Archive for the 'Prayer' Category

Grace and Grace in Prayer

In this manner these eminently wise and holy men [David and Daniel] thought themselves highly honoured in being permitted to contribute, by their prayers, to the execution of the divine purpose.

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I see intercessory prayer partly as participating in God’s work. We can sit on the sidelines, or be active in bringing about God’s will in other people’s lives.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ephesians 6:18-20

With as little truth is it alleged that prayers are an insult to the goodness of God. We do not press them on the notice of God as the meritorious causes of the blessings he bestows, but view them rather as the marks and consequences of divine grace acting on our minds. The knowledge we have of what is good and desirable; the desire we have to obtain it, and the expression of that desire, accompanied by proper dispositions towards God, are themselves gifts which are usually followed up by another gift, the granting to us of the things desired, according to the saying in the Psalms, (Ps. 81:10) “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” The gifts of God become usually the more delightful to us in consequence of our obtaining them by our prayers. We then find that they came to us not by chance, but from the love of our heavenly Father, who keeps his ear open to our prayers. Hence arise comfort, joy, and filial love; Ps. 116:1, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication.” Meanwhile, it is certain that God bestows on us many blessings for which prayers have not been offered, which we did not even feel that we needed, and by his grace anticipates our application. [Eph. 3:20]

–Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on The Lord’s Prayer

I suppose you could call this grace upon grace, although not meant quite in the same way John put it in his gospel.

God blesses our time in the Bible by showing us and reminding us of his will as revealed in Scripture. Also, I find that prayer can be a way of meditating on God, especially praise and thanksgiving. God shows us ‘new’ (but Scriptural) facets of his character and what he’s done, and things to thank him for that he’s done for us individually that we might not yet have thought of. By that grace of insight, we are further blessed in growing in our life with him. Let’s remember to always ask him for these things.

Order all my ways by thy holy Word
and make thy commandments the joy
of my heart,
that by them I may have happy converse
with thee.

–Christian Love from Valley of Vision

Also see:
Complete List of Paul's Prayers | Scripture Zealot blog

The Privilege of Fearing the Lord

Recently, when reading Psalm 130, I found verse 4 fascinating.

Lord, if you were to record iniquities,
Lord, who could remain standing?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that you may be feared.
Psalm 130:3-4 ISV

Some translations use revered, honored, or respected. That may be more perspicuous (plainly understood), but I think the word fear is a much broader term. I say this at the risk of betraying what the original Hebrew means. Fear would include respect, honor, and revere, and it also may include a filial (as a son or daughter) fear of offending God our Father.

This means that unbelievers cannot fear the Lord, but when we are forgiven and our eyes are opened to who God is, we are then able to rightly fear, honor, revere, and respect him without being either afraid of eternal punishment, indifferent, or at least not be able to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

Spurgeon says it much better than I ever could:

None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love. Gratitude for pardon produces far more fear and reverence of God than all the dread which is inspired by punishment. If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him; if all were under apprehension of his deserved wrath, despair would harden them against fearing him: it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him.

–Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, on v. 4

The point is that God forgives people in order that they might fear, meaning, that they might become his faithful, obedient worshippers.

–Allen Ross, A Commentary on The Psalms

Ross says that the verb form translated as fear only occurs here, which is why I don’t want to make a strong case for using the word fear, although that’s how it has traditionally been translated.

This portion of a Puritan prayer reminds me of this. I’ve emphasized a phrase that’s especially relevant. If you’re reading this on Sunday morning (I know that many of you are), let this be a Lord’s day prayer.

O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life
is a spirit of holy watchfulness
and godly jealousy over myself,
when my soul is afraid of nothing
except grieving and offending thee,

the blessed God, my Father and friend,
whom I then love and long to please,
rather than be happy in myself!

Knowing, as I do, that this is the pious temper,
worthy of the highest ambition, and closest
pursuit of intelligent creatures
and holy Christians,
may my joy derive from glorifying and
delighting thee.

–Devotion, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (emphasis added)

The Fear of God and A Sense of Sin (1:30) from NCFIC on Vimeo.

Also see:
Fear of the Lord posts on this blog

Puritan Prayer-Desires

This is a portion of a prayer from The Valley of Vision titled Desires.

Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I ought.
Let him produce in me wise desires by which
I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity.
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have
thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.

Reading these prayers is like reading Scripture that’s put together as a poem. I added these verses to go with almost every line of the prayer.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Romans 8:26 KJV (all)

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
1 John 5:14

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Matthew 6:8

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6:33

Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
1 Timothy 6:19

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:15

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness,
than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
Proverbs 28:6

give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with food convenient for me:
Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say,
Who is the Lord?
or lest I be poor, and steal,
and take the name of my God in vain.
Proverbs 30:8b-9

See their online devotional.

Praying

Puritan Prayer

A selection from The Infinite and the Finite:

Turn my heart from vanity,
from dissatisfactions,
from uncertainties of the present state,
to an eternal interest in Christ.
Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen,
and is only an opportunity for usefulness;
Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time.

