Scripted prayer. I used to think that was an oxymoron, that scripted or "canned" prayers, like those in prayer books, are less meaningful (read: less spiritual) than spontaneous ones.How foolish of me. Men and women of God have prayed scripted prayers – such as the Psalms – for millennia. But what of those offered to God by spiritual giants such as St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wesley and A. W. Tozer? For example, when offered from the heart, doesn't Tozer's prayer carry a sweet savor to the Father? I think so:
Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to You and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see You but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Your own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon You all the days of my earthly pilgrimage.
Or this one by John Wesley:
I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.
Or St. Augustine:
Narrow is the mansion of my soul; [please] enlarge it, that You may enter in. It is ruinous; [please] repair it. It has that within which must offend Your eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall cleanse it? Or to whom should I cry, [except to] Thee? Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the enemy.
Or St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith, Where there is despair, hope, Where there is darkness, light, Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, not so much to be understood as to understand, not so much to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
But I discovered it doesn’t take a ‘spiritual giant’ to create beautiful prayers. Anyone who loves Jesus can write a beautiful and meaningful prayer. Here is an example. It’s part of a prayer written by my friend, Cyndi. I love the way she refers to our Father in heaven as her ‘Papa.’ It reminds me of Jesus’ and St. Paul’s use of the Aramaic term for ‘daddy’ – Abba (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6):
To You, Papa, do I lift my voice. . . . My Redeemer, You rescued me from myself. You have cast my sins as far as the East is from the West. You delight in me and your plans for me are good.
Nothing can stand against You or separate me from your love. My heart is inclined to fear and shame. The voice of my enemy assails me with accusations. But You, Papa, are my safe refuge. My strong protector and faithful advocate. When my soul longs for comfort, You wrap your love around me and hold me close . . . Your love is my security. My hope and strength are in You.
When I am blinded by tears and I lose my way. You are my light and my salvation. . . You remain constant though the storms of life threaten and winds of doubt persist. . . Please use this broken, fearful and willing heart for your glory. Glory and honor be to You, O God.
And finally – there really isn’t a ‘finally’ when it comes to the kinds of prayers we or others can write – here is part of a prayer written by Jeanne St. John Taylor, an internet acquaintance of mine. You can find many of her prayers on her blog (click here):
O God of the Ineffable Name, the Great I AM, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You are a God who hides himself -- for our protection since human flesh is not capable of looking on your face and surviving. But because you want us to know you, you continuously reveal yourself in Creation. The changing colors of the clouds, the thunder of waterfalls and the multitude of stars have shouted your name since the beginning of time.
We hear you in the whisper of breeze in the trees. Sense your presence in the sweet incense of cherry blossoms. We long for you even if we don’t know what we’re longing for . . . .
Come fill us with the flow of you love, Holy Spirit. . . . Show us how to quiet our hearts and trust you to handle things we can’t handle. Pry our fingers loose from control of our own lives and those around us. Teach us to empty ourselves of self-effort and open ourselves to you so you can heal us in mysterious ways we don’t understand. Give us your peace that passes beyond understanding. Remind us that when we don’t have words to express our deep ache, your Spirit prays for us with groanings too deep for words – and you hear. And answer . . . .
Like prayer lists, acrostics, or alphabet prayers, scripted and self-authored prayers can become the means of a deepening relationship with Jesus. Such prayer strategies can help us focus on our communication with Him.
I’ll share yet more strategies in later posts.