Personal prayer is difficult for most Christians. We find our mind wandering and we struggle to stay focused. We tend to pray the same old things about the same old things.
When I was preparing to preach on the subject of prayer one of the most helpful resources I came across was a book by Donald Whitney called Praying the Bible. I’ve found it so helpful I thought it would be good to share some of the principles from the book!
God has given us a prayer book as Christians. It’s the Bible. In particular, he’s given us the Psalms to help us to pray. The Psalms express the whole range of our emotions - the highs and the lows. For centuries Christians have been praying through the Psalms as model for their own prayers. The beauty of praying the Bible is that it makes prayer so simple. You just need to pick a Psalm, read it a line at a time and then pray to God about everything that the line makes you think of. The line might talk about God’s greatness so you could pray about that. It might speak about your needs or troubles so you could pray about those. Once you’ve prayed about everything you want to that relates to that line you read the next line and pray through the thoughts that come from that one. You keep on doing this until you finish the Psalm.
This simple approach to prayer has many benefits. It stops your mind from wandering because the Psalm gives you focus. It means that you pray more about God and less about yourself. You find new ways to pray about difficult situations. You also find new ways to pray about frequent concerns. As I’ve been using this approach I’ve appreciated the way it helps me to pray with biblically varied language that feels more genuine and less repetitive.
Whitney has a clever way to encourage you to pray through all the Psalms. He suggests selecting five Psalms each day, skimming through each one and then praying through one of them. How do you choose the five? He suggests starting with the Psalm that corresponds to the day of the month. Then add 30 onto that Psalm four times to get four other Psalms. So, if today is the 5th of the month you would look at Psalm 5, 35, 65, 95 and 125. You quickly skim through those five Psalms and choose the one that fits with the things that are on your heart that day. This sounds complicated, but it isn’t once you get into it. Following this approach means that you have the chance to pray through all the Psalms in about half a year.
The best way to find out more about this approach is to get hold of Whitney’s book Praying the Bible (Crossway, 2015). Crossway also have a website for the book where you can sign up to receive emails to get you started. Go to: www.crossway.org/PraytheBible/ to find out more.