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Monday, December 31, 2018

Covenant Prayer


Preface
Christmas has come.  We’ve celebrated the birth of Christ, but we are still waiting for him to come again as he promised.  The birth of Christ is only part of the story.  The story continues and is marked at every turn by commitment and sacrifice.  Every good thing worth having comes through commitment and sacrifice.  Listen to the extended story of Christ’s birth and childhood.

Slides – Luke 2:21-42
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.

Introduction
Many people want their spiritual life to be spectacular—to be filled with passion and miracles and signs and wonders.  They want worship to always be special; maybe that’s why so many only attend church on Christmas or Easter.  People want spirituality, not religion; they want to feel God’s love, but they don’t want to practice religious disciplines.  But that’s not the way things usually work in real life.  We don’t usually have a spectacular spiritual life if we don’t practice the daily commitment of religious discipline.  Furthermore, the signs and wonders of God’s intimate and powerful presence in our lives usually happen when we are in the midst of our daily spiritual habits. 

Mary and Joseph were just ordinary people like you and me, but the Bible also describes them as godly people.  They prayed.  They worshiped.  They study God’s Word.  They were committed to their religious duties.  It was in the midst of this religious life that the Angel appeared to Mary and the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus.  It was in the midst of a godly religious life that the Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to remain committed to Mary, for she was pregnant with the Son of God.  And after the child was born, we see Mary and Joseph continued their religious duties.  They circumcised Jesus when he was 8-years-old, they followed the purification rites according to the Law of Moses, they continued their regular religious duties and even traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem every year. They also trained Jesus to be a faithful Jew.  By the time he was twelve and they took him to the Temple in Jerusalem, he had been studying the Bible (The Torah actually, which was the jewish Bible) and practicing his religion faithfully and knew the Word of God as well as the religious scholars.  Practice makes perfect; that's true in you spiritual life as well as anything else.  And it was true for Jesus too.

In our text this morning, we also see the religious commitment of an old man named Simeon.  He was righteous and devout.  And there was a widowed prophet named Anna, who was 84-years-old.  It says, “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”  A very “religious” woman, but her determined, daily commitment to religious practice (and also Simeon’s) led to a spectacular, once in a lifetime spiritual experience.  They both get to see and hold and pray with and bless the baby Jesus.

Things Worth Having
Things worth having are worth waiting for, working for, fighting for, and never giving up on.  The biggest, most important blessings in life come through commitment.  We celebrate the special moments of life—when a youth graduates from high school, a young couple get married, the birth of a child, etc.  We flood Facebook and Instagram with pictures capturing these special milestones.  But these moments in and of themselves are nothing if not bathed in deep, daily commitment.  It is not the marriage ceremony or the pictures that matter; it is the love that the bride and groom have for each other that compels them to remain by each other’s side in good times and bad time, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health their whole life long.  We anticipate the glorious birth of a child with a young couple, but the true glory is in the old women and men like Anna and Simeon who have lived a life of deep commitment and sacrifice, raising children and grandchildren, serving their friends, their church, their community. 

Covenant Prayer
Over the last month, I’ve shared about many different kinds of prayer.  We can experience some very special and intimate spiritual time with God through many different types of prayer.  I want to share one more.  It is called covenant prayer.  A covenant is an agreement.  It is a promise between God and His people.  Throughout the Bible, God has promised to care for His people.  And God calls His people to be committed in our relationships too--with people and with God.

A relationship can only go as far as our commitment to one another.  That’s why a man and a woman decide to get married and promise to love each other until death.  It assures the couple they can trust each other at the deepest, most vulnerable levels of life because they can trust their partner will not abandon them no matter what. 

