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Praying God's Word


Pray the Word

by Dennis Pollock

As we consider the business of asking and receiving from God we must give consideration to the Word of God. The Scriptures are invaluable to us in developing a healthy prayer life and a track record of answered prayers. In Romans Paul writes, "we do not know what we should pray for as we ought…" In Isaiah we read, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord." Our problem is that our thinking and our praying are just plain too human! In 1 Corinthians Paul complains, "Are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" You could almost see some of these folks responding defensively, "Well, what do you think we are? We are mere men."

But Christ has called us to live a life far above common humanity. We are children of the Most High God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people whose bodies have become the very temple of God's Holy Spirit. Thinking and acting and praying like mere men just doesn't cut it. We must be transformed. And this is where the word of God comes in. The more time we spend soaking our minds and spirits in the Scriptures, the more we will begin to think and talk like God thinks and talks. When a child is born he knows no language whatsoever – neither French, nor Spanish, nor English, nor Swahili. The language he will begin to speak will always reflect the culture in which he is raised. From his earliest years he will be constantly immersed in the language of his parents and community, and within a few short years he will be able to chatter away with a skill that adults from other cultures could never match even after taking numerous courses in that language at the university level.

Our problem is that unlike the child we already have a spiritual language before coming to Christ. For Americans it is often the language of humanism and self-reliance. "I've got to be me" and "I did it my way" are its slogans; inflated self-esteem and narcissistic self-love are its results. When we are born again we receive a new heart, but gaining a new language takes time spent in the Scriptures. As we ponder the stories of Genesis, Exodus, 1 Samuel, and Daniel, marvel at the life of our Lord Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and are challenged by the epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, things start to change on the inside of us. God's Word is like spiritual dynamite. There is no tender heart that can stay the same when it consistently feeds on the truths of Scripture. This will certainly affect our thinking and our behavior, but it will also transform our praying. As the language and concepts of the Bible begin to infiltrate our prayers, we will become effective and efficient in approaching the throne of the Living God. When we begin to clothe our petitions and our praises in the very words of God, we will be heard on high.

Mary’s Prayer Life

A perfect example of this may be found in the life of the mother of our Lord. After the angel announced to her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she broke into a beautiful prophetic utterance of praise and adoration, known as the Magnificat of Mary. What many people do not realize is that it is filled with Scripture. Quoting freely from the Psalms and from Hannah's prayer of long ago, her song of praise is a recital of Scriptures. There is hardly an original word in it! This young lady knew the Bible! The language of the Scriptures had become the prayer and praise language of Mary.

In approaching the throne of the Judge of the Universe there are protocols that must be followed. People who are granted an audience with royalty often need coaching in proper protocol, and there is similarly a Biblical protocol in approaching the King of kings. Jesus taught us much of the basics in the simple prayer He gave us as a model. "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." We come in a posture of reverence and humility, fully recognizing the awesome nature of the One with whom we have to do. Before we present our petitions, make our complaints, or bemoan our losses, we declare the holiness of our God. In the ninth chapter of Daniel we have one of the greatest prayers of the Bible, as Daniel presents his heartfelt plea for mercy for his captive people, the Israelites. He begins, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments…"

It is not that God frequently needs reminders of who He is. He knows full well who He is. We are the ones who need reminding! We need to remember that the One we are addressing is the "great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and mercy with those who love Him." When Peter and John had been imprisoned briefly and then commanded not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus, they returned to their friends and prayed that the Lord would give them boldness to keep on preaching Jesus. They began their prayer with these words: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them…" These words were not original; they were praying the exact words of Psalm 146, declaring in their prayer that the One they were addressing was the Creator of everything the eye can see.

