How can we pray from specific Scriptural prayers?
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways that we can pray from Scripture is by praying through specific prayers that are already there. Much of the book of Psalms is already in the form of a prayer. So, just reading through them carefully and prayerfully can be a very meaningful time of corporate prayer.
I have had the opportunity to be in Israel on a few occasions. One of my best memories is standing at Qumran in view of cave number 4 where many of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and reading through Psalm 119 as a prayer. It is not only the longest chapter in the Bible, it is the longest prayer in the Bible. It becomes a prayer in verse 4. And the topic of the entire Psalm is David’s radical love for God’s law. So, under some make shift shade guarding us from the scorching sun, we read the entire Psalm verse by verse and prayed each word we said. There is no place on earth that better demonstrates God’s commitment to preserve His Word than that cave. So, as a group of us stood in the hot Qumran sun reading and praying through Psalm 119 we not only had a clearer sense of what David was writing about, we also had a wonderful time of Scripture-based prayer.
Other Old Testament prayers that can provide an outline for a time of dynamic corporate prayer are Moses’ conversation with the Lord (Exodus 33:12-23), David’s prayers of thanks (1 Chronicles 16 and 17), Elijah’s prayer on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:36-37), and the prayers of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel (see chapter 9 of their books).
Paul’s prayers for the churches he loved are also great patterns for our prayers. His six primary prayers for churches (Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21, Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:9-14, 1 Thessa-lonians 3:11-13, and 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12) can each be used individually as great models for a time of prayer. But it is also a very powerful time to look at all six of these prayers.
|I gave the pastors a page containing these six prayers in columns on a single page and asked them to get alone and notice the topics and the themes of these prayers.|
Prior to a Prayer Summit, I had noticed both the topics and themes of these six prayers. I found 5 major themes of these prayers. I also found fresh faith as I prayed through them. So, at one point in the summit, I gave the pastors a page containing these six prayers in columns on a single page and asked them to get alone and notice the topics and the themes of these prayers. When we returned about a half hour later, I invited the pastors to pray, “like Paul prayed” for the Church of their city. Later I asked them to pray in a similar manner for one another. This provided these men a great opportunity to express their heart for their city through prayer and to pray with a high level of confidence that they were praying the way God wanted them to pray.
Of course, Jesus’ prayers provide the best model for our prayers. We so often slide right over the top of the Lord’s Prayer because it is so familiar to us. It has lost nearly all of its impact because we have not taken it as seriously as Jesus meant for us to take it.
Let me point out two things about the value of this prayer. First of all, these are not haphazard words patched together at the last minute because Jesus was caught off guard when He was asked to teach His disciples to pray. Indeed, they are the very thought-through words of the infinite God, in human flesh, on this essential topic of prayer. This is God’s best instruction to those of us who want to learn to pray more and more effectively. Second, this is spoken by Jesus in the plural. He did not teach us to pray to “my” Father but to “our” Father. He instructed us to pray for “our” needs, “our” forgiveness, “our” guidance, and “our” deliverance. When it comes to corporate prayer, I am convinced that Jesus had much more in mind than us simply reciting this prayer in unison.
After giving a little instruction on the way this prayer could be used in corporate prayer at a three-day Congregational Prayer Summit, the prayer pastor of the church led us in a wonderful season of prayer. It is worth describing in more detail.
I shared briefly that I love to pray from the two halves of the Lord’s Prayer. There is the “Your” half – “may Your name be holy, may Your kingdom come, and may Your will be done.” Then there is the “us” half – “give us, forgive us, lead us and deliver us.” These two halves can be prayed through separately. But I believe there is a clear connection between the two. The first half contains Jesus’ three primary requests. The second half reflects all of man’s needs.
I went on to explain that once when I was praying through these seven requests, I found myself praying through each request of the first half, then when I came to the fourth request, something happened that significantly changed the way I pray. I prayed like this. “Father, now please give me what I need today (my daily bread) so that Your name will be more holy on earth like it is in heaven. And give me what I need so that Your kingdom will be advanced through my life today. And please give me the things I need to both know and accomplish Your will.” I went on to pray in a similar manner through each of the four requests of the second half of the prayer. Adding the so that and pointing the request back to His name, His kingdom, and His will elevated the significance of my prayers.
After this instruction my friend Ezra, the prayer pastor, led the group in a season of prayer where we prayed through the four re-quests of the second half, but always added a so that and finished our prayers with one of the three requests of the first half. I left this time of prayer feeling like I had never prayed more effectively for a congregation.
Praying around Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17 has also sharpened times of group pray. His four requests – Father, glorify Your Son (v. 1&5), protect them (v. 11&15), sanctify them (v. 17) and unite them (v. 11, 21&23) provide a wonderful and divine pattern for us to pray for the people we care about. Leaders can easily, and should, follow this pattern as they pray for the people under their care.
|I left this time of prayer feeling like I had never prayed more effectively for a congregation.|
*Blessed by Doing – Select a Scriptural prayer (whether men-tioned above or not) and facilitate a time of prayer around it. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and also test drive the prayer in your own personal time of prayer. For other helpful resources, go to uandibook.net.