Praying the Bible – Changing My Prayers (part 2)

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I believe I have known for quite some time that my prayer life wasn’t living up to all it could be, or should be.  However, I was entirely uncertain of how to change that.  None the less, I was unsatisfied with my prayer life.  I knew it could be better, and I wanted to make that change.  The book, Praying the Bible, was exactly what I needed to facilitate that change.  It pointed me in the right direction, even giving practical examples to ensure that I understood the intentions & purpose of what I was doing.

I finished the book at the very end of September, and it was time to make two important decisions.

  1.  I was going to challenge myself to follow the concepts of the book for one month.  I was ready to put what I read to the test.
  2. I needed to break the habit of praying the same prayers, which also meant that I couldn’t allow myself to pray the same old prayers in a brand new way.  So, I challenged myself that for the entire month of October, I was not going to pray for anything for myself.  This didn’t include things like my children getting sick.  It did however include the things I typical pray (aka worry) about… finances, for example.

Starting on October 1st, I began praying the scriptures.  Since so many people have recommended praying the Psalms, I decided to start there.  I would pray 1 Psalm a day (the book recommended more than that, but I’m just starting out in this process).  I also decided that I was going to write down my prayers & keep track of how they were answered.  I wanted to be able to reflect upon my prayers to see how they transformed from the same old, same old, into something beautifully new.

It turned out to be an interesting journey.

First, I was shocked at how absolutely relevant every single Psalm was to whatever situation I was dealing with at the time.  I found myself convicted over my own behaviors, recognizing areas where I need to confess and seek forgiveness.  I began to have new insights into situations and seeing them from a perspective outside of my own wants and desires, and instead more clearly and with God-perspective.  Sometimes the Psalm was relevant to something I read in the news that day, about the world…. or even a situation a friend was going through.

Second, I was amazed at how my prayers were changing in content.  I was praying for the world (which I have done before), but in more specific ways.  I was praying for relationships, people, and situations that were NOT part of my normal prayer list.  My horizons were expanding, my view was broadening, and my petitions were a lot less centered around what I wanted, and gaining more and more about what God would want to happen.  These prayers were not always long and drawn out petitions, either.

Third, because I was not praying for myself, I had clued a few people into what I was doing.  I asked them to pray on my behalf.  Not for specific things, I wasn’t emailing or texting a list of things each day.  I just wanted general prayer, if they thought of me.  For the first time in a long time, I was truly dependent on intercessory prayer on my behalf.  I was letting go of self, more and more each day.

Fourth, during the month of October, God gave me opportunity to pray for others.  It wasn’t just the people who came to mind while I was reading the Psalm for that day.  I was getting personal, direct, requests to pray with someone over specific things they were dealing with.  These were not my core group of friends whom which we often pray for each other.  These were new people, or people whom I didn’t share that type of relationship with in the past.  This was truly humbling, that they would seek me out and a blessing to be able to pray for someone else.

Finally, when the month was over, I reflected on something else I noticed.  You see, just because I stopped purposefully praying for myself and praying for others didn’t mean that my month went trouble free.  There were definitely a few moments were I almost prayed for myself, because I was struggling with something or uncertainty.    There were definitely areas where I wanted a God sized intervention, clarity, or a solution to a blunder that I made.  Even though I didn’t speak them, or write them down, there was not one situation where God didn’t answer that unspoken prayer.

What I truly believe is that in order to make this challenge a success, I had to turn everything for my own personal self over to God.  I was saying:

Lord, I’m trusting your Word that you will care for me, provide for me, and guide me.  I believe that you have my best interest at heart, and so I am going to leave all of these things up to your will.  Instead, I am going to spend my time praying as you would have me pray.  I am going to pray for the things that concern you.  I am going to pray for the people whom you love.  I am going to pray for the situations where the world needs You. 

And, that is exactly what I did.  I didn’t worry, nor was I anxious.  I trust that God had things under control.  Instead of focusing on my wants, I focused on God’s.