The goal of prayer is to build faith which lays hold of the favor and blessings of God. If it is working the way it's supposed to work, when your prayer is over your faith will be stronger than it was when you began. Some things which we call prayers - little whiny, sniveling utterances filled with complaint and self-pity - often leave us with less faith at the end than we had at the beginning. "Oh, Lord look at what they have done to me! I've never been so miserable in my life! Why have you let things get to this point? Are You ever going to change things?" By the time we finish with this kind of prayer we may have worked ourselves into such a state that all hope has been drained out of us. When we are in miserable straits, and the gushy praises of the Psalms don't seem appropriate, it might be time for us to pray a modern version of the prayer of Hosea: "Though my hard drive may crash, and my car refuse to start; though I lose my job, and my email account be hacked; though my GPS leads me astray, and I lose all reception for my television—Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

Power in the Scriptures

There is tremendous power in phrasing our prayers with the language of Scripture. Every child of God will have seasons of waiting upon the Lord throughout their lives. In earlier days I might pray, "Lord, you've gotta come through for me. Please don't make me have to wait much longer!" Such a prayer may be OK for a young Christian, but God expects a little more from us as we grow in the faith. Now I'm more likely to borrow the language of Scripture, and pray, "as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, my eyes are looking to You, Lord, until You have mercy on me" (Psalms 123:2). Or perhaps, "I wait for You, Lord, and in Your word do I hope" (Psalms 130:5). Somehow prayer seems to carry a whole lot more weight when we pray God's word back to Him, when we clothe our longings and desires with words that have proceeded from the mouth of the Living God.

As your prayer life develops and your knowledge of the Scriptures increases, you will find verses and Biblical phrases that become part and parcel of your prayer language. Your prayers and your praises will mature. Jeremiah was a mighty man of prayer, and in one place He began his prayer thus: "Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them, the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work…" (Jeremiah 32:17-19). What an opening to a prayer! This is adult prayer, a mature prayer from a man whose knowledge of the most High ran deep. When a three year old prays, "Lord bless Mommy and Daddy and Aunt Martha," we find no fault. We could hardly expect much more. But when the child becomes grown we expect more. Sadly, many Christians prayers reach little higher than "God bless Mommy and Daddy." To use Biblical language, they are "unskilled in the word of righteousness."

Prayer Verses

As I seek the Lord I love to remind the Lord that He is on record for being "rich unto all who call upon Him" (Romans 10:12). I remind Jesus again and again that He is the Keeper of my soul (John 17:12), my Good Shepherd (John 10:11), My True Vine (John 15:1), my Wisdom, my Righteousness, my Sanctification, and my Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). When I preach I don't just ask the Lord to help me to preach well; I ask that "my speech and my preaching might not be with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power" (1 Corinthians 2:4).  When I preach as an evangelist, I ask that the gospel might not go forth in word only, "but in power, in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). During my times of confusion I praise the Lord that "unto the upright, light arises in the darkness (Psalm 112:4)." When I am spiritually dry I thank the Lord Jesus that those who believe in Him will have rivers of living water flow out of their bellies (John 7:38). As we pray the language of Scripture, we know that we are praying according to the mind of God and that our prayers are right-on! Our prayers are carrying far more weight than they could ever contain with our own words and the idioms of our particular culture.

As you spend time in the Word and prayer, your prayers will take on the language of Scripture and they will become effective! It is interesting that the word of God is useful both in resisting the devil (remember how Jesus kept telling him "it is written") and in seeking the face of God. The same words that will send the devil running will open the windows of heaven for you. Whether for defense or for offense, whether resisting or receiving, it is the word of God that will be our great weapon in the realm of spiritual warfare.

When Pete Maravich was a boy, he became obsessed with the game of basketball. He practiced shooting and dribbling constantly. He even took his basketball to the movies, sat down front, and dribbled as much as he could get away with while watching the movie. At night in bed he would hold his basketball in his hands and repeat the three keys to good shooting his dad had taught him: backspin, follow-through, fingertip control. He may have been ignorant of many other subjects but basketball was one thing he knew like few have ever known. His constant fixation with the inflated leather sphere paid off in a huge way. He became one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He averaged 44 points per game in college (Michael Jordan averaged around 18). Recently Hall of Fame player John Havlicek called Maravich "the best ball-handler of all time."

What the basketball was to Pistol Pete Maravich, the word of God must become to the children of God. It is the tool of our trade. The more the Scriptures saturate our prayers, the more likely our prayers will be to reach up into heaven and lay hold of the amazing riches provided us through Christ Jesus. Paul wrote to Timothy that our food is "sanctified by the word of God and prayer." But it is not just hamburgers and pizza and steaks and salads that are sanctified by God's word and prayer. It is you and I. "For man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."


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