Day 7 of our Red Letter Challenge asked us to focus upon the discipline of prayer as a means of “being” with God. This is a delightful discipline to exercise, for it means we take the time each day to talk to our Heavenly Father! What could be better?!
And yet, I know that many of us struggle with how we should pray. What words do we use? What is proper to ask of God? Does he care about my feelings and my worries? Do I mention to Him that I am overwhelmed—or does that mean I don’t have enough faith? Is it okay to pray about money concerns, or dilemmas at work, or the fact that I’m angry at my neighbor? What if I simply don’t know what to say?
Today I have a suggestion for you. If you are not entirely sure how or what to pray on any given day, open your Bible to the Book of Psalms and read aloud to the Lord. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms “the great school of prayer” (from Life Together). He reminds us that God’s Word in the Psalms are Christ’s words in the fullest and most complete sense. He writes (in Prayerbook of the Bible),
“If Christ takes us along in the prayer which Christ prays, if we are allowed to pray this prayer with Christ, on whose way to God we too are led and by whom we are taught to pray, then we are freed from the torment of being without prayer. Yet that is what Jesus Christ wants; he wants to pray with us. We pray along with Christ’s prayer and therefore may be certain and glad that God hears us.”
So, if you feel you are “without prayer,” open your Bible to the Psalms. There you will find words that echo fears and worries that you or your friends, family, and fellow believers are encountering: Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! (from Psalm 143:7); My tears have been my food day and night (Psalm 42:3); or even, Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? (Psalm 10:1) and My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1).
You will also read words of comfort and peace: For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy (Psalm 63:7); For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?—the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless (Psalm 18:31-32); and, The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:15-16).
You will read all this and more, and you will discover that through the course of history, our human sins, concerns, and worries are the same as they ever were–and that the depth, constancy, and mercy of God’s love for us persists through all time, from David, to Christ, to our lives now and the lives of our children.
Don’t worry if you encounter a day in which you simply cannot find the words to express all that you feel as you pray to your Lord. Turn to the Psalms, where He has already given you words to use. -Heather Stueve, Sept. 27, 2021