The same principle applies in our spiritual lives.  If you want a deep spiritual life, if you want to experience the spectacular power and loving presence of God in your life, you’ve got to be deeply committed to God.  If you want real answers to the deep questions of life that go beyond those trite clich├ęs, you’ve got to be deeply committed.  If you want true healing from terrible scars, freedom from heavy chains, or true hope in the midst of hopelessness, you’ve got to be truly committed to the Healer, Liberator, and Source of all Hope.  Why would God cast His pearls before swine who would only trample them in the mud and then break out of the pen to run away to some other field?

Our deep commitment to God is an essential act of prayer that opens up true and deep communion with the One who makes life worth living, who brings answers to our most important questions, who shows us questions we never even thought to ask, and grants us true peace as we walk through life in the midst of His perfect will.

How Will you Be Committed in the Coming Year?
Our Covenant Prayer with God encompasses many areas.  There is the covenant of holy obedience.  God is the rightful ruler of all.  He deserve our obedience, not because of anything He has done for us, but because He is Lord of all.  Will you make a covenant to put obedience to God above yoru family, you nation, your career, everything?  Will you obey even if it makes you look strange or cost you?

There is the covenant of time.  We you make your time with God your first priority?  Prayer, worship, study, and service are important but not necessarily urgent.  There are always other commitments that try to steal your time, claiming to be more urgent that your devotional time.  And the truth is, the sky is not going to fall if you skip church or your prayer time or reading your Bible.  However, over time, we grow weak as we neglect the important religious exercise of prayer, study, worship, and service.  You will always reap what you sow.  And for years, decades, centuries, Americans have been neglecting these critical elements of religious life.  That's why we and our families and our communities have grown so spiritually weak.  Will you make a covenant with God to be faithful with your time?

There is the covenant of place.  We all need to worship, study, and pray in private.  But we cannot only do these in private.  We must also be part of a community of faith.  You cannot be a Christian only in private.  Christianity is a communal experience.  Will you make a covenant to be part of the Body of Christ--to worship and serve the Lord in the Church?  Where will that be?

There is the covenant of preparation. Will you covenant to come to worship prepared to be in the presence of the Lord?  So many people complain, "I don't get anything out of worship when I come to church."  Often times, those are the same people who stayed up extra late on Saturday night and who barely made it to worship on Sunday, who came in late, who sat in the pew the whole time thinking about what they would do for the rest of the day.  They weren't prepared to worship the Living God and they weren't fully present while they were here.  No wonder they didn't feel fed.  Do you realize, in worship, you are in the presence of the Lord of the universe.  He is so deep we cannot fathom Him, so infinite our finite minds cannot comprehend Him--even if we spent years preparing to visit with Him.  And yet, we do so little to prepare to meet Him!  We should at least begin preparing our heart on Saturday evening, get to bed on time, rise early on Sunday with plenty of time to spare, and be prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit's assistance the whole time to prepare us to meet our Lord in worship.  Will you make a covenant with God to be prepared to meet Him regularly?

There is the covenant of resources.  Jesus said, where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.  What you spend your time, energy, money, and resources on show what are your priorities.  Will you make a covenant to put God first with your financial giving, your time, and your other commitments?  For what you are truly committed to makes all the difference in what you receive spiritually.  We receive our greatest blessings through commitment and sacrifice. 

Your Covenant Commitments for 2019
I invite you to consider your covenant commitments for 2019.  I pray you will be fully committed, willing to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God, and thus receive the full blessing God wishes to grant you.  

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Prayer of Adoration

Introduction
Throughout the season of Advent, we’ve been studying prayer.  Prayer is so much more than we might have thought.  We can pray and ask for God’s help--help with our lives, help for those we love.  That is a type of prayer--intercessory prayer or petitionary prayer.  But there is more to prayer than just that.  Prayer can be meditating on Scripture. It can be reflecting and examining your day.  Prayer can be celebrating Holy Communion or worship or other responsive readings or traditional prayers.  Prayer can be surrendering to God and allowing Him to change us.  At its heart, prayer is spending time with God as a child spends time with a loving parent.  And when we do, the Father shares His love with us and teaches us and molds us into His perfect image.

