Toward More Effective Prayer

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo.

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last month we began a series intended to help us develop our praying habits with an emphasis on the ACTS method of prayer in this article. Most Christians pray every day. Many of us pray several times each day, giving thanks to God before eating each meal,  before going to sleep, and whenever else we find the opportunity.

Some of us have our own special times when we approach God at length in prayer. Any time we talk to God in prayer is beneficial to us. It really is not complicated – prayer is simply talking to God. But most of us want to grow – to become better at praying, especially when we pray in public; and we do grow each time that we pray. The best way to improve one’s prayer life is to read and meditate on God’s word, and then pray – and do so often!

As we study and meditate on God’s word, we will often be inclined in our prayers to quote parts of a particular passage that has become familiar to us, and that is perfectly fine. Some of the most powerful prayers in the Bible use verbiage that is contained elsewhere in God’s word. Why would it not be acceptable in our own prayers? In fact, some of the most effective and encouraging prayers we’ve heard contained references to Scripture.

As we have stated, there is no one formula for prayer. But we most often begin with the “adoration” that the ACTS method refers to. And the beginning is a great place for us to start this year of learning to pray better. With adoration, we recognize the greatness of our Lord God, and acknowledge the depths of His power and glory. Consider David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13:

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty,
for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.
In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name

We will leave you to meditate on the following short prayer. If it sounds familiar, it is because the words are adapted from Psalm 19:1, 14; Acts 17:28, and James 1:17. A lot of scripture for a short prayer, but it does serve to illustrate how easy it is to adapt God’s word to our prayers in a meaningful way. With the exception of a bit of thanksgiving, it contains only the “ACTS” element of adoration, but it is a prayer nonetheless.

Oh Lord our God,
In whom we live and move and have our being;
The heavens declare your glory, and the sky above proclaims your handiwork.
We thank you for every good gift, and every perfect gift that comes from above,
Coming down from the Father of lights
With whom there is no variation and no shadow due to change.
In the name of your Son, Jesus, we pray.
Amen.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Psalm 150 – Everything That Has Breath

creation_008Psalm 150 is the final chapter of the Book of Psalms, closing out Book 5; and as such, it servers as the final doxology. It is, of course, also the last of the “Hallelujah Psalms,” beginning and ending with “Praise the Lord!” That is indeed what each of the six short verses are about; and we will let them speak for themselves – as they do quite adequately.

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!

Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 71- When My Strength Is Spent

This is one traditional place of David's tomb. The other is on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, on the first floor of the same building where one traditional site of the Upper Room is on the second floor. In Jacob's time, it was called Ephrath, which meant "fruitful." Jacob buried his favorite wife Rachel there after she gave birth to Benjamin. After the conquest of the Promised Land, it was called Bethlehem-judah (Ruth 1: 1). Famine drove Elimelech and Naomi from Bethlehem to Moab, where their sons married Ruth and Orpah. When all three husbands died, Ruth returned to Bethlehem with Naomi and gleaned in the fields of Boaz. She and Boaz married, and their great-grandson was David. In his childhood, David cared for the sheep of his father Jesse in the fields of Bethlehem, possibly the same fields where his great-grandmother Ruth gleaned. A thousand years later, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and angels announced His birth to shepherds caring for their sheep in the fields near there. These fields have become known as The Shepherds' Fields.

This is one traditional place of David’s tomb. The other is on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, on the first floor of the same building where one traditional site of the Upper Room is on the second floor. In Jacob’s time, it was called Ephrath, which meant “fruitful.” Jacob buried his favorite wife Rachel there after she gave birth to Benjamin. After the conquest of the Promised Land, it was called Bethlehem-judah (Ruth 1: 1). Famine drove Elimelech and Naomi from Bethlehem to Moab, where their sons married Ruth and Orpah. When all three husbands died, Ruth returned to Bethlehem with Naomi and gleaned in the fields of Boaz. She and Boaz married, and their great-grandson was David. In his childhood, David cared for the sheep of his father Jesse in the fields of Bethlehem, possibly the same fields where his great-grandmother Ruth gleaned. A thousand years later, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and angels announced His birth to shepherds caring for their sheep in the fields near there. These fields have become known as The Shepherds’ Fields.

The Hebrew text for this psalm has no superscription or title. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and others have it as “by David, a song sung by the sons of Jonadab, and the first that were taken captive.” Many commentators do take the position that it was probably written by David in his old age. The inclusion of the fact that it was sung by the sons of Jonadab and by the first of those taken captive is somewhat puzzling,  but must have had some historical significance at the time the superscription was added. The sons of Jonadab (the Rechabites) are the subject of Jeremiah 35 for their faithfulness to their father’s command.

It is a song of lament, easily fitting for anyone who is weak and in distress. it is easy to see why the captives would sing this psalm, as it both cries out for help in a dire situation and when one feels helpless:

“forsake me not when my strength is spent…
O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!…
I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 147 – He Sends Out His Word

Carrying Branches To Make Booths (illustration...

Carrying Branches To Make Booths (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of the five final “Hallelujah Psalms,” Psalm 147 is the longest, though only 20 verses itself.  The psalmist is unknown, as is the occasion that it was written. Some have supposed that it was during the Feast of Tabernacles – mainly due to verse 14’s reference possibly to harvest. The references to the building up of Jerusalem may mean that it was written after the captivity (along with verse 2’s “he gathers the outcasts of Israel.”

