Way back on January 6, 2019, during our evening communion service, Pastor Josh delivered a fantastic sermon about prayer. Personally, our evening communion services are always a favorite for me, but this one was particularly wonderful. One element of his sermon I found particularly moving was the periods of time Pastor Josh allowed in his for prayer. He encouraged us, the congregation, to pray for our pastors and elders. He then had pastors and elders pray over us as a congregation. Lastly, he encouraged us to pray for each other. If you were unable to join us that evening or haven't yet caught up, you can view the sermon here.
In light of his sermon, I wanted to take the opportunity to drill down further into prayer in hopes of helping you grow in your prayer life. I realize his sermon was over 2 months ago now, but I still think it's worth the time.
The Bible is pretty clear on the matter of prayer: as believers, we are to pray. There are more than a few scriptures (a lot, actually) that command and/or encourage us to pray. There are more than a few scriptures (also a lot) that serve as prayers. Paul makes a pretty big case for prayer in his letter to the Ephesians. He says this:
16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Ephesians 6:16-18 (emphasis added)
Again, the bible is quite clear that prayer is an essential part of the life of a believer and something that should be of immense importance in our daily lives. Though, if we're being honest, we struggle with prayer. As much as we know supposed we're to pray, we often times punt on this discipline for a plurality of reasons.
I don't know what to say.
I don't know who/what to pray for.
I'm afraid I'll do it wrong.
I'm afraid I'll sound stupid.
I'm afraid of praying in front of others.
My prayers are boring.
Shaun, I just don't have the time!
See? We have a lot of reasons, and those are just the most common reasons cited. As such, I'd like to provide a few resources to help you grow in your prayer life.
The first resource I wish to commend to you is The Holy Bible. I realize that answer clocks in around entry-level VBS, but as I already demonstrated above, the Bible has a lot to say about prayer and contains many prayers offered by the Saints throughout the ages. Jesus himself lays out a fairly distinct framework at the beginning of Luke 11. He not only gives instructions for how to pray but also what to pray. At a very basic level, study Luke 11 and learn to pray as Jesus taught us to pray. Even if that means you sit down with your Bible in a quiet place and pray through the Lord's Prayer. Prayer should be a habit, and you and I both know how hard it is to establish good habits. Sure, it might seem lame to sit down and recite the same prayer over and over from the pages of scripture and, eventually, from rote memory, but establishing good rhythms and habits helps move the needle.
We had an entire series about prayer entitled, ACTS, which utilized a helpful acronym to help us pray well. You can go back and watch the series here. It's simple: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It's an easy template to help you focus your prayers in more meaningful ways. If you're anything like me, hen it comes to prayer, any additional help in the area of focus is welcome.
A Prayer Journal
Seriously, it helps us to remember things we want or need to pray for and helps keep track of our prayers. You don't need a large journal book with an elaborate cover, you can buy a pocket-size notebook and it can go anywhere with you. It’s not a bad idea to use something that has a sturdy cover. If you carry it around everywhere, any notebook is bound to break down over time with use but, literally, any notebook would work.
Before we move on, I have a confession: I don't feel as though I have the gift of prayer. You probably know what I'm talking about here because we all know that one person who is. When we gather up to pray, the words just roll off their tongue as if the sons of Asaph were writing them upon their soul. If we're being honest, we experience just a twinge of jealously over just how good their prayers are. I've always tried to stay close to those people because I feel so much more encouraged when I hear them pray. Which is why I have several really good books on prayer that I've collected through the years to not only guide my prayer life but also to speak the words that I simply do not have. I'd like to share a few of them with you now.
I only started reading through this book this year, but I've been deeply encouraged by it. I learned about it from songwriter Andrew Peterson (more on him later). Baillie wrote his diary of prayer in 1936, and he was Scottish, so you can imagine the tongue in which it's written. And, it's fantastic. At times it's moving and encouraging, other times it makes me squirm a little in the honesty of its confession, in a good way. Coming before the Lord and confessing our sins is hard. They're our sins, and coming before the Lord and uttering them with our hearts and our lips is unnerving. Baillie does so with much grace and honesty. It's a model for us all to follow because as unnerving as confessing our sins before the Lord is, it's where we taste the sweetness of His grace.
One note to add, there is an updated version of this book that's revised by Susanna Wright to make it more accessible to modern readers. It's relatively faithful to Baillie's original source material, but I feel like, to me, Wright's revisions lose some of the majesty and depth of Baillie's writing. I would still commend it to those who want are looking for a daily resource to help them develop their prayer language as well as a discipline of daily prayer. Ultimately, this is more preference than anything on my part.
A collection of prayers written by the Puritans, it's written in the olde English tongue. It's a wonderful little book of prayer the covers a multitude of topics for the believer. Commitment to reading it also comes with the bonus of learning how to translate thee and thou on the fly. Pastor Joe Thorn has a handy guide to help you walk through VoV, you can find that here. If you plan to use Thorn’s guide, you’ll need to skip the paperback version and buy the leather bound version.
The Book of Psalms
I know I already mentioned the Bible, but read through the Book of Psalms (the Psalter) and pray through them. True, the Book of Psalms is a book of songs, but so many of the Psalms are offered as prayers as well. The writers of the Psalms knew how to come before Lord both in their joy and their despair. They knew how to adore the Lord and confess their sins. They knew how to celebrate His goodness towards them, and how to lament during periods of longing and strife. There is also a helpful little guide from Don Whitney to help you pray through the Psalms found here.
You can purchase stand-alone Psalters that help you carry the Psalms with you wherever you go.
A worship resource used historically by Protestant churches, it's one you want to dive into if you're really into church history and liturgy. I'm not going to expound upon this one too much, but suffice it to say there is some wonderfully penned prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. Again, in digging into this resource, you're developing prayer language that will help deepen your prayer life. Most of us probably won't use the book as it was intended, but it will help guide our prayer lives.
This is a fantastic book filled with readings on a variety of topics that contain a call to worship, prayer of confession, and assurance of pardon. Each reading also recommends some related Hymns to sing/read.
One thing I love about this book is how it leads the reader through confession and assurance. Again, it's hard to confess our sins before the Lord and we often time sort of gloss over our sins as a result. We not only learn how to develop a language of confession but also how to move beyond confession towards recognizing the assurance of pardon from our sins we have in Jesus.
Aside from the Valley of Vision, there isn't a book or resource that's had a greater impact on my prayer life than The Worship Sourcebook. More a resource for helping guide and develop church liturgies, it's filled with calls to worship, prayers of confession, assurances of pardon for a plethora of events and seasons in the church. There are big chunks of this book that have shown up in the prayers we pray here at Gateway Church through the years.
This is a big departure from the other resources I've listed for the simple fact that it takes ordinary moments from our lives and wraps them in prayer. Moments such as doing laundry, preparing food, washing windows, beekeeping, for the first snow, beginning a new book, planting flowers, moving into a new home, welcoming a new pet, and prepping for a yard sale. Seriously, this is a small smattering of moments for which it has a prayer to offer. I learned of this book from, again, Andrew Peterson. You can only purchase this book from the book publisher, which he co-owns. One of my absolute favorite prayers in all of the human domain is in this book. It's one I offer to and for those who serve on the worship team and I'm a mess after every reading.
I hope that whether you’re looking to develop a daily discipline of prayer or looking to grow in your prayer language that somewhere amidst this long list of books and resources you find something truly helpful. I know all of these resources have shaped me in invaluable ways, some more than others, but I feel as though they've stretched my prayer life in ways that are beneficial.