On this Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the precious baby that was born in a manger, I want to tell you a little about another kind of prayer.  It’s called The Prayer of Adoration and it is a fitting lesson as we pause to remember and adore the Christ-child born to save the world from sin.

Slides – Luke 2:1-20
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Adoration a Baby is Natural
Can you imagine those shepherds that night standing before the baby Jesus, adoring him.  And later the wise men also came from the East to bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They gave their gifts and adored the baby who was born to be king of the Jews and Savior of the whole world.  We don’t know how many others might have laid their adoring eyes on the baby--whispering sweet “goo goos” to him or lovingly cradling him in their arms.  It seems everyone wants to come see a newborn baby.  We can probably imagine what it was like for them to adore baby Jesus.  If we have ever seen a newborn child or held a tiny little infant, light as a feather, if you’ve ever seen those tiny little hands grasping your finger while looking up at you with bleary eyes (seeing everythig for the very first time), then you know something of the wonder of those who gathered around the manger to adore the baby, Emmanuel, God with us.  

I saw a new mother post a picture of her baby on Instagram—her very first child.  Her caption read, “I never knew I could love someone so much.  How is this possible?”

Isn’t it strange that we would be so captivated by a baby?  A baby doesn’t do anything except be “cure”; however, people still adore babies.   To behold a baby brings us joy and wonder and hope.  Babies have the power to fill our hearts with love and it’s not a selfish kind of love; it’s the kind of self-sacrificing love that would make a complete stranger risk their life to save a baby.  

God designed us to adore little babies, to love and protect them.  It is an innate part of our character to love little babies this way.  No one has to teach us.  And so it was that God came into our broken world as a tiny little baby.  And the shepherds came--men who I’m sure were rough and tough from surviving the cold winter nights while protecting their flocks from wild animals and ruthless thieves.  They came and were overcome with wonder and awe at the sight of a little baby in a manger.  They adored him.


Stumbling Blocks to Adoration
We, too, are invited to come and adore Jesus.  Adoration is an act of prayer and it’s actually what we were designed to do.  God created us to love Him and be loved by Him.  All creation praises Him and we are the creations crowning glory.

To adore is as natural to the human spirit as breathing, but we don’t always adore God as we should.  There are several reason we get distracted and don’t adore Him as we should.

We are in too much of a rush.  We are always so busy doing doing “important things” we don’t slow down enough to notice all the amazing signs of God’s presence all around us.  I wonder how many people in busy Bethlehem failed to notice the young couple Mary and Joseph and their newborn baby.  And even of those who stopped in to take a quick look, how many took the time to really soak in the wonder of it all and to turn their hearts to adore the glory of God who is the giver of life.  I also wonder how often we fail to slow down enough to notice the glory of God all around and lift up a prayer of adoration to God.

We often fail to adore God, because we are stuck worshipping idols.  When I say we worship idols, I don’t mean some statue we bow down to.  An idol is anything that takes the place of the one true God, anything you turn to for the fulfillment that only God can give you.  We can make an idol out of money, power, our career, our church, even our spouse or our kids.  Many of the things we adore are good things, but they are bad for us when we seek fulfillment from them that we can only get from God.  Idolatry is dangerous for us and for the things we worship.

So we have to slow down and we have to focus our adoration on the One who truly deserves it.  He is the One who made us.  He is the source and sustainer of our life.  He is the God who loves us and daily blesses us with signs and wonders designed to turn our adoring hearts upward toward Him.  But we have to slow down and turn our eyes away from the blinking distractions of our noisy world in order to take notice of the subtle beauty and wonder of the Lord of all creation.  He is the One who came down from Heaven and was born in a tiny manger for us to adore.  He is the One who walked among the sick and lonely and poor, who spoke in parable that only those with ears could hear.  He is the One who died on a cross to save the world.  He is the one who bore a cross, the symbol of a lost cause, and turned it into a victory worthy to love and adore.