(Matt 6:25-34, Phil. 4:6-7, Luke 12:24-34)

There is a piece of scripture that reads:  “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

Something I have been camped out on, quite a bit, recently is exactly what does that mean to “ask in Jesus’ name”.  Does it mean that we can petition God for anything we want, and by sticking Jesus’ name on the end of it there is instant approval?  Or, does it mean that we will be so transformed by the life changing power of Jesus Christ, that we will change what we are asking for to reflect His will over our own?

It is the difference between walking up to God and saying:

“Hey God, give me a brand new car because mine is broken.  Jesus said just to drop his name, and you’ll make it happen.   Please, and thank you.”

and saying:

“Hey God, Jesus sent me.  There are things He needs me to do, can your provide the means.”

If we wonder why our prayers not being answered, I would challenge any of us to examine what we are praying for, and how we are praying for it.  If we are truly changed by Christ, our desires become His desires.  When I began to actually pray the Bible, I noticed a significant change in what I was praying for, and how I was praying it.

The month of October is over, and I have decided to continue on Praying the Bible.  I am going to finish out Psalms, then I will begin the process over starting in Genesis.  With so many books, chapters, and verses… I think it will be a long time before I find myself repeating the same prayers over, and over again.

I will not be continuing the challenge to NOT pray for myself, as I do believe there are times we need to be praying (on our knees) over our own conviction, discernment, etc.  I do believe though how I pray for myself, and the things I will be praying over will be radically different.

If you are finding yourself in that same rut… praying the same old prayers on repeat,  grab this book.  It will change your prayer perspective in the best way possible.

Praying the Bible, Praying for Change (part 1)

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To be entirely honest, I have never been taught how to pray.  I’d imagine I am not alone, many of us are probably learning as we go.  We listen to how others pray and begin to model our own prayers after those whom we esteem.   While this often works out well for those big, public moments (praying at meal time, praying before a study, or at a conference), it doesn’t always translate into our every day prayer life.

I tried to make my prayer life more substantial,  I would pray the Lord’s Prayer.  That was how Jesus taught us to pray.   I started prayer journaling, and recording times when the Lord answered my prayers.  I even tried praying through the Psalms.

Yet is was still a struggle.

The Lord’s Prayer became repetitive routine, easing through the words because I said them so often.  It was easy to rush through them, checking off the to-do list item of prayer, during a hurried day.

Prayer journaling quickly turned into a laundry list of all the things that were wrong in my life that I wanted God to fix.  The blessings I wanted.  I was praying for the same things, day in and day out.

Praying the Psalms was a struggle at times, because of the text.  In many of the Psalms there are prayers about the Lord casting down our enemies.  I couldn’t pray that God would do harm to my enemies, especially if they were once friends whom I still cared about.  While our relationship was torn, I didn’t wish them harm.  I wanted reconciliation or at least for the Lord to bless them during times of difficulty.

I was at a loss.  I took a chance and ordered a book that was being mentioned on Twitter by several authors that I follow.  The book is Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney.  Immediately, I knew that this was the book I was looking for.  The very first points that Whitney addresses is the feeling that we are praying about the same old things all the time.  This was how I felt.  The same old prayers, in the same old way, over… and over… and over again.

I decided that I wasn’t going to fly through this book like I normally would.  Instead I really wanted to be intentionally slow.  Reading just a few pages per day, I was able to really see that my prayer life could be so much more.

In the book, Donald Whitney approaches prayer directly through the scriptures… all of them.  Using the scriptures that we are reading to help inspire our prayers each day.  Reading and praying.  Reading and praying.

If it convicts you, pray about it.

If it motivates you, pray about it.

If it reminds you of a person or situation in your life, pray about it.

The scriptures were opening up my eyes to all of the countless things that I was NOT praying for.    I highly recommend this book, it’s going to rewire how you think about prayer.

In a few days, I’m going to write another post on how this book challenged my personal prayer life.  So please, pop back over later on this week.