Tag Archive for 'Prayer'

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 2 of 2

Here are eleven quotes from his book on Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. This is the best book I’ve read on prayer so far. It’s something I like to read about regularly.

[Prayer is] A personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God.

What is prayer, then, in its fullest sense? Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him.

It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. … He does not see prayer as merely a way to get things from God but as a way to get more of God himself. Prayer is a striving to ‘take hold of God’ (Isa. 64:7) the way in ancient times people took hold of the cloak of a great man as they appealed to him, or the way in modern times we embrace someone to show love.

Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. [We] speak only to the degree we are spoken to. … The wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God.

We must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will eventually lead to nominal Christianity—that is, in name only—and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine. … Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all.)

God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.

If God’s words are his personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God.

Prayer is the way that truth is worked into your heart to create new instincts, reflexes, and dispositions.

If I am in denial about my own weakness and sin, there will be a concomitant blindness to the greatness and glory of God.

We should remember Augustine’s letter to Anicia. There he says, in short, that you should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need. That is, unless we know that God is the one thing we truly need, our petitions and supplications may become, simply, forms of worry and lust. We can use prayer as just another way to pursue many things that we want too much.

It takes pride to be anxious, to know how my life should go.

“we should lay before God, as part of our prayer, the reasons why we think that what we ask for is the best thing.” This is an insightful and practical idea. [Packer’s ‘arguing with God in prayer’. –Packer and Nystrom, Praying: Finding Our Way] … This means embedding theological reasoning in our prayers.

Also see: Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 1

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 1 of 2

Timothy Keller wrote a book entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. The next post will have quotes from that book.

There is an excellent interview with him at Desiring God: 10 Questions on Prayer with Tim Keller.

If you don’t have time, or want to read my mumbling, I have a few quotes from it that I think are important.

I read a book some years ago by Eugene Peterson called Answering God. He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary — that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms.

Also comparing our prayers to Paul’s.

I’ve been reading more and more about using the Bible as our prayer language or ‘phrase vocabulary’, if there is such a thing. Matthew Henry wrote about it, and I see many others who mention it. I find that many Christians conform to each other more than Scripture. I’ll leave out the examples for now.

I’m concerned about approaches to reading the Bible that say: read the Bible, but don’t think about theology, just let God speak to you. I’m concerned about that, because God speaks to you in the Bible, after you do the good exegesis and you figure out what the text is saying. Martin Luther believed you need to take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it — get it into your heart.

This is scary, yet at the same time maybe a little extreme. Certainly God speaks to us without us having to do exegesis on every verse of Scripture we read. On the other hand, the ‘just me and the Holy Spirit’ or ‘what it means to me’ attitude can lead people astray. It might also be a bit much to expect people who are Biblically illiterate to not just read the Bible, but be expected to understand it well. I think that’s why reading books is so important, in addition to getting teaching from preaching and Bible studies.

Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.

This is interesting because I feel like I often meditate when praising and thanking, possibly confessing too.
I think it’s when I’m praising especially, that God is often directing my prayers in a Scriptural direction.

Again, this is from 10 Questions on Prayer with Tim Keller

Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller on Prayer – Part 2.

9 Minutes With God – Learn Who Jesus Really Is

This is a repost. I made a few slight grammar and punctuation changes with the PDF document, and added an experimental Epub file.

When I first became a Christian, after or while reading through the book of John, I used the little pamphlet put out by The Navigators (NavPress) called 7 Minutes With God. This got me started on having a “quiet time” or what I now call devotional time or spiritual disciplines (what a scary word) which has stayed with me for over 25 years now.

While looking for this online, I found some adaptations and decided to write my own. If you like it, I would be thrilled if you use it for yourself or to give to others.

Nine Minutes With God (PDF File)

Nine Minutes With God (Epub File)

If you’re wondering how to start, or need to restart with some structure, this may help.

If you have any suggestions for ways to improve it, please let me know. This is meant to be printed and I purposely used a rather large typeface for the older folks.

Photo of a Bible

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

What is it to pray in faith?

What is it to pray in faith?

