Here is another excellent post from Desiree. She sent me a couple different devotional posts and frankly, this one was helpful for me this morning. So I am sharing it. Paul and I were just discussing prayer and we both agreed that it seems easier to do physical work than to do the work of praying. As if God is more pleased and thus more likely to respond to my actions than he is to my prayers. So very wrong. Anyway, I loved Desiree’s take on prayer and the way that she gives examples on how to make prayer real and truth-filled.
Desiree and her husband Dave are going to start contributing to this blog more regularly in the coming months and I am SO EXCITED about this. New changes are coming to toknowhimtoday.com so stay tuned : )
Sometimes, I really struggle with prayer. I am certain that it is powerful, that it is vital, and that God wants it, but when I actually sit down to pray, my mind sometimes goes blank. I have struggled to stay awake when I pray, and I have tried various means to keep myself awake—pacing around the room and praying aloud, among other things. Sometimes the means of staying awake becomes a source of distraction (like the sound of my own voice in an empty room). This struggle has continued for some time.
Praying through my church’s prayer list is helpful. It reminds me that prayer is work, that prayer is a way that we can use our time to serve other people, and that prayer is our best way, through God’s work, to change the world around us. But if my prayers are limited to this list, my communications to God feel incomplete. It’s a bit like a wife whose only communications to her husband are her list of things that she wants him to do around the house on the weekend. Sure, she might throw in a couple of explanations (“You know that this is really important because….”) and lots of praise and thankfulness (“Thank you for all the work you did last week when you…..”), but you can hardly imagine a relationship being meaningful if this is the primary communication. Likewise, my relationship with God demands that my prayer life be centered on more than a list of requests.
Studying about prayer is also vital. Taking time to study what the Bible says about prayer helps us combat our natural struggles with prayer, such as understanding how it works with God’s sovereignty or how it can be meaningful in light of His omniscience. When we study prayer in the Bible, we may not fully understand how it works, but we can see that it does work. We can see that God wants to hear from us, and He can even change our hearts through this act of faithful submission to Him.
“Lord, teach us to pray,” the disciples said to Jesus, paralleling our feelings of inadequacy when facing this vital yet mysterious task of simply communicating with the God who made us and loves us. Jesus graciously gives them a short lesson through example. Through His life, He also showed them by example the importance of diligent prayer.
Yet, I still find myself asking, “Lord, teach me to pray!” That’s when He has reminded me of myriad of examples of prayer in the Bible. I have found all these examples to hold the key to working toward a meaningful prayer life. When I don’t know what to say, when I feel worn down and unable to form thoughts, I look to these examples.
Studying these examples—their content and spirit—is immensely helpful. I have also found that following these examples has helped me be transformed by scripture in this area. There are many examples of prayer in the Bible, but the book of Psalms holds the most. I have tried to learn from these examples by paraphrasing the Psalms, especially as prayers to the Lord.
Rather than explain the process of paraphrasing these prayers, I’d like to share an example with you.
A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
My meditative paraphrase of Psalm 130
“An uplifting song, for remembering as we ascend
I am low, so much lower than You, O Lord, and in so much trouble without You. My heart is often swallowed up in earthly passions, as if the earth itself were pulling me down into it. Please hear me, even when I am so low, please listen and pay attention—I am crying out for Your help and mercy.
Oh mighty God, oh my Master, if You kept a permanent list of our sins, no one could come before You. We would be buried, cast down by our own sinfulness. But You have made a plan for forgiveness! Everyone will know how great You are and be in awe.
So the only thing that I can look to is You. I’m waiting for You, watching for You, ready to follow Your lead. I am like a night-shift worker—these people work at night and wait for the morning to come—they know it will come, but they eagerly anticipate its arrival while they do their job. I am the same—I am completely confident that You will come, and while I am working, doing what You have given me to do, I eagerly wait for Your arrival.
All of God’s children need to put their hope in Him! That’s where we’ll find what our soul needs—that is where we will find love, forgiveness, and a solution to all that is broken around us. He will rescue us from all of our sin.”
As you can see, my paraphrase is much longer than the original. That is not because my many words are more important than the original. Rather, that is a testimony to the power of the poetry of the Psalms. These lines carry so much meaning that even my paraphrase does not exhaust the content I could meditate on.
Taking the time to meditate on the meaning of these prayers has been so beneficial. Taking the time to think about how I might call out to God in the same way has revitalized my prayer life.
I want to study prayer, but I also want to do it. Through this process, I can meditate on the truth God has revealed in these prayers, and I can also communicate with Him in a way that submits to that truth.
When I was a child, the Psalms were some of the most difficult passages of the Bible for me to understand. I wondered why there was so much anxiety, so much “crying out,” so many difficult images that really didn’t relate to my life. I preferred reading passages that more explicitly and exclusively described God’s character. Now, as an adult, I understand much more the passion and distress within the Psalms. Over the years, paraphrasing the psalms has taught me about God and about how to pray to Him. I am so thankful for such a gracious God, who tells us to pray and then teaches us through examples.