The Art of Praying

One of the things that I love to do is write out my prayers. I think that brings depth to what I am saying and sees prayer as a process that is moved by the Spirit rather than an event that can often be, in my own heart, a breeding ground for self-centeredness.

Over the years I have been greatly helped by reading the prayers of others. I’d like to share some of those with you:

A collection of puritan prayers called The Vision of Valley has really helped me greatly over the years The opening pray is one I come back to time and again:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley

Philip Doddridge, an English Nonconformist minister from the beginning of the 18th century, wrote this:

Lord, may I put on meekness under the greatest injuries and provocations (Colossians 3:12), and, as much as it depends on me, may I live peacefully with all (Romans 12:18).

May I be merciful, as my Father in heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36).

May I speak the truth from my heart (Psalm 15:2) and may I speak it in love (Ephesians 4:15), taking care not to judge severely, as I would not want to be judged.

Work in me the kind of disposition you approve. Renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10) and make me a genuine son of Israel (John 1:47).

And while I feast on Christ, as my passover sacrificed for me, may I keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7–8).

Make me steadfast and immovable, always abounding in your work, knowing that my labour in the Lord will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Keep my heart tender (2 Kings 22:19), easily impressed with your word and providence, touched with an affectionate concern for your glory, and sensitive to every impulse of your Spirit.

May I be zealous for you, God (Numbers 25:13), with a zeal based on knowledge and love (1 Corinthians 14:14). Teach me in your service to join the wisdom of the serpent with the boldness of the lion and the innocence of the dove (Matthew 10:16).

In this way make me, by your grace, a shining image of my dear Redeemer. May I ascribe everlasting honours to him; and to you, O Father of mercies; and to your Holy Spirit, through whose gracious influence I may call you my Father; and Jesus my Savior! Amen.

Scotty Smith has published a prayer a day and I really appreciate how he writes, taking bible verses and praying around them. Here’s an example:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34–35 NIV)

Lord Jesus, as I meditate and pray my way through these Scriptures, I’m quite literally undone. What but the gift of faith can enable me to grasp the wonder of these words and the magnificence of this moment? What but the power of the gospel can enable me to believe and obey them? Grant me both, I pray; grant me both. On our calendar, we call this day Maundy or Mandate Thursday. It is a day of Holy Week and a day in the history of redemption brimming over with glory and grace. Passover will soon become the Lord’s Supper—your supper. The promises of the old covenant will soon be fulfilled by the blood of the new covenant—your blood. Having shared eternal glory with the Father, you now show stunning grace to your disciples. Having loved this ragtag bunch of broken men—who squabbled with each other hours earlier for positions of honour and who within a few hours would all scatter and deny you—having loved them so well, you now show them even greater manifestations of your love. Your disrobing to wash their feet was with a full view to your being stripped naked to wash their hearts and our hearts. What wondrous love is this indeed! How wide, long, high, and deep!

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV). This is the new and never-ending mandate we’re now under as your disciples. Don’t let me ever forget that the measure of your love is not just the basin and towel of the upper room but your cross and your death at Calvary. There simply is no greater love—none. Jesus, as my heart comes more fully alive to how you loved me by your death and how you love me now in your resurrection glory, I’ll seek to make fewer excuses for loving poorly and to offer quicker repentances when I do. As you continue to show me the full extent of your love for me in the gospel, love through me to your glory. I pray in your name. Amen.


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