  1. It is to pray for that which God has promised. Where there is no promise, we cannot pray in faith.
  2. It is to pray in Christ’s meritorious name. ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.’ John 14:13. To pray in Christ’s name, is to pray with confidence in Christ’s merit. When we present Christ to God in prayer; when we carry the Lamb slain in our arms; when we say, ‘Lord, we are sinners, but here is our surety; for Christ’s sake be propitious,’ we come to God in Christ’s name; and this is to pray in faith.
  3. It is to fix our faith in prayer on God’s faithfulness, believing that he hears and will help. This is taking hold of God. Isa 64:7. By prayer we draw nigh to God, by faith we take hold of him. ‘They cried unto the Lord;’ and this was the crying of faith. 2 Chron 13:14. They ‘prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers;’ ver 18. Making supplication to God, and staying the soul on God, is praying in faith. To pray, and not rely on God to grant our petitions, irrisio Dei est, says Pelican; ‘it is to abuse and put a scorn on God.’ By praying we seem to honor God; by not believing we affront him. In prayer we say, ‘Almighty, merciful Father;’ by not believing, we blot out all his titles again.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

This can be a difficult subject. Some Scripture:

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 NIV

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14

Extra credit (verse in question is emphasized):

Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:19-24

23. Jesus gently reproves the man’s lack of faith. If you can might be better paraphrased, ‘That “if you” of yours’ (where Jesus would be quoting the man’s own words): ‘Why, everything can be done for one who believes.’ This is a statement of the great biblical principle enunciated in Mark 10:27 and Mark 11:24. But we are not called to ‘put God to the test’ by irresponsible ‘believing prayer’ for what may well be our human desire but not be his will. We are free to ask what we will, but only if it is what God wills (Mark 14:36). This is no mere theological quibble: it is a statement in another form of the need for the ‘mind of Christ’ [1 Cor. 2:16] in us, given by the Spirit. It is also a warning against taking one statement of Scripture in isolation from others, and basing presumptuous prayer on it.

–Alan Cole, Mark, TNTC

The Lord's Prayer

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

Scripture of the Day

For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as the Lord our God is [to us] whenever we call to Him? And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today?
Deuteronomy 4:7-8 HCSB

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11

And 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.
Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.
Revelation 3:20 NIV

God not only hears the prayers of believers when we pray according to his will (1 John 5:11), but we are in his favor. He wants to spend time with us as a Father. Even when we are in despair, and don’t trust him as we should, he is with us and is gracious towards us in one way or another, eventually presenting us with him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

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.)

I’ll Pray It My Way

“The compass of our knowledge of ways and means is very narrow, as, if one is blocked up. Often we cannot see another; but our God knows many ways of relief, where we know but one or none at all, and it is very usual for the Lord to bring the lifting up of His people in a way they had no view to, after repeating disappointments from those quarters from which they had great expectation.”

–Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot

At some point in the past I realized that when I (and probably many others) pray for relief of affliction, and if God is to make it happen in this life, I’m praying for the solution that I see is the way out, instead of realizing that God could make it so in an infinite number of ways. I don’t think this means that God won’t answer our prayer because of this–that would be ludicrous–but it narrows our perspective of how God can work. We shouldn’t expect him to do it our way, or that we even know what that way is.

Quotes on Bible Reading

Here are some quotes I’ve posted before on the most important thing we can do along with prayer. In order to pray, we need to use the language of the Bible.

The primary purpose of reading the Bible is not to know the Bible but to know God.

–James Merritt

If I want to love God more, I have to know Him more deeply. The more I search the Scriptures and focus my mind’s attention on who God is and what He does, the more my soul breaks out in flames.

–R.C. Sproul

Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. By reading that book we may learn what to believe, what to be, and what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace.

Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, p. 97

We measure Scripture’s story by ours. The attitude the psalm [Psalm 1] commends involves delighting in Yhwh’s teaching—especially (we might add) when its story seems irrelevant or it takes a different stance from us. That is the moment when studying Scripture becomes interesting, significant, and important. We then delight in it. The way that delight expresses itself is by talking about it day and night–-in other words, ceaselessly.

–John Goldingay, Psalms 1-41, pg 84, referring to Psalm 1

The Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Acts 17:11

We must be careful what we attribute to God

This is a very interesting part of a prayer from the Valley of Vision. I’m still pondering its meaning. In any case, we need to be careful when we get a feeling inside or a random thought and assume it’s God whispering things that only our corrupt imagination could decipher.

When my mind acts without thee,
it spins nothing but deceit and illusion;

[…]

Keep me from the error of thinking
thou dost appear gloriously
when some strange light fills my heart,
as if that were the glorious activity of grace,
but let me see that the truest revelation of thyself
is when thou dost eclipse all my personal glory
and all the honour, pleasure and good of this world.

The Son breaks out in glory
when he shows himself as one
who outshines all creation,
makes men poor in spirit,
and helps them to find their good in him.

Grant that I may distrust myself,
to see my all in thee.

The Valley of Vision, “Love to Jesus”

Also see:
Mumblings from God

‘Must Read’ Blog Post

I don’t know if I’ve ever written ‘must read’ other than I feel that the book Knowing God is a must read for every Christian, especially those somewhat new (advanced beginner?), as far as I’m concerned.

I found a blog post titled Bible Ignorance at Reformation21 Blog to be one of the best posts I’ve ever read. It’s aimed largely at ministers and students of theology. I’m not pointing it out for ministers; I think this applies to any student of theology, which is all of us.

