I’ve never written a post like this before, where I’ve actually offered a suggestion for something you could try in your prayer life, but I’ve been inspired in the last couple of days to give this particular exercise a go, and if it helps me then it might be that some of you find it helpful as well. I’ve just finished reading Tim Keller’s new book, Prayer (which is very good and I would recommend it), and one of the points that he made repeatedly that has stuck with me is that the Bible is the best place Christians have to start praying from. Not only does it contain a whole book full of prayers (Psalms) and examples of multiple prayers from various people (most importantly, Jesus), the Bible itself, as the word of God, is the most reliable medium we have through which we can hear God’s voice.
I know that I often struggle to know what God is saying to me, and from conversations I’ve had with other people I know that I’m not the only one, so it makes sense to ground our prayers in the one thing we have that we know for certain is God’s word. How do you pray from the Bible? There are a number of ways. One is simply reading out the prayers that are there and making them your own, but I’ve been trying something a bit different that I’ve found has helped me to engage with God and understand passages of the Bible more fully, and that is to rewrite parts of the passage I’m reading in the structure of the Lord’s prayer. That means, for each line of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, you find words and phrases in the passage you’re reading that either correspond to them or help you to think about them, and then you write down or say out your own version of those words as a prayer to God.
To show you what I mean, I’ll give a short example of a well-known passage in this form, Psalm 23 (well known in the form of the hymn, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’).
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name
Father God, you are my shepherd. Thank you for your rod and your staff that keep me on track. It is for your name’s sake that you lead me.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
As I follow you, would you lead me on the path of righteousness, so that by your power your kingdom would come in my life. You are the shepherd and I am the sheep, so please don’t let me try and lead you, but help me to recognise your will in my life. Help me to learn to trust and follow you, and to do your will here on Earth.
Give us this day our daily bread
Thank you for the banquet that you have prepared for me, the still water you lead me to, and your house that I will dwell in forever. Would you refresh me today, and fill me with your Spirit, because there is nothing that I need more than you.
And forgive us our sins, as we also have forgiven those who sin against us
I’m sorry for when I stray from your path and get distracted. I’m sorry for when I am afraid in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I’m sorry for when I reject your rod and your staff and try to do things my way. Thank you that because of your love, goodness and mercy follow me; would they shape me, so that I could show them to those around me.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
Help me to follow you always, and as I stay behind you, would you be my refuge in the Valley, and would your rod and your staff drive away the sin that so easily entangles.
You are the Good Shepherd. Amen.
I hope that from that example you can see what I mean. There’s not much more to say on this really, because whether or not you do it, and how exactly you do it if you do, is completely up to you. Exercises like this are there to help us in our personal prayer lives with God, and to bring us closer to his word. Time-wise, I think this is a good one to do, as something of the length that I’ve just written probably takes 15-20 minutes to think about and write, and then you can spend however long you want praying into it further, so it works either as a short thing at the start of the day or a nice way to start your prayers at the end of it.
Also, I’m really interested to hear about what you find helps you in your Bible reading and your prayer life, so if you comment down below, or message me if you know me personally, I might try and write another post in a month or so with some more ideas from different people on how to engage with God better in your quiet time.