One of the joys I have as a pastor is to talk with people about their spiritual lives. Often, people have a pressing issue they want to discuss, but when that is not the case, I sometimes bring out the “envelopes.”
Some time ago, I developed a series of questions that serve as starters for useful conversation. Each of the envelopes has a question written on the front, and inside there are several cards, each offering a possible answer.
So picture me sitting with a mature Christian believer. I hand her the envelopes and ask her to choose a question she would like to discuss. She shuffles through the envelopes, and then holds one up.
“How about this one?” she says, and then reads the question printed on the front: “How would you describe your prayer life?”
How Would You Describe Your Prayer Life?
Over the years I would estimate that at least half of the people who have sorted through these envelopes have made the same choice: They wanted to talk with their pastor about their prayer lives.
Now picture this mature believer opening the envelope. Inside are seven cards, each offering a one-word description of a person’s prayer life. They are, “valuable,” “enjoyable,” “fruitful,” “hard work,” “irregular,” “unstructured,” and “aimless.” I ask her to pick three that most accurately describe her prayer life.
She spreads out the cards on the table in front of her, and then starts the process of elimination: “It’s not this,” she says, rejecting one of the cards, “and it’s certainly not that.” In the end, three cards remain in front of her on the table: “irregular,” “unstructured,” and “aimless,” and now we have an opportunity to talk about how this mature believer can grow in her prayer life.
Always Pray with an Open Bible
Given my experience that many people, when given the opportunity, want to speak with their pastor about their prayer life, I am assuming that this may be something that is of interest to you.
The most helpful advice I ever received about prayer came from my own pastor early in life: Always pray with an open Bible. He used the analogy of a choke that needs to be opened to start an engine, and described the Scriptures as the choke that both gets you started, and keeps you going in prayer.
Here’s how this works: Begin by reading a few verses of Scripture, then turn what you read into prayer for yourself and for others.
Suppose, for example, you are reading Psalm 1:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers,
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night. (vv. 1, 2)
This one sentence would direct you to pray along the following lines:
- First, that God would help you to recognize advice that is dishonoring to him and give you strength not to follow it.
- Second, that the Lord would guard your heart from cynicism (scoffing) and from judging the motives of others.
- Third, that God would deepen your love for his law, and convince you that walking in his way will always bring blessing, even when that way is costly.
Turning the Scriptures into prayer will help you keep your prayers fresh. Every day you will have something new to bring before the Lord for yourself and for others. Every command can be turned into prayer, and every blessing can be turned into thanksgiving.
[This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s January 2017 column in Mature Living Magazine.]
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