“How is your prayer life?”
For most of my 60+ years I would have said, “Not so great. I try, but it’s a struggle.” I would sit down in the morning, tune into God, and then go about the rest of my day without a thought of Him. In hard times I would reach out to God to find comfort. Sometimes I would sense God speaking while reading the Bible. But praying for others, praying outside of my own little bubble of self, would come in short spurts and then fizzle. Mostly fizzle.
I tried, many times, to be more consistent. I bought prayer journals, small calendars to write my prayers in, and made fancy lists. I didn’t lack desire or creativity. But eventually I would end up going through the motions. “God bless so and so.” “God please do this, do that.” It felt like a laundry list of people and circumstances. I cared, but I didn’t know what to say.
In 2012 when our church did Eat This Book, part of the reading challenge was to read a psalm every day. One of our teaching pastors said, “The psalms were Jesus’ prayer book.” That lit a fire under me, and I began to pray the psalms. For over five years I have read a psalm every day. I have prayed the psalms through over and over, and it has radically changed my walk with God.
Eugene Peterson in his book Answering God says the psalms “are God’s gift to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest.” He encourages us to “open our Bibles to the book of Psalms and pray them, sequentially, regularly, faithfully across a lifetime. This is how most Christians for most of the Christian centuries have matured in prayer.”
Who knew? I sure didn’t!
What does this look like for me?
- I copy verses to my phone to glance at throughout the day. Sometimes I stay with a psalm for several days because I find so much there to help me engage with God. God speaks to me and for me as I pray the psalm.
- Some days the psalm doesn’t click. When this happens, I think about who in my life would resonate with the words and I pray the psalm for them.
- God uses the Psalms to bring specific people in my everyday life to mind–those who are suffering, or those who are under pressure. Praying for others has taken on a new depth as I pray God’s words, not my own.
- Sometimes I am prompted to pray for people or events taking place around the world. I recently found myself prompted to pray for victims of human trafficking using Psalm 10, and it was a transforming experience for me.
Is my prayer life always wonderful? Of course not. There are amazing days, and ordinary days, and blah days. Sometimes I skip a psalm that feels “lame” and go to the next one. (Truth!) Even so, the words of many of the psalms have woven their way into my heart and mind, and I am so grateful.
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. – Psalm 42:8
Interested in learning more and taking the next step in growing your prayer life? I recommend reading: Answering God: the Psalms as Tools For Prayer by Eugene Peterson.