Fresh prayers

“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 servanthood 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….

“Dear Lord, You have said in your holy word ‘How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.’ That’s us, our Lord. You are our help–the One called along side us to guide and strengthen us for the assignments you have given us. And you are our hope–the One to whom we focus all our expectations for the future, in this life and beyond.

“We find comfort in knowing that our Heavenly Father is the One who took a weakling like Jacob, a man of many faults and flaws, and you showed great patience in leading him through the years, eventually making him a great champion of faith.  Father, do that in us please.

“Be patient with our flaws; but give us victory over them. Your word says, ‘He himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.’ So, you are under no illusion about us. You knew you were getting no bargain when You redeemed us. Thank you for redeeming us, for calling us, and for your infinite patience as we have stumbled along. But make us strong. Make us champions for thee.

“Father, lift up our spirits, anchor our hopes in Thee, set our feet on the solid rock and energize us as we go forth into this day to serve Thee.

“For Jesus’ sake, Amen.”

The rest of Psalm 146 expounds on the theme of the Lord showing favor to the flawed and fallen.

vs 7 “He executes justice for the oppressed”

vs 8 “He opens the eyes of the blind”

vs 9 “The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow; but He thwarts the way of the wicked.”

There is so much prayer material there.

d) Got time for one more?  Isaiah 62:6-7 gives us a prayer-insight in Scripture not mentioned anywhere else, to my knowledge. It’s demonstrated again and again, but this seems to be the only place that refers to prayer as “reminding” the Lord.

“On your walls O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent; You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” 

You who remind the Lord.

That’s us.

When we pray, we are not telling the Lord anything He doesn’t already know. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).  He already knows, but we will remind Him.

This kind of prayer is demonstrated in numerous Psalms, as well as David’s prayer over the materials collected to build the temple (I Chronicles 29:10-19), Solomon’s prayer of dedication of that house of worship (II Chronicles 6:14-42), Jehoshaphat’s prayer when Judah was invaded by a pagan coalition (II Chronicles 20:5-12), and my favorite, the early church’s prayer when threatened by the religious authorities (Acts 4:23-31).

The thing to notice in these prayers (and so many similar throughout Scripture) is the form the pray-ers used…

–they reminded the Lord of Who He is.

–they reminded the Lord of what He had done.

–they reminded the Lord of what He had said (promised).

–and then, they reminded the Lord of their present situation.

–finally, they reminded the Lord of what they needed, their specific request.

An admission here: This concept is too weighty to address in a sermon, but is ideal for a classroom situation when everyone is relaxed and can take notes, look up references, and ask questions. I enjoy sharing it with pastors, and encourage them to construct their Sunday morning pastoral prayers in this manner. 

How many other ways are there for freshening up one’s prayers?

Only a thousand. Use a hymnal, borrow a Book of Common Prayer from your Episcopal friend (or do as I did and purchase one), and read books of prayers. Read books aboutpraying.  Go online and listen to the prayers of preachers.

And, if you do nothing else, please bear in mind our first two observations: 1) freshness is probably over-rated and 2) it’s more for us than for the Lord.

Now, let us pray!!

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fresh prayers

FreshPrayer is a free, single-page prayer guide, designed to help you find clear, relevant ways to pray from specific scriptures for particular needs and concerns of people who are far from Christ. Each issue has a leaders’ guide to help equip prayer gatherings to be biblically grounded and focused. Use any of the released issues. Look for a different issue to be released every two months.

Perfect to enliven prayer groups.

Of course, you can use it on your own. But you’ll find that it’s perfect for small groups looking for innovative ways to pray together for people who don’t yet know Christ.

Two Parts to Each Issue

Each issue provides a participant’s prayer guide and a leader’s guide. You are welcome to copy either part for free distribution in your local church or prayer group.

  • The participant’s guide. Easy to use by any individual anytime. Or it can be copied to put in the hands of all who gather to pray.
  • The leader’s guide. Provides practical ways to that particular issue of FreshPrayer as a guide for an engaging one-hour session of life-giving prayer for others.

Engaging prayer gatherings are guided, grounded and focused.

FreshPrayer is a flexible tool designed to introduce a stimulating relevance to prayer gatherings. The guidelines help introduce fresh alternatives to conventional prayer meetings which tend to focus on lists of prayer requests. Probably the most significant part of each issue is the Leader’s Guide, offering practical ideas.

  • Guided. The best prayer meetings are usually guided by a facilitator who brings a sense of pace, breaks large groups into smaller praying pairs and trios and directs attention to scripture by guiding short discussions.
  • Grounded. Many relevant, clear and simple ways of praying spring directly from the truths of the Bible. Each issue of FreshPrayer helps ordinary people discover how to find their own words to pray according to the stories and statements of scripture.
  • Focused. FreshPrayer helps prayer gatherings focus on praying about particular life issues that are faced by people who are not yet following Christ. As Christians learn to pray for God to advance His work in other people’s lives, there is often a growing sense of direction, purpose and expectancy.

Newly released issues

The WayMakers team previously published dozens of issues of FreshPrayer that are not now available. They are being revised. At least one newly-revised issue will be released every two months. Sign up to be notified of new issues.

