“I will sing a new song to Thee, O God….” (Psalm 144:9)
The message from a friend raised a question I’d not thought of: “Can you tell me how to freshen up my prayer time? My prayers all sound the same after a while. I get tired of my own words, so I know the Lord must.”
How, he wanted to know, does one freshen up his prayers?
Herewith my thoughts on that subject. (I speak as an expert on absolutely nothing, but simply as one believer encouraging another.)
1. Freshness is overrated.
When my grandchild enters the room, I’m not listening for something new from her. She crawls into my lap, \ hugs my neck, and speaks the same words I have heard again and again, but which never grow old or stale: “I love you, grandpa.”
I love you, too, honey.
(A personal word to my grandchildren who read this. I know, I know–you’re growing up and not given to “crawling into grandpa’s lap”the way you once did. The oldest of you is Leah, 23, and the youngest is JoAnne, 15. In between are Jessica, 22, Abby and Erin, 16, and Darilyn, 15. But you will understand what I’m saying here. I so adore these 6 granddaughters and just as much our 2 grandsons, Grant 18 and Jack 11.)
2. Freshness may be more for us than for the Lord.
Since He sees on the heart and knows the mind before a thought is formed, it’s not as if our Heavenly Father “needs” a new or better expression of our devotion. This is why, so long as our hearts are in it, prayers and scriptures we have memorized may still be effective in drawing us closer to the Heavenly Father. What the Lord seems not to care for are mindless recitations of memorized prayers.
I frequently begin my prayer period with scriptures I memorized decades ago but which continue to inspire me. “My soul doth magnify the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”(Luke 1:46-47). “I will call upon the Lord who is greatly to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. The Lord liveth; and blessed be the Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted”(Psalm 18:3,46).
I recite the Lord’s prayer, sometimes more than once if I sense my mind is wandering or not getting into the meaning of those words.
3. Nothing teaches us how to pray and to pray freshly like the Holy Scriptures.
a) We see how others prayed and are instructed by the pattern of their praise and intercessions.
I love the prayer of Elijah at Carmel: “Lord, let these people know there is a God in Israel and (while you’re at it) that I am your servant!” (I Kings 18:36). As a pastor, I have prayed that repeatedly when it seemed that a few people were trying to undermine my leadership or countermand my messages. And, I’m happy to say, the Lord always answered.
b) We read a passage and are inspired to “pray those same words.” Praying Scripture–that is, asking the Lord to do in us what He said in that text–is always a great way to lift our intercessions out of the doldrums.
Praying the Beatitudes, we would ask that the Lord would help us to be poor in spirit that we might receive the kingdom of Heaven, that we might mourn over the sinful condition of our world in order to receive His comfort, that we might be gentle and thus inherit the earth.
Jesus taught the pathway to greatness is through serving people (Matthew 19:26-28). So, either privately in my closet or publicly in a worship service, it would be worthwhile to pray for this–for the desire to serve (not just occasionally but as a way of life), for the willingness to lay ambition and self-centeredness on His altar daily, for the love that makes servant-hood authentic, and for my focus to remain on Jesus Christ and nothing else.
c) My favorite approach is to find a verse of Scripture that “has my name on it”(that is, it seems to jump off the page, demand my attention, and insist that I camp out there for a while) and reflect on it, then pray it.
Case in point…
“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5). We read that verse, conclude there’s nothing notable about it and go on. But by camping out on it, by meditating upon these words and asking the Lord to open them to us, we begin to see wonderful insights.
–He is the God of Jacob. Jacob was his original name, replaced later by Israel. Jacob was the one who lied and cheated and swindled his brother. God is the God of some mightly flawed people. And aren’t we glad of that! This is encouragement.
–God loved Jacob just where he was, but loved him enough not to leave him there. So, the Lord allowed him to go through a testing/disciplining time in the household of his uncle, and later appeared to him for a time of refocusing. God took the flawed Jacob and turned him into a champion, Israel.
–This is the kind of God we serve, who is our help, our hope. Our help today (and in ages past), our hope for all the future.
–And how encouraging is that!
And so, my prayer–inspired strictly by that one verse of Scripture–might go something like this….