Years ago I was given a copy of The Valley of Vision by my Pastor. He gives me a lot of books, so I didn’t get to it right away… actually, it sat on my book shelf for two years! But it didn’t sit there forever. I still remember the day I finally opened it up and began reading. I was blown away. I quickly went and apologized to my Pastor for my negligence and then began reading daily through this wonderful collection of Puritan prayers. Since that day (several years ago now) this little book has become an integral part of my daily devotions. It is how I begin my daily time of Bible reading, study, and prayer. God has used the prayers in this book to help get my focus where it needs to be and quiet my heart for feeding from His Word.
This week, the two prayers I have been reading and meditating on have been centered on the act of prayer itself and have really challenged me in my own thinking about this crucial part of our new life. Here are a few quotes from what I’ve been reading (these are the ones I wrote in my journal) and pay specific attention to the way prayer is described:
“Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring my will to thine, and that without this it is folly to pray.”
“When I try to bring Thy will to mine it is to command Christ, to be above Him, and wiser than He: this is my sin and pride.”
“Teach me to live by prayer as well as by providence.”
“Urged by my need, invited by Thy promise, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worship Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.”
“I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy Thy justice.”
Is that the way you look at prayer? Is that what comes to your mind when you think of spending extended amounts of time in prayer? Often, it is not what is coming into my mind. These pictures of prayer (especially the last one) have convicted me that I often think too little of the greatness of prayer.
Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself this week, as I brought my prayer life into comparison with the pictures of prayer given to me this week from the Puritans:
How often don’t I “live by prayer”? How many moments and decisions pass by without a word to my Father or any confession of my weakness and need?
How often do I see those moments in prayer as a time to have my will conformed to God’s? How often do I allow it to become the exact opposite?
How often do I view those moments before the Throne of Grace as a time of worship, a time to rejoice in the sacrifice of so loving and gracious a Savior? How often do I delight in His sacrifice and see it as the sole merit I bring? How often do I, instead, try to manipulate God by focusing on my own merits?
These are just a sampling of what God has brought to mind as I have spent time this week listening to my Christian “older brothers” pray. I praise God for these wonderful men whose words He is using to teach my what it truly means to be a man of prayer.