Let me live a life of self-distrust,
dependence on thyself,
mortification,
crucifixion,
prayer.

From The Valley of Vision

Praying

Repost: Morning Prayer Bible Verses

I was going to repost this here, but since there are 63 comments–and I don’t want to change the date of the post (from 8 years ago) to today–I thought I’d link to it. It was nice to read through all of the comments again. This is one of the most read posts on the blog.

My original intention is a verse or verses you would pray right after you wake up, but before you do anything substantial, to get your mind on God and talking to him right away.

Five Bible Verses You Would Pray in the Morning | Scripture Zealot blog

A Simple Way To Pray

Martin Luther wrote a letter to his barber giving him ideas on how to pray. This section of the letter comes right after he explains how to expand on the Lord’s Prayer, which is something I like to do once a week.

I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling. I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas. It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six. If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.

–Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther (PDF File)

This sounds very familiar. What I’ve realized in the last few years is that much of prayer like this, as far as praise especially, and thanks, is actually meditating. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit is involved when we pray. He opens our eyes to new things we hadn’t thought of (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17) but are still Biblical. I think this is what Luther is saying here.

Although this may sound like it’s bordering on mysticism, God often gives me new ideas of things to praise him for. They are almost always obviously Biblical. If not, careful investigation is important because of how deceitful our hearts can be. This is where we listen, and then meditate on what the Spirit has revealed to us, or just reminded us in a new way. These seemingly small things can be very profound. This is what Luther means by the “Holy Spirit himself preaches”, and is contrasted with mere human “speculation” apart from the Bible. The Spirit helps our prayer life to ‘evolve’ as we learn more about how to pray. We can also imitate Paul’s prayers and pay attention to all of the different aspects of the Psalms.

What I quoted from above is from a PDF file of A Simple Way To Pray, which can be easily read on your computer or smart phone, if you have one. One page a day makes for a good devotional. There is also a tiny book that’s 68 pages long, but as far as I know, it contains the same thing as the PDF file, which is in the public domain. There is also another PDF file with a quote from R.C. Sproul and various items about Luther and prayer. I highly recommend this material.

There are also some very good books on The Lords Prayer that I’m familiar with:

Heart Corruptions

This is the last part of a prayer from The Valley of Vision. It describes so well what God is doing very recently, and what I want, even though the prayer is really about before and after being saved.

Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride,
at the false god of self,
and I lie in pieces before Thee.

But Thou hast given me another master and lord,
Thy Son, Jesus,
and now my heart is turned towards holiness,
my life speeds as an arrow from a bow
towards complete obedience to Thee.

Help me in all my doings to put down sin and to humble pride.
Save me from the love of the world and the pride of life,
from everything that is natural to fallen man,
and let Christ’s nature be seen in me day by day.
Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining,
and delight to be not only
chiseled, squared, or fashioned,
but separated from the old rock
where I have been embedded so long,
and lifted from the quarry to the upper air,
where I may be built in Christ for ever.

Some of this almost sounds like an overly enthusiastic New Year’s resolution. These things may take a lifetime just to make some progress with God’s grace. Sometimes we want him to go faster, but when it comes to illuminating the depth of our sin, maybe not so much.

I need to remember this, along with things God has shown me in the past, such as not murmuring (The Art of Divine Contentment–I’ve been forgetting that one a lot lately), that I’m not my own, that I can’t straighten what is crooked (Ecclesiastes 1:15), that I’m not as abandoned to God* as I need to be (in which The Pursuit of God is a good barometer), and others.

*That may sound like a cliché, which isn’t usually me, but in my mind it’s a meaningful way of putting it. At least I didn’t write ‘sold out’ or ‘on fire’. (Emoticon goes here.)

Partial Puritan Prayer

I try to remember to read at least one Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision every Sunday. I’d rather not post a whole prayer, otherwise people could collect them from all over the internet. Here is yet another one that I really like.

Lord God Almighty,
I ask not to be enrolled amongst
the earthly great and rich,
but to be numbered with the spiritually blessed.

Make it my present, supreme, persevering concern to obtain those blessings which are spiritual in their nature,
eternal in their continuance,
satisfying in their possession.

Preserve me from a false estimate of the whole or a part of my character;
May I pay regard to my principles
as well as my conduct,
my motives as well as my actions.

Help me never to mistake the excitement of my passions
for the renewing of the Holy Spirit,
never to judge my religion
by occasional impressions and impulses,
but by my constant and prevailing disposition.

–From the first half of the prayer “True Religion”

I especially like the last part, which is a message that was important then, and I think even more so in our Christian culture today. I have a post coming up on God’s guidance which is a little along those lines.

God’s grace and peace be with you. Thanks for reading.

Puritan Prayer – Living for Jesus

Many see the Puritans as dour people, concentrating on their sin. If you read their prayers and other writings, you can see that they have a very good balance of their sin and God’s grace, contrition and blessedness–which is reminiscent of the Psalms. Knowledge of our sin is good because:

  1. God is convicting us, which means he’s speaking to us.
  2. Our lives are bettered by becoming more like Christ as God sanctifies us while we strive to obey him out of love and not fear of judgement. (I really couldn’t find a good place to put a comma there.)
  3. We appreciate all the more what Jesus did for us on the cross.

