While studying for this Sunday’s message on Phil 1:9-11, I was reminded what a great resource the Bible is when it comes to filling our prayers with Scriptural ideas and words. Many of us struggle in our prayer life. The reasons may vary, but some of us find that our prayers sound stale and lifeless, mainly because we say the same things all the time.
Monday: “Lord, please help my wife to manage her busy schedule well. Please help my kids to come to know you. Please help us to be faithful with the things you’ve given us. Please improve my relationship with so-and-so. Please help me to desire the Bible more…”
Tuesday: “Lord, please help my wife to manage her busy schedule well. Please help my kids to come to know you. Please help us to be faithful with the things you’ve given us. Please improve my relationship with so-and-so. Please help me to desire the Bible more…”
Wednesday-Sunday: “Lord, please help my wife to manage her busy schedule well. Please help my kids to come to know you. Please help us to be faithful with the things you’ve given us. Please improve my relationship with so-and-so. Please help me to desire the Bible more…”
It can quickly turn into a mindless recitation of meaningless words. No wonder we struggle to desire to pray.
One possible solution to this problem of rote prayers is to derive the content of our prayers from the Bible. The Bible is filled with prayers. And not just any prayers, but Holy Spirit-inspired prayers.
Most of the epistles contain some kind of prayer for the recipients. For example, our passage for this Sunday is Paul’s prayer for the Philippians: And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God (Phil 1:9-11).
Compare that to the kind of generic thing we pray for our families: “Lord, please help them to grow spiritually.” The prayer in Phil 1:9-11 is so much richer and more substantive. It also reminds us even as we pray that the ultimate reason to pray this for someone is so that God will be praised and glorified. There are similar prayers in Rom 1:8-12, 1 Cor 1:4-9, Eph1:15-23, Eph 3:14-19, Col 1:9-14, and Phm 6.
We can also pray the psalms, which offer material for virtually every circumstance we could face. What about when we fall into that old familiar sin? Instead of praying yet again, “Lord, please forgive me and give me the strength to obey,” how much better would Psa 51 be?
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice….Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit…
Again, praying a Scripture like this not only provides different words than we normally use, but it reminds us how to think biblically about our sin and circumstances.
But we don’t have to limit ourselves to only the prayers of the Bible. We can pray other passages as well. Men, why not pray for ourselves, “Lord, help me to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…help me to love her as my own body, nourishing and cherishing her…”? (Eph 5:25-33).
When preparing to deal with a conflict at home, in church, or at work, we could pray, “Father, please help me to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, knowing that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:19).
What about when we’re struggling with anxiety? “Father, please help me to focus my thoughts on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent or worthy of praise…” (Phil 4:8).
Implementing this method can breathe new life into your prayer time, simultaneously turning your mind and heart to the Scriptures. Give it a try!