This year I thought I'd add some content that would not only provide perspective, but would provide a practical tool for you to use in your walk with Jesus. After walking with Jesus for three years and seeing thousands of miracles, hearing thousands of teachings that rocked their world, it's recorded that the disciples asked Jesus for only one thing:
Teach us to pray.
And Jesus gives them what we know as the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:2-4). Then he goes on to tell them a story of a man who shows up at his friends house at a late hour to ask him for something and the sinful friend gave him what he asked for just to make him go away. If an evil father knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you (Luke 11:9-13).
Too often we find ourselves asking God for things, good things even, and find ourselves waiting and waiting... and waiting for it to come to fruition. Why isn't God answering? How is it some people seem to have their prayers answered faster or more completely?
"You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions" (James 4:2-3).
I will be the first to say there is no perfect formula to prayer because God is not a vending machine. God is not predictable, nor is he tamable or able to be controlled. He looks at the condition of our heart, our motive, as much as he looks at what we're asking for. We could be asking for a good thing, but if our hearts are manipulative, bitter, resentful, jealous, or in any condition like this God will not reward it with an answered prayer. Many are the plans in a man's heart but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21). His purpose is far greater than giving us what we want - it's making us into who we already are as his sons and daughters. So what are we to pray?
"So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).
Why not pray God's word back to him? If our desire is truly for the things of God, than praying is not only a matter of reminding ourselves and God what He's already promised, but decreeing it into the spiritual realm with the authority of the One who first spoke it into existence.
Once a month I'll provide a scripture prayer that personalizes the Word of God in a way that you can save and tuck away for your own prayer life. Today we're going to start with the Psalms, simply because it's a good place to rest when we aren't sure where to begin or where to go.
Often when I write a scripture prayer the Holy Spirit brings to remembrance other scriptures outside of that specific scripture I'm turning into a prayer, and each time He does I'll reference the verse I'm referring to.
Lead Me in the Way of Righteousness, Psalm 1
"Father God I thank you that you bless the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. You bless the one who's delight is in the law of the Lord, and Father I thank you that you sent your son Jesus to bring us the law of liberty (James 1:25), the law of the Spirit of life, having fulfilled the law of Moses so that those who believe in Him might be free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2). On this law Father, the law of liberty you gave through your Son, I meditate day and night. Lord I thank you for the blessing that comes for meditating on your law. You say I am like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Father in those seasons I feel weak and weary, remind me of your word so that I might thrive again. Help me to set my mind on the Spirit so that I might have life and peace (Romans 8:6). You say that those who meditate on your law day and night prosper in all that they do and Lord I thank you for that prosperity that is here and is coming! I thank you also, Lord, that the wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. You declare that the wicked will not endure in the day of judgment because you do not defend the wicked. I thank you that though the wicked may prosper for a time, nothing they do will succeed or endure for long because they have no place with those who walk in truth. Reveal to me, Lord, where my heart may be hardened (Hebrews 3:8) and show me where I may have an offense harbored against others so that I may reconcile before bringing any gift or offering to you (Matthew 5:21-24). Search me, Lord, and know my heart - try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). You know the way of the righteous Lord, lead me in this way, and let the way of the wicked perish. Thank you God for your unfailing Word. Amen."