For those paralyzed in body or soul

From Mark 2
Issue
Use the story of Jesus honoring the faith of his friends to ignite your imagination. Pray for people who are now immobilized in spirit to soon wake up and follow Jesus.

For Jesus to be revealed

From Hebrews 1
Issue
Celebrate seven marvelous unique realities about Jesus—the very things about Jesus that God wants to reveal to those who have yet to encounter Him. Your praise can become your best prayer.

For mercy great and mighty

From Jeremiah 33
Issue
God declared that He was resolved to do incredible works of goodness: bringing healing, making peace and revealing truth. These great and mighty things are revealed as we pray.

To come to the Father through Christ the truth, life and way

From John 14
Issue
Pray three marvelous realities about Jesus: Christ as the life of God, Christ as truth itself, and Christ as the way to relationship with the Father­.

From despair to hope

From Isaiah 35
Issue
People can be paralyzed by despair. Pray for God to help people overcome fears that God will do nothing, and instead, to hope, experiencing God’s glory in Christ.

For God to fulfill His call

From 1 Thessalonians 5
Issue
Pray with confident praise for what God has been doing, what He is doing now, and what He will do in the days to come.

For those in so deep they can’t get out

From Psalm 40

Issue 5 Pray in identity with–and hope for–those who are mired in predicaments and depression from which they cannot rescue themselves.

While He may be found: A window of opportunity

From Isaiah 55

Issue 4 Ask God to bring about a time of turning to Him in the lives of those you know who aren’t yet following Christ; call them God-ward in your prayers.

For admirers to become acquirers

From John 3

Issue 3 Pray ideas based on the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, an open-minded but hesitant seeker, perhaps like some friends or family members.

Awakening the sleepers

From Ephesians 5

Issue 2 Pray for people who are sleeping spiritually to be awakened by the light of the risen Christ.

For those without a shepherd

From Psalm 23

Issue 1 Pray for those who are far from God from the truths of Psalm 23. Pray that they would experience the shepherd-like love of Christ and be brought into full relationship with Him.

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waymakers.org

1) Lisa who heads up our Colorado office and Youth programs is working hard with her team on the upcoming banquet in Colorado Springs. Most of the pieces have come together miraculously, now they are working on selling the tickets. The goal is to sell 400 tickets and have corporate sponsors, raising $100,000. She spoke to an oil tycoon and will hopefully be meeting with him this week to ask him to be the event sponsor. Who do you know who might be?

2) Elizabeth and Charlie attended the Hope for Hire seminar and want to become facilitators (YAHOO!) Please pray for more doors to open and funds to pay for this awesome program

3) Have prayed continually for God’s direction in regard to the Transitional Home in Everett. Dana, Elizabeth and I looked at one. God has sent us 3 residents who want to move in on the 1st of November and 1 Dec 23rd. Pray that everything flows smoothly.

4)Met with the owner of the house today, and in the conversation learned that another ministry that had shut down (M2 Ministries) is looking to partner with another ministry. I know them well and one of the guys retired and hates retirement. He has found funding to help ex-inmates be placed in jobs-he’s very experienced in this, but needs a partnership. I have a meeting with them tonight night. This may help us get into our office space we’ve been praying for.

5)Two of the counselors at the jail and an officer want to meet with me to partner with us in providing services for newly released ex-inmates as well. One is a grant writer – both have awesome credentials/experience. They want to do the anger management, Dave Ramsey’s financial training and more. All things we want to do, but I don’t feel led to teach myself.

have looked at office space at $1/sq ft. (normally $2.5/sq ft in this area) that is perfect for us – just am waiting for God’s provision

6) Charlie & Laura run a 2nd hand store on Whidbey Island. They would like to bring this under Fresh Start. They would still run it. This would allow people to donate items to resell or consign and also provide items for use in our house. Please pray for direction and no matter, that this would be a highly profitable operation.

7) Charlie has offered to take over the Prayer blog and send notices to our prayer team. Thanks for Charlie and all the incredible volunteers God has sent us.

8) Charlie has also agreed to oversee the Discipleship programs and will help me develop the materials

9) David Raymond, a new but highly experience Prison ministry volunteer agreed to oversee the Men’s Prison Ministry programs and has Seahawk coaches who want to be a part of that team.

10) Not so good news – the grocery coupon thing has gone in the toilet. I’ve had trouble personally with it, Ben Quigley finally admitted the company is not keeping it’s word. I’ve sent back the most recent checks received for this. Please pray that those who participated will get what was promised and that we will still find favor in their eyes.

11)Charlie & Laura have taken a box of the Entertainment Books to sell at the store. Mike DeWald agreed to take some to his networking meetings. Pam Hurst has also. Will talk to my son in law about taking some to his shop as soon as the stress is off of them. Please pray that all of the books sell.

12) Also ask for your prayers for Nancy’s daughter Katie and her husband Sam as they have a baby due in a few weeks, and there is confusion in the sale of their home in Texas. They need the money for the down pymt on their home here. The enemy is just trying to intimidate and harass. We know he’s a liar and thief and loses – so I’m standing on the Word. Would appreciate your agreement.

Thanks everyone!!!

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