It has been said that prayer is the life-blood of the Christian. Prayer is, as John Piper so fittingly put it, the “communication by which the weapons of warfare are deployed according to the will of God.” It is the very spark that ignites us to action, and the fountain that refreshes us in our weaknesses. A non-praying Christian is simply an oxymoron. Yet, prayer seems to be something that I struggle with in my day to day life. I always feel as though I don’t pray enough, and when I do pray I feel as though I’m being terribly repetitive. I read stories of the giants in church history who were known for being mighty men of prayer. Men like John Knox and George Muller lived and died praying to the God they loved. I am certainly encouraged and challenged by their example, but more often than not I become overwhelmed, discouraged, and ultimately frustrated by my lack of ability. Did these men have something that I don’t? Were they just more focused or did they just have more time on their hands? Is there a secret to powerful prayer that has been eluding me? Unfortunately, there is no cheat code to prayer. There is no one time fix-all to having a perfectly consistent and effective prayer life.
However, I have found a technique that has helped me tremendously.
I pray the word of God.
Here are four advantages to praying the word of God, specifically through the Psalms.
1. Praying through God’s Word gives you a structured guide to prayer.
One of my biggest problems in prayer before was that I did not have much structure during my prayer time. This caused me to lose focus faster and more frequently than I’d like to admit. When I pray verse-by-verse it helps me to stay on course. For example, when I pray through Psalm 67, I begin with verse one. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” I begin praying for God to be gracious and to bless me, my family, my church, and whatever else is close to my heart. When I get done with that I go on to verse two. I continue this until I’m done with the Psalm or I run out of time. This method allows God’s infallible Word to be our guide in prayer. John Sampey, former president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, once wrote, “If one wishes to learn how to approach God acceptably in worship, the Psalms are the best manual to put into his hands.”
2. Praying through God’s Word helps you to grow in the love of the Word.
Is there a better way to come to appreciate God’s Word more than to make it the center of your prayer life? Martin Luther was a man of great resolve who stood opposed to the most powerful institution of his day. His life is said to have been “full of dangers and conflicts with men and demons.” Written on his personal Bible in his own hands are the words of Psalm 119:92: “Unless thy law had been my delight, I should have perished in mine affliction.” When we pray the Word of God it has a way of burying itself into the depths of our heart and affections. We begin to understand why the Psalmist loved the law of the Lord enough to pen Psalm 119. It becomes our food and our drink. We crave it and we uphold it as the perfect masterpiece that God himself sent to us in love. We become enamored by the very heart of God by simply praying back to Him the Word that He has given us.
3. Praying through God’s Word helps you to have a more effective prayer life.
We as humans seem to be consumed by the idea of being as efficient as possible. Our consumerist society is best characterized by Frank Gilbreth, the father in the beloved children’s novel Cheaper by the Dozen. We are told from a young age not to waste time, and we are tempted to feel it would be more productive to just do something other than prayer. However, as a Christian we know that prayer is the most productive action that we can do. We can petition that the all powerful Sovereign of the Universe would act in our lives. How do we do that correctly though? Pray the Word of God. The Word of God is a “rich vocabulary of praise for stammering lips.” When we don’t know what to pray, we can always pray the promises of God found in his scriptures. What better reason can we give God to answer our prayers than, “Lord, based upon your unchanging Word.”
4. Praying through God’s Word helps you to have a more consistent prayer life.
Ultimately, we are an inconsistent and an imperfect people. This can only change by the Holy Spirit growing us closer to God. Jesus prayed in his high priestly prayer in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus did not say that we’d be sanctified by neat daily devotionals or by Christian books and he certainly did not say that we’d be sanctified by occupying a pew on Sunday morning. It’s only by dwelling and abiding in the scriptures that we see spiritual growth in our lives. In fact, it’s a love for God and what He has said that is a characteristic of one who has truly been saved. Don’t spend your time waiting for a future unrevealed word from the Lord. Dive into the truth that He’s already spoken in His Bible.
Obviously, a lot can be said about the attitude of prayer. One cannot have any of these things if they have not been radically transformed by the grace of Christ. Prayer is not the Christian equivalent to rubbing the lamp of a divine Robbin Williams-esque genie, and we must not treat this sacred act as such. Discipline in prayer only comes to those who work at it. Those that understand that prayer is a lifestyle and not just an escape hatch when we get ourselves into too much trouble. These are the ones that will preservere and will honor their Lord by seeking his face continually.