“O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.” (Psalm 65:2)
Prayer isn’t always easy! At times we come up short and a sense of inadequacy takes center stage as we try to express our needs and communicate our praise to God. Often, we run out of words, become repetitive, or sound inept in our attempts to bring him the honor he deserves. God has the perfect solution. He has captured in writing, as an incredible gift to us, the intimate, profound prayers of some of the greatest characters in the Bible, ordinary men who faithfully served our extraordinary God.
For instance, King David’s praise gives us a pattern to follow, an anthem to share from our grateful hearts: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name’” (I Chronicles 29:10-13). With this approach we worship God with his own perfect Word, lifting our hearts to his.
When we are burdened by failures and we struggle in expressing grief for our sins, Daniel’s confession is certainly worth repeating: “O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake. O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” (Daniel 9:18-19).
How do we pray for those we love deeply; how should we ask the Lord to bless them? For starters, we can personalize Paul’s prayer, inserting their particular names as we bring them to the Lord: “That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
When our own hearts are burdened by needs, and we can scarcely formulate the words because of the pressure on us, we can join the psalmist as he cries out, “Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!” (Psalm 102:1-2). “Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me” (Psalm 86:6-7).
Then, when we realize the grace he has poured out on us to endure, we can infuse others with hope to believe, with courage to keep praying no matter what. We can express it in our own words or we can choose once more to let the Scriptures give voice to our heart’s cry. “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:16-19).
Elizabeth Karram Mitchell
Photo Credit: Paul Westel