Steps Along the Path of the Prayer of Adoration
We out to continually give thanks and praise to God.  Thanks is adoring God for what God has done for us.  Praise is even more wonderful; it is adoring God simply for who He is without any regard for what He’s done for us.  Praise is selfless adoration of the Lord.  We can give thanks.  We can praise Him.  We can magnify Him.  To magnify is to try to exaggerate how wonderful God is.  We sometimes brag and exaggerate how great we are, but I bet you can never over-exaggerate how wonderful God is.  Give it a try.  I bet you can’t over-exaggerate how wonderful God is!

In his book Prayer, Richard Foster recommends we start with simple things in adoring God.  Rather jump right to the grand and cosmic scale of how wonderful God is, look at a baby.  How wonderful is the God who would create human life and cause it to begin in a tiny little child--so fragile and yet fully formed and amazing.  Don’t analyze and study, just be amazed at the miracle of life and adore the One who created it.  As we regularly adore God as revealed in the little things, we train ourselves to see and adore God everywhere.  As we become more filled with wonder about God, we can begin to thank and praise and magnify Him.

Adore Him
This Christmas, I pray you will slow down and refocus.  See the baby Jesus in the manger, born to save the world.  Adore him.  For He is God.  It is what you were born to do.

The Prayer of Rest


Introduction
Advent is the season where we get ready for Christmas.  It’s also the season we remember that Jesus is coming again and so we work to be ready for that Second Coming.  We prepare our soul through prayer and fasting and worship and study and service.  Advent is nearly at an end.  Christmas is in two days.  Are you ready?  It’s been a long, busy season.  We’ve worked hard.  We’ve studied many types of prayer.  I’m looking forward to the Christmas break when we can rest a bit.  We need rest.  I need rest.

Part of prayer is learning to truly rest in God, even in the midst of chaos.  So today, let me share about what is known as the prayer of rest.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Jesus Invites us to Rest in Him
Who couldn’t use a little more rest?  As children, we often fought our parents when they tried to make us take a nap.  (When I became a parent, I learned how blessed it could be to make your child take a nap--because it gives you a moment to rest too!!!)  As adults, there always seems to be too much to do and never enough time to rest.  Some people would kill for a little extra nap time!  I have Good News!  God wants you to rest!

When God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, He established a holy rhythm for life.  There were six days to do the ordinary work of life and then the seventh day was a special day to rest.  It is was a wonderful gift God gave to humanity--a special day just for rest, to leave off from the stress and strain of regular work and just enjoy sweet communion with God who is the source of life.

But people, who are overwhelmed with sin, always strive to gain more, more, more.  God wants to give us rest, but if we rest, we might miss out on some of the “more” that we desperately want.  We say we want rest, but when we have the choice between entering into the Lord’s rest or chasing after more (more money, more fun, more stuff, more more more), we usually choose “more” over rest.  If we are honest and if we really think on the matter, we realize our lack of rest is most often the result of our own choices and priorities in life.

In the midst of this, Jesus invites us to rest.  “Come to me,” he says, “And I will give you rest.”  In other words, be my disciple (follow me, pattern your life after my ways instead of your own or the world’s example), and I will give you rest.  Again, the choice is before us.  We can choose His way that leads to rest, but we most often choose a different path that keeps us from rest. 

Sabbath, rest, means to rest in God.  It is trusting in Him to take care of things without giving in to the nagging impulse inside that says we’ve got to make something happen.  Sabbath rest is not so much “being lazy and doing nothing or sleeping all day”; it is letting go and trusting God to handle it (or else doing what He tells us to do according to His plan).