As a song of praise, it speaks in general terms of all the wonderful things God does in this world to care for man and even for the animals. But the bulk of the praise is for all that God has done for His chosen people. The psalm closes out in verses 18-20 with verses about the power of His word and how God has entrusted them with keeping it for all:

He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.

He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.

He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the Lord!

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 107:23-43 – By His Blessing

When Judah was captured, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and the people taken away as Babylonian prisoners (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36:13-23).

When Judah was captured, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and the people taken away as Babylonian prisoners (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36:13-23).

The second half of Psalm 107 continues the theme of describing the plight of exiles during the Babylonian captivity and their eventual rescue by the Lord. The particular group that verse 23 begins with is made up of those who went to sea. Whether they were sailing in the service of the foreign king or being transported for some unknown purpose we are not told. But this group met with trouble by turbulent seas and weather and the scripture says they nearly perished. But again, the Lord heard their cry and quieted the storm so they would be brought to safety.

The praise for the Lord begins in verse 31, but from verse 33 onward, the point of the psalm is made known. The Lord DOES hear the cry of His people; and in a litany of ways that He often turns events around 180 degrees, the psalm praises God for His providence, His power and mercy, and His care for His people. The last four verses sum it up well:

When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 70 – O Lord, Do Not Delay

Fields of grain and wheat to the east of Bethlehem, in the area where Boaz and Ruth met.

Fields of grain and wheat to the east of Bethlehem, in the area where Boaz and Ruth met.

The five short verses of this psalm are almost word for word taken from Psalm 40:13-17. The most reasonable explanation for the repetition is that this portion of Psalm 40 was adapted for a specific occasion as a corporate prayer, while the former psalm was written during David’s earlier and more private time. The superscription says it was “for the memorial offering.” This was part of the grain offering in which the priest burns a portion on the altar. Still, it is a lament and an appeal to God for deliverance:

May all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you!
May those who love your salvation
say evermore, “God is great!”

But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay!

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 67- Let All the Peoples Praise You!

harvestThis song is only 7 verses long, and it includes thanksgiving for what appears to have been a good harvest (verse 6).  But the psalm also does what many other passages in the Old Testament do, which is to affirm what the apostles found to be true in the Book of Acts, and what they (especially Paul) proclaim to be true – that God always intended for the Gentiles to be included in His plan for salvation. This evident first in verse 2: “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations,” and then again in verse 4:

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 107:1-22 – Let Them Thank the Lord

English: The Captivity of Judah, as in 2 Chron...

English: The Captivity of Judah, as in 2 Chronicles 36:11-21, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This psalm is the first in the collection we have come to know as Book 5, the final book in Psalms, composed of 44 chapters. We will read only the first half of this psalm today – the first 22 verses. We do not know who the author is. The time is some time after Babylonian captivity. Some scholars think it was written for and sung at the dedication of the second temple.

It is readily apparent that the psalmist is referring to people who were exiled during the captivity. Verse 4 four begins with the first group that were banished from the land as part of the exile and wandered the desert. Verse 10 speaks more specifically of those who were imprisoned in exile, while verse 17 appears to refer to some who became very ill either during the march to Babylon or after they arrived. In each case, the psalmist speaks of their cry to the Lord and how He delivered them. A community lament, yes. But it seems to more generally address those of the redeemed who became the remnant.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 63 – With Joyful Lips

Ziph area, where David hid from Saul and the Ziphites betrayed David.

Ziph area, where David hid from Saul and the Ziphites betrayed David.

Matthew Henry said of Psalm 63: “This psalm has in it as much of warmth and lively devotion as any of David’s psalms in so little a compass. As the sweetest of Paul’s epistles were those that bore date out of a prison, so some of the sweetest of David’s psalms were those that were penned, as this was, in a wilderness.” We have to agree. Among others, Psalm 3, Psalm 7, and Psalm 59 ring out with pure beauty and elegant praise for the Lord.

The superscription tells us that this is a psalm of David “when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” Most likely, it was during the time he was fleeing from Absalom rather than Saul because he appears to refer to himself as the king in verse 11. In verse one, when he speaks metaphorically of thirst and a dry land, the words would have their own meaning in relation to the desert in which he wandered. The psalm starts out as a lament, but quickly turns to a psalm of praise and quiet confidence, as seen in verses 5-7:

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Psalm 66 – How Awesome Are Your Deeds!

Psalmist David by Gustave Doré

Psalmist David by Gustave Doré (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This song is one of great praise to the Lord and acknowledgment of the deeds He has done for His people and for the psalmist in particular. The 15 psalms that precede it have been ascribed to David. In this case, we have nothing that tells us one way or the other. The first 12 verses speak in the first person plural about all of the ways that God has tested them and then brought them into abundance (verses 10-12).

 

The psalmist switches to 1st person singular in verse 13. This is simply the progression into what the psalmist intends to do personally to show his gratitude for what God has done for all of His people and for him in particular.  While declaring how God has answered his prayers (verses 19-20), the psalm calls for all people to “sing the glory of his name.”

 

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

 

/Bob’s boy

 

___________________

 

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

 

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.