Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Transforming Your Prayers

Why is it that for so many Christians prayer tends to be such a minimal part of our daily Christian life? Dr. Donald S. Whitney has claimed that for many people prayer is boring, and he credits that with a bad prayer method.

In his discussion of prayer this week Dr. Whitney stated that the reason why so many Christians pray for five minutes or less is because they struggle with enjoying prayer. He makes a comparison: If there was one person in the whole world whom you would want to meet who would it be? Now imagine that I told you, "tomorrow you are going to get to spend an hour lunch with that person." You'd be excited wouldn't you? You'd probably be so excited you'd be unable to sleep the night before. So you go to lunch and it is everything you thought it would be, and more. Now imagine that I told you, "Tomorrow you get to have lunch with that person again, and in fact every day after that, but you have to have the exact same conversation you had today." Now at first it might be still somewhat exciting, but after a while you would rather die than have that lunch! This is the way many of us treat prayer, by saying the exact same things to God every single day. No wonder it is boring!

Dr. Whitney proceeded to tell a story of a five year old boy who had been in the world for something like 60 months and had completely memorized every prayer his dad prayed. Why? How could he do this? Because dad prayed the exact same prayer everytime he prayed, just changed the names and dates. Another example he gave us was of those familiar prayers you hear in church services everywhere. You could go to any church across the nation, he stated, and here the same prayers: Lord guide and direct us, hide the pastor behind the cross, bless the gift and the giver, etc. It's funny until we realize our own prayer lives resemble this same lack of creativity.

The problem here, however, is not that we are second rate Christians who stink at praying. The problem is our method. We say the same things, like reading a manuscript, and it creates an atmosphere of drugery and boredome. What is the solution? Well, change the method.

Dr. Whitney proposes that the best way to revolutionize your prayer life is to pray through Scripture. Take, for example, a Psalm (say Psalm 23) and pray through each line of that Psalm one by one. So the first verse in Psalm 23 reads, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." In light of this verse one might pray as follows:

Lord, you are my shepherd. You are my provider and defender. You have called me as your sheep and I praise you for loving and tending me. I pray now, Lord, that you would guide me through this difficult decision I have to make. Lead my loved one to your green pastures and feed them on your sweet word of truth.

It doesn't have to be as poetic, perhaps, as that- but simply pray in light of the verses you read. Whitney stated that he once had a student so engrossed in praying through scripture that she actually spent 25 minutes alone praying just over verse one. She didn't event get to the rest of the psalm. How amazing! Something as simple as using a guide for our prayers can completely transform our prayer lives.

Be encouraged friends, if your prayer life is weak now- it does not have to be!


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