3 Ways to Practice the Prayer of Rest
The first practice is solitude, something I spoke about last week.  Solitude is going off to be by yourself.  Solitude can help you worry less about what others think, but it can also help you stop trying to be in control everything.  When you voluntarily step away from all your normal work and interactions with people, you have to let go.  We may think the world cannot survive without us; everything is going to fall apart if we’re not there to keep the train on the tracks.  Is that really so?  Are you so important the world cannot survive without you?  Who do you think you are?  (Pause…)

Last January, me and my whole family came down with the flu.  I was not able to go preach or lead worship at the church I pastor.  Thankfully, my worship leader and choir leader volunteered to lead the service without me.  They told me to stay home and rest and recuperate.  They designed a prayer service with special music and different people from our congregation leading prayer.  They designed and lead it completely without me.  People loved it and told me how meaningful it was for them.  It was so well-received, we decided to do ti again this year (not get the flu, but the service!).  Furthermore, that same day, I was scheduled to lead a planning meeting where we planned all the activities for the 2018 year.  I was supposed to lead the meeting.  Thankfully, two ladies from my church stepped up and led the meeting.  With the help of other leaders in the church, they planned all the activities for the calendar year.  And it all turned out great!  We had a great 2018 year full of wonderful programs.  And it all got planned without me (maybe because I wasn't there).

Step away from things.  Go off by yourself for a time--a few hours, a few days.  Rest in the Lord.  Meditate on this eternal truth:  One day you will not be here anymore.  Do you think the world will not go on without you?  Of course it will.  And it will go on with you for a little while if you leave it alone and take a rest.  In fact, things may work themself out just fine without you (with God’s help instead of yours).  It may be that your absence is what is really needed in order for God to work it out.

Silence is another way to practice the prayer of rest.  What I mean by “silence” is not so much refusing to speak or make noise.  What I mean is to silence your striving and grasping and manipulative control of people and situations.  You have to silence the inner turmoil within your mind that worries frantically, “I have to do something!”  No.  All you need to do right now is rest.  Be still and know that God is in control.  He doesn’t need any help from you.  Quiet your mind and let God rebalance you. If and when He want you to get involved, He will show you.  Then you will be a peace in your soul and better able to resume your work according to His priorities.  But here’s the thing, you can’t hear God’s still small voice guiding you until you silence all the other worrisome voices loudly urging you to “Go! Go! Go!”

A third way to practice the prayer of rest is reflection.  Through reflection, you take time to stop your work, rest, and intentionally reflect on your life.  You consider:  Who am I?  What is my purpose according to God plan?  You make time to reflect on God’s glory, what He has done for you, and His incredible power and ability to hold the whole world together.  You empty your mind of all the things you have to do and instead consider the wonder of God and rest in His love for you and the reasons He gave you life.

Caution!  (Don’t Be A Pharisee)
The Pharisees in Jesus' day were militant about the Sabbath.  They believed you could not break it because God said so.  Jesus came along and drove them crazy, because he kept doing things like healing people or picking corn on the Sabbath and they said it was against the law.  Jesus said something different.  He said the Sabbath was made to serve man not man to serve the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is God's gift to us, not something we do for God's sake.

Sabbath is different for every person.  Exodus 20:8-9 says, “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.”  I added the italics to the word ordinary because I want to point out that everyone works in different ways and we need rest from our ordinary work.  Most people work all week long and then rest on the weekend.  I'm a pastor.  My most important work day is on Sunday, a day everyone else considers a Sabbath.  And I also work by serving God through religious activity.  That is my ordinary work.  So when I rest, I like to do something different--maybe build some furniture or work on a car.  That is restful for me, even though it may be very physical.  Resting for me often means not doing "church" stuff.  For you it will probably be different.  You need to take a break from your ordinary work routine and do something dedicated to resting in God.

Maybe, you want to take a vacation.  Great!  But be sure it's a resting vacation.  Sometimes we work so hard trying to pack more, fun, more memories, more, more, more into our vacations, they are anything but restful.  Just slow down, take it easy, and rest.