You can just stop reading here and go there if you’d like.

A few years ago I made a commitment to make sure I read the Bible every single day.* What’s being said in this article makes that seem like nothing, not that I’m minimizing the importance of it. It’s nothing new; nothing we probably haven’t read before, but it really hit me this time. Matthew Henry says to pray using the language of the Bible. D.A. Carson urges us to imitate Paul in our praying. Comparing my worldly prayers to Paul’s really changed how and what I pray for. This can’t happen without knowing the Bible.

Scripture is so deep and multi-faceted, not just because of what’s written, but because the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to more and more of it the more we read and understand it (Ephesians 1:17, Hebrews 4:12). If we’re born again and the Holy Spirit resides in us, we should be glad to spend time in Scripture. If we don’t feel that way, we can pray for God to enable us, and he will do that for us–this being his will for us (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:9-11), as we strive to spend more time (Matthew 21:22, Psalm 37:4, 1 John 5:14, Philippians 2:12b).

I often think about how much time I spend reading the Bible versus how much time I spend reading books and articles. It’s difficult to know how to balance it because the books all help to know God better through better understanding of Scripture.

*If I should forget a day for some strange reason, which I’ve done a few times in the past, God is in no way displeased with me and I don’t feel guilty–just a little silly to forget something so important. I don’t read twice as much the next day to make up for it, unless I’m on a reading plan. This doesn’t happen anymore. Just thought I’d point that out so that it doesn’t sound like a legalistic or works oriented thing.

They Poured Out A Prayer

They Poured Out A Prayer

(Thomas Brooks, “A Word in Season to Suffering Saints“)

The greatest antidote against all the troubles of this life, is fervent prayer.

“Lord, in trouble have they visited You; they poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them.”
Isaiah 26:16

“They poured out a prayer.” Before, they would say a prayer—but now, they poured out a prayer.

Saints never visit God more with their prayers—than when He visits them most with His rod. Saints never pray with . . .

that seriousness,
that spiritualness,
that heavenliness,
that humbleness,
that brokenness,
that fervency,
that frequency—as they do, when they are under the mighty chastening hand of God!

A sincere Christian never prays so sweetly—as when under God’s rod. When a Christian is in trouble—then prayer is his food and drink.

Oh, what a spirit of prayer was . . .
upon Jonah—when he was in the whale’s belly; and
upon Daniel—when he was among the lions; and
upon David—when fleeing in the wilderness; and
upon the dying thief—when he was on the cross; and
upon Jacob—when his brother Esau came to meet him with four hundred bloody cut-throats at his heels!

When a Christian is under great troubles, deep distresses, and most extreme dangers; he
should pray …
more for the sanctification of affliction—than its removal;
more to get off his sins—than to get off his chains;
more to get good by the rod—than to get free from the rod;
that his afflictions may be a purifying and refining fire,
that his heart may be low and his graces high,
that he may be more weaned from this world,
that he be more ripe for eternal glory.

Prayer for God’s Strength

I confess that I often worry about not having enough money someday for whatever reason. God doesn’t promise that we’ll be prosperous financially or materially, contrary to what some Christians believe. But God promises grace and that he’ll be enough for us, however much he decides to provide for us and in what forms. I can imagine that some people are in this situation and wonder what God is up to.

The NLT Study Bible notes have this about Habakkuk 1:2-4:

“To Habakkuk, God seemed indifferent to the evil permeating society in Judah (Habakkuk 1:3-4) and unresponsive to his complaints about it (Habakkuk 1:2).”

“Habakkuk’s prophecy concludes with a psalm-like prayer.” The last part is below. I don’t normally post notes from study Bibles, but I think these are very helpful.

Habakkuk 3:16

“Although the full realization of God’s mighty power sapped Habakkuk’s strength to the point that he trembled, he would wait quietly (see Habakkuk 2:3) for God’s judgment to descend. • My legs gave way beneath me: Literally Decay entered my bones.

Habakkuk 3:16-19 NLT
I trembled inside when I heard this;
my lips quivered with fear.
My legs gave way beneath me,
and I shook in terror.
I will wait quietly for the coming day
when disaster will strike the people who invade us.
17Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

“After recounting God’s mighty acts of redemption (Habakkuk 3:2-15), and pausing to consider them (Habakkuk 3:16), Habakkuk now reaffirms his trust in God as he closes his prayer. • Even though . . . yet I will rejoice: Even if God never pours out material blessing on his people again, he is still worthy of all the trust and praise they can give. Come what may, the prophet could rejoice, knowing that the LORD is not only Israel’s Redeemer, but also the source of his own salvation.”

Philippians 4:11-13 TNIV
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.