Monday, July 25, 2016

Classic Biblical Prayers

Not long ago I was asked to edit a collection of prayers for a book. One reason I was asked is I have been devoted to prayer since becoming a Christian out of a skeptical upbringing. My logical mind immediately perceived the very good sense of going straight to the Source of life for help with my  problems. As I grew spiritually, I came to care for the troubles of others andmore importantrealized there is a world to prayer beyond problems. Prayer is something I will be doing forever as a Christian, and it now comes almost as naturally as breathing.

Through the years and experiences of life, I have written my own biblical prayers for my husband and children, and used classic, historic prayers of the church through the ages. This is a summary of what I have collected that is truly useful for online praying or for printing to have handy in a Bible or file folder to cycle through for daily prayer.

1. Prayers in the Bible:  This list from The Gospel Coalition includes a link to a 10-page rundown of (almost) all the prayers of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation with a one-line practical description of each one. Another especially helpful link is to all the Apostle Paul's prayers, word for word in clear Englisha perfect list for memorizing. Here are two favorites from Paul:

God can testify how I long for all of you 
with the affection of Christ Jesus.
 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
to the glory and praise of God. 
(Philippians 1:8-11)

Since the day we heard about you, 
we have not stopped praying for you. 
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,

and giving joyful thanks to the Father, 
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance 
of His holy people in the Kingdom of light.
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves,
 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Colossians 1:9-14)

2. Biblical Prayers for My Husband: I assembled this short, simple list myself shortly after getting married, and have shared it with others through the years.

3. Biblical Prayers for My Wife: This is the counterpart to the other.

4. Biblical Prayers for My Children and Grandchildren: This I lovingly started when expecting my first child after talking with experienced mothers. Over the years I have refined it as I better understood the challenges of parenting.

5. Biblical Prayers for My Pastor: This short list I began assembling after reading the classic text A Plea to Pray for Pastors.

6. The Book of Common Prayer:  This treasure trove from church history is in clear, modern English with a wealth of links to practically every conceivable prayer for just about any situation, along with relevant Scripture passages and pastoral guidance. Here, for example are two, brief classic prayers written by Thomas Cranmer. The first prayer is a general confession, the second a prayer of humble access. Both prayers were written by Cranmer for the 1549 edition of the prayer book. Seven years later, Cranmer was martyred for his faith.

Almighty and most merciful Father,
We have erred and strayed from Your ways, like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devises and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against Your holy Laws.
We have left undone those things that we ought to have done, and we have done those things that we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.
But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.
Spare those, O God, who confess their faults!
Restore those who are penitent according to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake, that we may hereafter live godly, righteous, and sober lives to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You and worthily magnify Your holy name through Christ our Lord. Amen.

7. Spurgeon's Prayers Personalized:  Charles Haddon Spurgeon earned the title prince of preachers partly because of his prayers. He made wonderful use of the Bible's prayers as well as the Book of Common Prayer. This collection is in modern English with links to a plethora of practical, profound prayers such as this:

Above all, give us spiritual help.
Give us wisdom, which is profitable to get.
Give us the absence of all self-seeking and a complete yielding up of all our desires to the will of God.
Help us be as Christ was, who was not His own, but gave Himself to His Father for our sins.
So may we for His sake give ourselves up to do or suffer the will of our Father who is in heaven.
Remember Your people in their families and convert their children; spare precious lives that are in danger.
Be gracious to any that are dying; may the life of God swallow up the death of the body.
Prepare us all for Your glorious return; keep us watching and waiting, and come quickly ... for we pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, an it is in heaven, for Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever."

8. The Valley of Vision: This collection of Puritan prayers was edited in the 1970s and is partially available in PDF form, but without links and not in modern English. It preserves the Geneva Bible and King James English, which some people prefer. (A devotional form of The Valley of Vision is available in contemporary English, but it is somewhat awkward to navigate.) The small leather-bound book begins like this:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, 
Thou has 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 the 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. 

9.  At the Throne of Grace by Pastor John MacArthur: This is the book of prayers I was asked to organize and arrange. It came out in 2012, representing 40 years of pulpit ministry, the highlight of which was and is leading the congregation to the throne of grace. The preface states, "Remember that Jesus warned against vain repetition and showy, grandiose prayers (Matthew 6:5-8). Remember also, however, that Jesus then immediately gave His disciples the most famous prototypical prayer of all time to teach them how to pray (verses 9-13). Clearly, there is a right and useful place for model prayers. They help us learn how to pray and what to pray for. They encourage and assist us in those times when 'we do not know how to pray as we should' (Romans 8:26).

"Spontaneous prayer can be wonderfully passionate and expressive.... But there is also a legitimate place for organizing our thoughts and planning the words we will take before God's throne--particularly when the prayer is for a time we have set aside specifically for worship, either in private or in the midst of a congregation. Composed prayers have the advantage of being more thoughtful, more to the point, and (when used rightly) less repetitious." The prayers in this collection are organized like this:
  • Prayers on Worship and the Attributes of God
  • Prayers on Joy and Longing
  • Prayers on the Cross and the Gospel
  • Prayers on Personal Holiness
  • Prayers on Useful Service
  • A Christmas Prayer and an Easter Prayer
10. The Majesty of Prayer: This is an exceptionally beautiful little photo gift book based on MacArthur's At the Throne of Grace.

11. Operation World: To finish this on a global note, I suggest NOT praying  for your country only, but for them all. Operation World is the second-most useful book I own, the Bible being the first. It is an A-Z way of praying for the world in a biblical way. There have been many editions of this great work through the years. The 7th edition is the latest, and is almost 1,000 pages long. It came out in 2010. A 300-page version of it called Pray for the World came out with some updates in 2015, meant to provide a boost until the 8th edition comes out in 2020, Lord willing. I suggest investing in both volumes and using the smaller one daily for the same reason I do myself: What do I have to do today that is more important than praying for God's will to be done among all the people I share this globe with? 

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