Closing
Jesus invites you to rest.  He says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Notice that Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you.”  A yoke is a tool to help oxen do work by pulling a loaded cart.  So following Christ still means you will work.  The difference is, the work will fit you so well it won’t seem much like work at all.  On behalf of Christ, I invite you to come to him and rest.  Lay your burdens aside and take his yoke upon you.  Enter into the prayer of rest.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Praying the Scripture (AKA Meditating Prayer)


Joshua 1:8
Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Psalm 145:5
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.

Introduction
We have seen there are so many different ways to pray.  We have discussed Examining Prayer, The Lord’s Simple Prayer, Liturgical Prayer, Suffering Prayer, Continual Prayer, and Formation Prayer. [Click here for a list of 21 different types of prayer based on Richard Foster’s book Prayer]

One never need become bored with prayer or get stuck in a rut with their prayers and only pray the same things over and over again.  Today, I want to talk about Praying the Scripture (AKA Meditative Prayer).  By Praying the Scripture, Richard Foster writes in his book, Prayer, “the Bible ceases to be a quotation dictionary and becomes instead ‘wonderful words of life’ that lead us to the Word of life. It differs from the study of Scripture. Whereas the study of Scripture centers on [interpreting Scripture], the meditation upon Scripture centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage. The written word becomes a living word addressed to us.”

Praying Scripture Directly
One way of Praying the Scripture is simply to use the words of Scripture themselves as prayer.  There are many, many prayers recorded in the Bible.  You can use these as your own prayers.  We already do this when we pray the Lord’s prayer, which is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.  But there are many other Scriptures we can pray.  Much of the Book of Psalms is a collection of prayers that can easily serve as our prayers.  We could pray Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want…”  We could use Psalm 145, “I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever…”  When we are in despair, we can use Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?  Why are you so far away when I groan for help?”  Or you could repent and ask for forgiveness with Psalm 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.  Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins...”

There are prayers in many other parts of the Bible too.  And you can turn a passage into a prayer.  In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus “...said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”  You could pray what Jesus asked his disciples to pray:  “Lord, there is so much work to be done, so many souls to harvest for Your Kingdom.  Please send more people to help with all this work!”

Acts 4 records the prayers of the early Christian Church as they faced severe persecution from the Roman Empire.  They prayed “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them…  And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. 30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  Acts 4:31 says, “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.”  If the prayer was so effective for them, why not try praying it for our Church today?

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”  If the Word of God in the Bible is so incredibly powerful, think how effective it could be to use those words themselves as your prayers.

Meditating on Scripture
But praying the actual words of Scripture is not the only way to Pray the Scriptures.  Another way to pray the Scripture is to meditate on it.  Meditation has been integral to God’s people from the very beginning.  Genesis 24:63 tells us Abraham’s son, Isaac, went out into a field to walk around and meditate.  Many of the Psalms were written as David meditated about God and His creation while he watched sheep at night.  The Psalms themselves mention meditation 14 times.  Devout Christians down through the ages have always practiced meditation.  Meditation is a firmly established Christian spiritual practice.  It wasn't until the last century that Christians got lazy about meditation so that it is more associated with the foreign religions of Buddhists and Hindus (or something reserved for the Karate Kid or Jedi Knights in Star Wars).  What would it look like if you and I recaptured the powerful practice of Christian meditation?

Christian meditation is fundamentally different from meditation in the Eastern religions.  In those religions, a person tries to empty their mind and become completely absorbed into impersonal, cosmic consciousness.  That is very different from what Christians believe. We believe God is a Person just as we are.  We believe He is an individual with emotions and a personality.  We believe God also made us as individuals in His image.  So, we believe we can talk with God just as one person talks to another.  Through Christian meditation we don’t seek to empty our minds.   Instead, we try to let God fill our minds with His feelings, His ideas, and His insights as we focus our minds on Scripture and welcome Him to transform our wills.

How Do You Meditate on Scripture?
Studying Scripture is important and we should do it, but meditating on Scripture is something different that we should do too.  When Christians meditate, we don’t analyzing the Scripture in order to merely get more information about it.  We believe the Bible is the living word of God. Therefore, we try to commune with God through the Scripture.



