Discovering The Joy of Written Prayers

2 Sep

It may seem odd for someone living in an age that is hostile to traditions and rituals to find great joy in written prayers.  Not only am I encouraged by the prayers of saints who have gone before me, but I am also deeply refreshed by writing my own and reflecting on them throughout the day (and week for that matter).  While I, by no means, have tossed ex tempore prayer out the window, I have come to value written prayer more and part of that is due to my own experience in writing my own.  There is something about writing down and remembering (and dare I say, reciting) the words that flow out from within your heart.  On this topic, John Piper one wrote:

“I believe in spontaneous prayers and carefully crafted prayers. Both can be equally earnest and heart-felt. It is true that some small-souled people resort to written prayers because their own hearts are without a song. But the reason I have produced some written prayers is that my own spontaneity tends to degenerate into familiar repetitions. We’ve all heard of the anti-liturgical Baptist deacon whose prayers are as predictable in their “spontaneous” phraseology as any prayerbook. I find that writing prayers now and then enriches my spontaneous prayers. We need to take time to think about what we say. Writing helps.”

As I write my own prayers, there are three themes that seem to stand out:

1. Biblically-Informed
I have found great joy in writing prayers that correlate with what I have reading in Scripture.  Right now, that means I am writing      prayers that flow out from Judges.  As I read God’s Word, I see what He is doing among His people, how they react, the promises  and pronouncements He makes.  Writing my prayers from the Scripture I am reading help connect me to the story; to the  fallen  people of Israel and to the God working in, through and around them.  There is a journaling connection that comes in here, but more  than that, as I spend the following days reflecting on and lifting up my prayer to God. I recount His works, the people’s failings and  exalt in His character.  There is depth to be found in writing Biblically-informed prayers.  

2. Gospel-centered
 Yet, merely writing prayers that echo God’s working at that precise moment in history (in my case, the time that is covered in Judges)  fails to take into account the fact that God’s workings throughout history were pointing to the Messiah.  The people we read about in  Scripture, the events that take place and the laws and sacrifices of God’s Word all point to the Savior, Jesus Christ.  In writing my  prayers, I try to ask myself how the text points to the Gospel, and the grace of God that has been shown to me through this joyous  message.  
3. Confessing My Needs
Finally, I confess my needs to God.  As I write Biblically-informed, Gospel-centered prayers, I cannot help but recognize how I am a  fallen being and unable to perfectly live as I want (to glorify God in all that I say, think and do).  I can easily relate to the sins of the  people as I read God’s Word, and my prayers become cries for God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to mortify (or put to death) such  sinful desires in my own life.  I ask that I would constantly be reminded of the grace of God in the Gospel, and of my position in  Christ as a righteous, adopted son of God.  And I ask that God would grow the fruits of the Spirit in my life so that I might love Him  and others more fully.  

I am eager to see what God might teach me, how I might be conformed to the image of His Son, and the ways in which I might see my thoughts, words and deeds impacted by written prayer.  I hope that you might consider spending some time doing this as well. Yesterday I wrote a prayer that I would like to share with you.  It is based on Judges 6:36 through 7:25:

“God, you are the one who covered the fleece with dew.  You are the one who promised Gideon that You would save Israel through  him.  And you are the one who defeated the Midianites, who were vast in number, with a mere 300 men.  Such is your awesome  power and might, your word and your works among your people. 

  Yet, you have fully revealed these things to us in your Son, Jesus Christ. Your promises are fulfilled in Him.  In His life, death and  resurrection, you poured out grace and love to undeserving people and drew us to yourself through Him.  You defeated the enemy  and freed us from our slavery to sin.  You have saved us.  Such is your awesome power and might, your word and your works  among your people.

Despite all this, we are prone to forgetfulness.  We forget that it was You who defeated the Midianites and that it is You who saved  us from your just wrath and the slavery of sin.  Like the Israelites, we proudly say: My own hand has saved me.  Yet this could be  no further from the truth.  Help me to hide this in my heart: It is the Lord who saves.  Let that truth impact the ways in which I  honor and worship You, and let it impact the ways in which I seek to love others so that they might glorify You.  Fill my heart with  Your  Spirit and enable me to do these things.  To God be the glory! Amen.”


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