Prayer has been a topic that is on my mind a lot lately. Do I pray well? Do I pray faithfully? Do I devote not just the appropriate amount of time to it, but also, do my prayers reflect Biblical priorities? Are they – in effect – quality prayers?
In these questions, I was helped by two things this past week. One was a quote from D. A. Carson, who has written an excellent book on prayer that I would recommend to anyone (“A Call to Spiritual Reformation“). At some point in your developing prayer life, you will start to wonder “does this make any difference?” If God is in control of all things, doesn’t that make prayer somewhat pointless? Carson clearly gives the antidote to this sort of thinking: “The Bible simultaneously pictures God as utterly sovereign, and as a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God.” And indeed, this is true. It is one of the many mysteries of theology that we simply need to accept even if we can’t perfectly explain it. As I once heard a wise man say at an ordination council: “If Jesus needed to pray in the garden, then how much more is my own need for prayer?”
A second item of help that I came across this week was a short piece written by Donald Whitney. I’m currently reading an excellent book of his (“Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life“) and so, when I came across this post online, I easily recognized his practical-yet-Biblical approach to Christian faithfulness:
“The problem isn’t that we pray about the same old things; the problem is that we tend to say the same old things about the same old things. The result is that we can be talking to the most fascinating Person in the universe about the most important things in our lives — and be bored to death.”
So what is the solution?
“Suppose you are praying your way through Psalm 23. After reading verse one — ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ — you might begin by thanking Jesus for being your Shepherd. Next you might ask him to shepherd your family, making your children or grandchildren his sheep, causing them to love him as their great Shepherd too. After that you might pray for your undershepherds at the church, that Jesus would shepherd them as they shepherd you.
Then, when nothing else comes to mind, you go to the next line, “I shall not want.” You might thank him that you’ve never been in real want, or pray for someone — perhaps someone you know, or for a Christian in a place of persecution — who is in want.
You would continue through the psalm until you run out of time. You wouldn’t run out of anything to say (if you did, you could just go to another psalm), and best of all, that prayer would be unlike any you’ve ever prayed in your life.”
Helpful, Biblical, practical, and do-able. Read the full article here.