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"A common way of bringing ourselves into the 'address' position of prayer is to enter a deep, meditative reading of some choice passage of scripture.  Martin Luther said that those well trained in 'warming up the heart' for prayer will 'be able to use a chapter of Scripture as a lighter' - Feuerzeug, the same term modern Germans use for a pocket lighter."

- Dallas Willard

Starting The Fire

Sometimes one of the most difficult parts about praying can be attempting to quickly transition in our hearts from board meetings, taking the kids to soccer practice, washing dishes, and algebra tests to coming into the presence of a holy God for a time of prayer.  One of the ways that Christians throughout the centuries have eased their entry into a time of prayer is by using Scripture.   Instead of attempting a "cold start", they used certain passages of Scripture as a lighter to "warm" their hearts up to prayer.


Opening our bibles to a passage that portrays God enthroned in heaven can temporarily peel back the curtains of the mundane long enough to usher our hearts into a place of awe that will facilitate adoration in prayer (Isaiah 6; Revelation 1, 4, 5).  At other times it may be helpful to connect with the image of God perfectly captured in his Son.  Stories of Jesus interacting with the normal, the needy, and the sinful people in the pages of the Gospels remind us of his compassion and receptivity to us as we approach to pray (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 19:1-10; John 4:1-26, 8:2-11).  

Praying the Scriptures

In addition to reading Scripture in order to prepare our hearts for prayer, we can also pray the words of the Bible.  For those of us who feel that our personal vocabularies fall short of being able to adequately praise God's greatness as we enter into prayer, we can borrow the words of Scripture by praying:

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;

let the distant shores rejoice.

Clouds and thick darkness surround him;

righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him

and consumes his foes on every side.

His lightning lights up the world;

the earth sees and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,

before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,

and all peoples see his glory.

All who worship images are put to shame,

those who boast in idols—

worship him, all you gods!

- Psalm 97:1-7

Hopefully, the more we are shaped into the image of his Son, God will align our desires with the desires of he faithful servants in the Bible.  As we grow to want the things they wanted, we can borrow the prayers that they prayed.  Mothers and Fathers seeking to lead their children in the ways of the Lord can pray Solomon's prayer for wisdom (1 Kings 3:7-9)  More than just praying to have a good day, we can pray that God would open our hearts to better comprehend the fullness of his love (Ephesians 1:18-21).  

Praying Our Feelings

The psalms are, for the most part, a book of prayers and songs that God's people have used for millennia to address God.  The Psalter is erupting with every kind of human emotion - from rejoicing, adoration, and thanksgiving to fear, jealousy, sorrow, and even hatred.  If we're really honest, on any given day, we too find ourselves coming to God to pray with hearts situated on all parts of that emotional spectrum.  At these times, the gritty, raw nature of God's word can help us give voice to any feeling that may be accompanying our prayers as we come into God's presence.  



Scriptures to prepare your heart for prayer

Genesis 1
Isaiah 6
Revelation 1, 4, 5
Psalm 97:1-7
Matthew 20:29-34
Mark 5:1-20
Luke 19:1-10
John 8:2-11


Scriptures to

adapt into your own prayers

Matthew 6:9-13
Ephesians 1:17-19
Psalm 23
Psalm 34
Psalm 96
Psalm 103
1 Kings 3:6-9
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