  1. Start by choosing a short passage on which to meditate.  Choose just one passage.  Don’t try rush through many pages of Scripture.  Just pick one episode and meditate only on it.  You might pick only one verse or even just one word to meditate upon.  Spend your entire time meditating on that one passage.  Some have suggested spending a whole week on the same passage, coming back to it again and again.  Sometimes you need time to move beyond just information gathering to where you are really entering into the text.  Each time you return to the passage over a course of days, you may may go deeper and deeper.
  2. Use your imagination.  As you meditate on the passage, use your imagination to consider what it’s like to be in the story.  What do you see, feel, taste, smell?  What emotions does the text bring out in you?  Why?  (God gave us an imagination and He wants us to use it.  So ask God to sanctify your imagination and use it for the work of His Kingdom.  Do not try to impart your own ideas into the meditation, be totally and completely dependant upon God to give you His thoughts and His Truth.)
  3. Try to relate to the story not just as something that happened a long, long time ago.  It is something that still unfolds today.  You are as much a part of God’s story as were the twelve Disciples who walked alongside Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  They were real people--His friends and disciples.  So are you.  Through Christian meditation, you open yourself up to the experience and start to feel the reality of Christ’s tangible presence with you, right now.  Through your intimate, prayerful fellowship with Him, He begins to change your will.  He confronts you, comforts you, challenges you, and inspires you.
  4. Let God change you.
Closing Meditation on Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac
I want to close with a meditation on Genesis 22:1-8, part of the story where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  As I read the passage, close your eyes and try to imagine you are Abraham.  What do you see, smell, hear, and how do you feel as you talk with God and your son and the other characters in the story?  What is it like to chop wood for an offering that will take your own son’s life?  What is it like to walk for three days trusting God while carrying the burden about what you are about to do all by yourself?  You might be tempted to think, “I’m sure glad I’m not in Abraham’s shoes.”  The Truth is, you are in Abraham’s shoes.  We are all called to a sacrificial faith in God that puts everything on the line.  So, as we meditate, how does it feel?

Genesis 22:1-8
Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

Take your time and quietly reflect on how this passage makes you feel.  resist the temptation to jump ahead and search for a happy ending.  Remember, Abraham didn't know how the story was gong to end.  And most of the time, we don't know how our troubles will end.  We have to walk as did Abraham, buy faith--trusting God will take care of it, but not knowing when or how.  Use your imagination to be Abraham in the passage through meditation as you commune with God in prayer.

I hope you found this blog helpful and will give Praying the Scripture (AKA Meditating Prayer) more attention.

21 Different Types of Prayer


21 Types of Prayer

1 SIMPLE PRAYER
“In Simple Prayer [The Lord’s Prayer] we bring ourselves before God just as we are, warts and all. Like children before a loving father, we open our hearts and make our requests.... We simply and unpretentiously share our concerns and make our petitions.”

2 PRAYER OF THE FORSAKEN
The prayer we pray when we sense that we have been abandoned by God. “The biblical metaphor for these experiences of forsakenness is the desert.... Saint John of the Cross named it ‘the dark night of the
soul.’”

3 EXAMINING PRAYER
Examining prayer (AKA Prayer of Examen) has two basic aspects, like two sides of a door. The first is the examination of consciousness through which we discover how God has been present to us throughout the day and how we have responded to his loving presence. The second aspect is an examination of conscience in which we uncover those areas that need cleansing, purifying, and healing.”


4 THE PRAYER OF TEARS
“What is it, this Prayer of Tears? It is being ‘cut to the heart’ over our distance and offense to the goodness of God (Acts 2:37). It is weeping over our sins and the sins of the world.”

5 THE PRAYER OF
RELINQUISHMENT
The prayer of relinquishment is “a grace-filled releasing of our will and a flowing into the will of the Father. It... moves us from the struggling to the releasing.”

