In my early teens, I was a huge Adam Sandler fan. I loved Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, and Billy Madison. But my all-time favorite Adam Sandler film was Mr. Deeds. It tells to story of the average, small town, yet heroic, Longfellow Deeds (Adam Sandler’s character) who inherits millions of dollars from his deceased uncle. Before he inherits all of that money he served as a volunteer firefighter and pizzeria owner. But Deeds’ real passion was GREETING CARDS. (I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, so I won’t explain the rest of the plot. Mr. Deeds is on Netflix now, in case you were wondering).
Greeting Cards. When I was younger I loved getting cards for my birthday. Obviously not for the cards, but for what was in them. I was only interested in the check or cash, but my parents still made me read them. Even though the greeting cards were not in their own words, the people who gave me those cards really meant what the cards said. In other words, my grandparents or friends who bought me cards, they made the greeting cards’ words their own words to express themselves.
No matter what most of us believe, we are not as original as we believe we are. We make other people’s words our words all the time.
You’ve also probably seen several Taylor Swift lyrics underneath a #SelfieSunday pic or two. It’s because people hear a TS lyric, and think, “This fits so well with my selfie and mood today.” They make her words their words to express themselves.
There’s a reason the most popular dances at weddings are “The Cha-Cha Slide” and “Cupid Shuffle.” People make the dance that already exists their own. That’s why couples have “their song.” We all make other people’s expressions our own to express ourselves.
Concerning prayer, sometimes we need other people’s words to express ourselves.
Let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s hard to pray. Sometimes I want to pray, but I have no idea what to say. In this post I hope to share some tools, ideas, and suggestions to express yourself when it’s hard to pray.
There are so many great prayers in scripture. From King David, to the Apostle Paul, to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to Jesus himself.
When it comes to praying scripture, the Psalms are a great place to start. Paul even tells the church to address one another with psalms (see Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, said, “The Psalter occupies a unique place in the Holy Scriptures. It is God’s Word, and with few exceptions, the prayer of men as well. How are we to understand this? How can God’s Word be at the same time prayer to God?” Praying the scripture is a mysterious experience. The scripture is the Word of God, but at the same time a word for you, but then again it’s a word for God from us! What a great gift God has given us in the prayers of scripture! In case you are wanting to dig deeper into the Psalms, especially in the lament psalms I highly, highly recommend Glenn Pemberton‘s Hurting With God: Learning to Lament With the Psalms.
There are also some great prayers in Paul’s letters. One of my favorite Pauline prayers is found in Ephesians 3:14-21:
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Pray this prayer for your church or yourself when you need more love and power.
And one of the most important prayers of scripture is Jesus’ words in the Lord’s Prayer. If you have never memorized scripture, the Lord’s Prayer is a great place to start.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
The Prayers of Other Christians
Matthew Westerholm, a blogger for Desiring God, wrote a very insightful article, “Your Prayer Life Is Better Than You Think.” In this blog post he expresses many of our struggles with our prayer lives, but, as you can tell from the title, it might be as bad as you think. He quotes and explains some of John Calvin’s thoughts on songs of prayer. He said, “Calvin would say, if you love singing to God, you love to pray. Now that is encouraging.” So many of our songs are prayers to God–“As the Deer,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Glorify Thy Name,” “Oceans,” “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and many more! If you’re struggling to pray, try listening to and singing along to a song on your iPhone. That might put you in a worshipful, prayerful posture.
There are also some great prayers people have prayed repeatedly throughout Christian history. For example, people have been praying the Jesus Prayer for over a thousand years:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”
Another great prayer, a prayer that I’ve prayed a lot, and have written about is the Wesley Covenant Prayer. Click HERE to access that post.
It is a powerful thought that when we pray old prayers, we never pray alone. When we pray the prayers of the Psalms and other scriptures, we’re joining in arms in prayer with thousands of years of Christians who have poured out their hearts to God.
When you can’t find the words to pray, I hope these suggestions are beneficial.