They compare themselves to God as opposed to other people. That will lay any of us flat. And then to think that Jesus took on all of that for us, being completely innocent. We won’t know in this life the depth of our sin, or how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for us. But we can grow in the knowledge of both with healthy introspection and time spent with Scripture.

Below is part of a prayer from the Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan Prayers. Below it is a link to the whole prayer.

I bless thee for the discoveries, invitations,
promises of the gospel
for in them is pardon for rebels,
liberty for captives,
health for the sick,
salvation for the lost.
I come to thee in thy beloved name of Jesus;
re-impress thy image upon my soul;

[…]

In many things I have offended,
in all come short of thy glory;
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

Living For Jesus – Banner of Truth USA

Partial Puritan Prayer

I don’t like the terms head and heart. I think faith and reason often makes more sense. So I especially liked this portion of a Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision called Belonging To Jesus.

I thank thee for showing me the vast difference
between knowing things by reason,
and knowing them by the spirit of faith.
By reason I see a thing is so;
by faith I know it as it is.
I have seen thee by reason,
and have not been amazed,
I have seen thee as thou art in thy Son and have
been ravished to behold thee.
I bless thee that I am thine in my Saviour, Jesus.

The blogging drought continues. I’ve been spending more time reading my Bible, so I’ll blame it on that for now, even though it doesn’t prevent me from blogging. I’ve never realized that there are so many short chapters in the Bible.

Partial Puritan Prayer – Freedom

Who can fathom immeasurable love?
As far as the rational soul exceeds the senses,
so does the spirit exceed the rational in its
knowledge of thee.
Thou hast given me understanding to compass
the earth,
measure the sun, moon, stars, universe,
but above all to know thee, the only true God.
I marvel that the finite can know the Infinite,
here a little, afterwards in full-orbed truth;
Now I know but a small portion of what
I shall know,
here in part, there in perfection,
here a glimpse, there a glory.
To enjoy thee is life eternal,
and to enjoy is to know.
Keep me in the freedom of experiencing
thy salvation continually.

From The Valley of Vision

How To Pray Better – Guaranteed

I was going to repost the most read post on this blog, which has a link to the book I’ve gotten by far the most commission for as an Amazon Associate, but I’d rather link to it and leave it dated as it is so the search engines continue to find it where it is.

It’s important to pray using the language of the Bible. It’s also important to pray according to God’s will. One way to learn this is by looking at Paul’s prayers and comparing them to our own:

Paul’s Prayers

You can see that this was back when people used to comment more on blogs–or mine anyway.

Puritan Prayer

Here is the first part of a prayer called The Saviour from the book, The Valley of Vision:

Thou God of all grace,
thou hast given me a Saviour,
produce in me a faith to live by him,
to make him all my desire,
all my hope,
all my glory.
May I enter him as my refuge,
build on him as my foundation,
walk in him as my way,
follow him as my guide,
conform to him as my example,
receive his instructions as my prophet,
rely on his intercession as my high priest,
obey him as my king.

Puritan Prayer: The Awakened Sinner

Here is a partial prayer that I especially like from The Valley of Vision.

I confess that thou hast not been in all my thoughts,
That the knowledge of thyself as the end of my being
Has been strangely overlooked,
That I have never seriously considered my heart-need.

But although my mind is perplexed and divided,
My nature perverse,
Yet my secret dispositions still desire thee;
Break the fatal enchantment that binds my evil affections,
And bring me to a happy mind that rests in thee,
For thou hast made me and canst not forget me.

Let thy Spirit teach me the vital lessons of Christ,
For I am slow to learn;
And hear thou my broken cries.

Praying Spiritually

“Spiritual prayers are best. Have you a diseased body? Pray more that the disease of your soul may be removed than of your body. “Heal my soul, for I have sinned.” Psalm 41:4. The plague of the heart is worse than a cancer in the breast. Have you a child that is lame? Pray more to have its unholiness removed than its lameness. Spiritual prayers are more pleasing to God, and are as music in his ears. Christ has here taught us to pray against sin, “Deliver us from evil.”

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

I will harp on this idea of praying spiritually until the day I die.

Regarding the quote: Praying for someone’s temporary comfort and not praying for their salvation, if it’s in doubt, is the meanest thing anyone can do.

As far as the subject of healing, when praying for Christians, pray for that, but more importantly for perseverance, faith, hope, that God would use whatever the situation to bring them closer to Him, to know His character better, to become more Christlike, etc. We don’t know if healing is God’s will or not, but we know those other things are in fact God’s will for believers. It’s all over the Bible. We can’t go wrong by imitating the prayers of Jesus and Paul.

Also see:
Complete List of Paul's Prayers | Scripture Zealot blog
Praying for the Soul | Desiring God by John Piper, Daily Devotionals Online