stumble in the darkness because I do not hunger and thirst after You and Your Word. Create in me a hunger, O Father, for You and Your Holy Word. Convince me of the foolishness of trusting in what I have already learned as though it were adequate. Motivate me to renew my mind daily in Your Word. Beyond that, help me remember the precepts of Your Word throughout the day and night watches.
Yahweh, the Great I Am, thank you for the freedom I have in Jesus. You do not call me to right all wrongs, nor do you call me alone to reach all the word with Your Gospel. But Lord God, you do have a perfect will for me today. Help me see the opportunities you provide for me to glorify Your Name. Let me anticipate the appointments You, in Your Sovereign Providence, have made on my behalf. Keep me ever on the look out. And let my only goal be that of faithfulness to You.
Watch over my family and loved ones:___________, and encourage:_________. In your grace, I ask you to lay your hand of healing upon:__________. Father, thank You for using me. You do not need me, but I need You. Ever remind me of this simple truth.
In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Reprinted from the October 1998 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church