This Transformed My Prayer Life
I think we can all admit that we struggle with prayer. It’s hard. Most of us are not good at being silent and concentrating for extended periods of time. And perhaps what makes prayer most difficult for us is that it’s such an ambiguous concept. We know we should pray, but most of us are honestly not sure how to go about doing it well, or getting better at it.
A few years ago, thanks to an excellent little book, I began to incorporate a form of prayer that has transformed my prayer life for the better: praying through a Psalm each morning.
The book was Don Whitney’s Praying the Bible. I already owe a great debt to Dr. Whitney. His book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, was one of the first serious Christian books I ever read, and has been one I have returned to and benefitted from again and again. In that little book on prayer, Whitney notes how many of us become bored, stagnant, or discouraged in prayer because we are “praying the same old things about the same old things.” How can we get out of this rut? His solution: pray the Bible! And the very best place to go if you want to begin praying through Scripture is the Psalms.
So, for the last few years, before I pray through my prayer list, I pray through one Psalm. There’s no agenda. I simply read a line or two and let the text direct, inform, and fuel my prayers to God. I have found this does three things for my prayer life.
First, it keeps my prayers worshipful. When I pray through my prayer list, I can very easily slip into a worship-less type of praying. I sometimes tend to give my request to God like a lunch order at the drive-through. It can become very business-like. Praying through a psalm helps me to worship and commune with God as I pray.
Second, and related to that, it helps my prayer life to be well-rounded. Presenting our requests to God—as I do when I pray through my list—is only one aspect of prayer. The acronym A.C.T.S. has always been helpful for me. It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. If I only every pray through my prayer list, I hardly ever do the first three. But when you pray through the Psalms, you’ll get a healthy balance of all four.
Which leads to the third and final benefit. Praying through a psalm keeps my prayers biblical. As I wrote in chapter two of my book God-Centered Christianity, the prayers we find in the Bible sound wildly different than the prayers you hear in churches today, or the prayers that we tend to pray in our own private times. But, as Eugene Peterson says in his book Answering God: the Psalms as Tools for Prayer, the Psalms are where God trains us in the language of prayer. It’s where he teaches us how to speak to him. Just as good parents will train their child in appropriate language and speech, so God does not simply leave us to ourselves, but helps us learn how to speak to him.
So, as you examine your life and your spiritual disciplines in this new year, perhaps incorporate praying through a psalm each morning. I think you will find, as I have, another level of depth in your communion with God.