6 FORMATION PRAYER
“The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we
are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son. The process of transformation is the sole focus of Formation Prayer.”

7 COVENANT PRAYER
Covenant Prayer is a profound interior heart call to a God-intoxicated life. It leads us to the crossroad of personal decision.
It guides us through the valley of sacred commitment. It beckons us up the alpine pathway of holy obedience.”

8 THE PRAYER OF ADORATION
“When our reply to God is most direct of all, it is called adoration. Adoration is the spontaneous yearning of the heart to worship, honor, magnify, and bless God.... We ask for nothing and cherish him.”

9 THE PRAYER OF REST
“Through the Prayer of Rest God places his children in the eye of the storm. When all around us is chaos and confusion, deep
within we know stability and serenity.... While a thousand frustrations seek to distract us, we remain focused and attentive. This is the fruit of the Prayer of Rest.

10 SACRAMENTAL PRAYER
Sacramental Prayer (AKA Liturgical Prayer) is incarnational prayer. In sacramental prayer we can be lifted into high, holy reverence by the richness and depth of a well-crafted liturgy.... or through the warmth and intimacy of spontaneous worship.”

11 CONTINUAL PRAYER
Continual prayer (AKA unceasing prayer) is continual conversations with God.


12 THE PRAYER OF THE HEART
The Prayer of the Heart is the
prayer of intimacy. It is the prayer of love and tenderness of a child to Father God. [Often called ‘abba prayer.’] Like the
mother hen, who gathers her chicks under her wings, we, through the Prayer of the Heart, allow God to gather us to himself—
to hold us, to coddle us, to love us (Luke 13:34).”

13 PRAYING SCRIPTURE
“In Scripture Prayer (AKA Meditative Prayer) the Bible ceases to be a quotation dictionary and becomes instead ‘wonderful words of life’ that lead us to the Word of life. It differs from the study of Scripture. Whereas the study of Scripture centers on exegesis, the meditation upon Scripture
centers on internalizing and personalizing
the passage. The written word becomes a living word addressed to us.”

14 CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER
“In its most basic and fundamental expression, Contemplative Prayer is a loving attentiveness to God....[The goal of contemplative prayer] is union with God.”

15 PRAYING THE ORDINARY
“We pray the ordinary in three ways: first, by turning ordinary experiences of life into prayer; second, by seeing God in the ordinary experiences of life; and third, by praying throughout the ordinary experiences of life.”
16 PETITIONARY PRAYER
“When our asking is for ourselves it is called petition; when it is on behalf of others it is called intercession. Asking is at
the heart of both experiences.”

17 INTERCESSORY PRAYER
“If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them, and this will lead us to prayer.
Intercession is a way of loving others.”

18 HEALING PRAYER
Healing Prayer is part of the normal Christian life. It should not be elevated above any other ministry in the community of faith, nor should it be undervalued; rather, it should be kept in proper balance. It is simply a normal aspect of what it means to live under the reign of God.”

19 THE PRAYER OF SUFFERING
In the Prayer of Suffering we leave far behind our needs and wants, even our transformation and union with God. Here we give to God the various difficulties and
trials that we face, asking him to use them redemptively. We also voluntarily take into ourselves the griefs and sorrows of others in order to set them free. In our sufferings those who suffer come to see the face of the suffering God.”
   
20 AUTHORITATIVE PRAYER
“In Authoritative Prayer we are calling forth the will of the Father upon the earth. Here we are not so much speaking to God as speaking for God. We are not asking God to do something; rather we are using the
authority of God to command something done.”

21 RADICAL PRAYER
Radical Prayer goes to the root, the heart, the center. The word radical itself comes from the Latin radix, which means root.... It dares to believe that things can be different. Its aim is the total transformation of persons, institutions, and societies. Radical Prayer, you see, is prophetic.”

Based on Richard Foster’s book
Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home