Years ago, I read an article citing a poll claiming prayer being the most neglected spiritual discipline among Christians, including pastors. Clearly, Satan sees prayer as a fatal threat to his schemes or he wouldn’t try so hard to make us think prayer is not that important or powerful. But this is a lie. Mary, Queen of Scots, said about reformer, John Knox,
“I fear the prayers of John Knox more than an army of 10,000 men.”
I often encourage believers who desire to learn how to pray (Jesus’ own disciples asked him to teach them to pray) to begin with simply praying the prayers of the Bible.
The Psalms hand us 150 prayers. The longest prayer in scripture is in Nehemiah, chapter 9. Daniel 9 contains one of my favorites. The actual “Lord’s Prayer” is recorded for us in John 17. Prayers of, both, desperate and grateful people fill the pages of the Bible for us.
Additionally, we have preserved for us prayers from believers throughout history. As I read (and pray) these prayers my heart is challenged and my prayer life is deepened. (Sometimes, I am so empty and hopeless, I have to go to these prayers just to ask God to help me to find words – of any kind – to pray.)
Permit me to share an excerpt from just such a prayer from one of my prayer journals, The Valley of Vision:
“Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, supply words that proclaim that ‘love abounds at Calvary.’
At the Cross grace removes my burdens and heaps them on the Son. There the sword of your justice smote your Son. There my infinite sin was magnified, and infinite atonement was made. There infinite punishment was due, and infinite punishment endured.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, that I might be welcomed as a friend. He was surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, and entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, and closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness.
O God, who spared not your own Son that you might spare me, may my every breath be filled with ecstatic praise, my every step with buoyant delight.
Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the Cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.”
Thomas Merton shared,
The only way to fail in prayer is not to show up.
I like that.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick