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WRITTEN PRAYERS

MARCH:

3 Reasons to Pray Written Prayers

Although spontaneous and informal expressions of prayer have their place, if we view these as the only legitimate form of prayer, we impoverish ourselves and limit our ability to engage more deeply with God. One need look no further than the Bible to see the value of written prayers for the people of God. The Psalms constitute Israel's prayer book and the New Testament contains multiple beautiful expressions like the following: 

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe,"  (Eph 1:17-19, NIV).

While Paul is reporting on his own prayer life rather than prescribing prayers for the church, it makes sense that those of us who look to Paul for guidance might want to take his words and make them our own.

 

Second, when we pray written prayers, we unite with a broader fellowship. We gladly recognize that we are not enough in ourselves and that part of God's gracious provision for our insufficiency is found in the broader body of Christ. So we receive the words of the saints and martyrs and exemplars throughout history, those who have made contact with the living waters of Christ, and we make the prayers of these deep souls our own. When we pray the prayers of the past, we remember that our current moment is not the only moment in time. When we pray these prayers, we are encouraged "to think of ourselves not as stand-alone saplings that have sprung up out of nowhere in the last few years, but as twigs in an enormous oak tree that are still fed and sustained by its giant roots," (Andrew Wilson, Spirit and Sacrament, 87).

 

Finally, written prayers have the capacity to lift our hearts and minds to higher ground. For various reasons, we often find ourselves lacking appropriate words for prayer. We want to pray but all too easily become mired in mindless repetition of tired cliches and obligatory requests. In such circumstances, the thoughtful words of another, perhaps a saintly brother or sister who has finished the course and kept the faith, may suddenly elevate our hearts to engage with the living God. For example, when we pray for those we love, it is far different to pray, "O God, please bless this person we love" than to pray: "Almighty God, we entrust this person who is dear to us to your never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that you are doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen," (see Winfield Bevins, Field Guide for Daily Prayer, 27). The beauty and specificity of the latter has the potential to deepen our prayer for our loved ones.

 

Of course, written prayers do not work magically or mechanically; ultimately, we come to God trusting only in God, not in the quality of our prayers or any other help. But as we come to him in deep faith, it is appropriate that we use the best tools available to enhance our prayer lives. Written prayers are simply one more tool that might help us engage in this life with God that involves things too wonderful for our understanding.

RESOURCES

FIELD GUIDE

FOR

DAILY PRAYER

A simple, beginners guide to praying written prayers.  This booklet walks you through an outline for morning and evening prayers, along with prayers for special occasions and a collection of prayers written by saints throughout church history. Pick up a free copy at church this Sunday.  

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