This past Sunday, we launched what will be our family focus for 2010 – Praying through Scripture. More specifically, praying through the Psalms. I am thoroughly excited about this year’s emphasis because I believe that our prayer lives, as individuals and as a congregation, can always be stronger. Surveys show that while over 80% of American adults say that they pray in a normal week, the average prayer lasts well under 5 minutes. What this reflects is that our prayer times are infrequent at best and often shallow.
Recovering daily, meaningful prayer is a matter of self-discipline – a matter of learning how to say “No” to lesser pursuits, “Yes” to the Holy Spirit who guides us to God’s presence in prayer, and “I will” to what Scripture sets before us as instruction in prayer. From that point, it is a matter of being a “doer” of the Word by praying – by simply talking with God.
Prayer is a matter of opening up your heart in genuine sincerity and offering yourself and all of your concerns up to God. It is confessing your sins before Him and savoring again the grace of Christ in forgiveness. It is the humble acknowledgement of your complete dependence upon the sovereign Lord of the universe. It is seeking the fruit of His presence, His gifts, and His promises in what is truly an act of worship. It is casting upon Him your burdens, thanking Him for His grace, being still and waiting upon Him in faith, and celebrating His splendor. Finally, it is maintaining an ever deepening expression of all of these things without falling back into a “rut” of empty repetition.
This is where praying through Scripture is so valuable. Scripture is God’s inerrant, inspired, sufficient revelation of Himself and His purpose of redemption. When we take the truth of God’s Word and use it to guide our hearts and inform our minds and frame our speech, we realize a prayer life that encompasses a height, width, and depth that we have scarcely experienced before. The benefits of this discipline are many, but here are three of the most important:
1. Praying Scripture will lead you to explore and give expression to previously unprobed areas in your life. Just as expository preaching through whole books leads you to discover all the precious jewels of Scripture, praying the Scriptures leads you to personally meditate upon and express all facets of God’s Word. For example, if I were to pray through a short chapter like Philippians 4, I would would be drawn to consider and pray about standing firm in Christ, the harmony of my relationships with others and how to have a forebearing spirit, my Christian joy, being free of anxiety through prayer, how the peace of God guards us, and the chief things my mind is to dwell upon. And all of this is just in the first 8 verses! When was the last time your prayers were concerned with any of these things?
2. Praying Scripture will help you to enrich and vary the language of prayer. When we pray, we too often fall back to repeating cliche’s and statements we have heard from others in prayer rather than depending on God’s Spirit and truth to give proper expression to what is in our own hearts. When we articulate the realities of our own hearts through the lense of biblical truth, we develop the habit of praying biblically rather than the habit of praying repetitiously. Consider the beauty of what we have in Psalm 1:1-2 – “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” That is indeed rich language to be guided by in prayer!
3. It directs us to focus more on the person of God rather than upon ourselves. The average Christian believes prayer is more about expressing our needs than it is about worshiping God. Don’t get me wrong – we are certainly to be dependent upon God to meet our needs, yet the greater priority of prayer is being still, and knowing He is God. (Psa 46:10) When was the last time your prayer consisted mainly of celebrating the attributes of God? When was the last time you recounted to Him the splendor of how He has revealed Himself in creation? In redemption? In your sanctification? Consider what it would be like to pray Job 38-42, Psalm 19, or Romans 11:33-36. Great prayer is birthed through meditating upon our great God.
These a just a few of the numerous benefits that come through praying God’s Word, so commit now to join with your church family in praying through Scripture in 2010!