Listening to my children pray is one of my favorite things. They pray for their scratches to heal, for their friends who are sick, for help when they’re upset or can’t find something. They tell God “thank you” for all kinds of things, from the sunshine and the night sky to our family and their friends. When Lia was potty training she even thanked God for underwear on a daily basis. It is precious and sweet to see what a child has to say to God. In teaching them to pray, I simply told them to talk respectfully and tell God what’s in their hearts.
Prayer is simple, really, but sometimes I feel like I don’t do it right. After all, I am addressing the God who made the universe, who is perfect and intelligent and good and just and personal; the One who loves us broken and fault-filled people enough to die in order to draw us close to Himself. How exactly do we do this properly? There are no prayers too small for God, but sometimes I get the feeling that I’m not tapping into how big they can, or even should, be.
I hear stories of people who wake up before the sunrise to spend several hours in prayer. I know people who passionately and faithfully pray for persecuted Christians around the world, our global and national leaders, all of the lost souls who haven’t yet found saving faith. Compared to these saints, my prayers feel inadequate. Even when I try to maintain a heart of prayer – a heart that is constantly seeking God throughout the day – it seems like I don’t pray for all the people and things that I should.
Sometimes feelings of guilt tempt me, as if whether or not my prayers are “sufficient” is a matter of will power – a challenge to see how long I can mentally and physically discipline myself to stay focused and keep at it. But where conviction is a tool God uses to change us into becoming more like Him, guilt is a vice of the enemy. So whenever I start to berate myself about my insufficient prayer life, I remember that God does not use expectations as a means to beat me down under a heavy load that I can’t bear. Instead, I do what I tell my kids to do: I approach God with respect and tell Him what’s in my heart. And where my own words or will fail, I look to the Bible for inspiration.
I absolutely believe that there is power in praying scripture. These are not prayers based on feelings, but on truth. For every situation in life I’ve encountered, I’ve found a prayer or a Bible verse that speaks to it. And when I respectfully approach God, I am confident that He hears the echo in my own heart as I recite these verses.
Below are some of the prayers of the Bible that I have prayed and continue to pray, slightly paraphrased.
Prayers for my children:
- O Lord, make my children always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes. Give them the wholehearted desire to obey you. (1 Chronicles 29:18-19)
- I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from your glorious, unlimited resources you will empower my children with inner strength through your Spirit. That you will make your home in their hearts as they trust in you. Make their roots grow down into your love and keep them strong. And may they have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep your love is. May they experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then they will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
Prayers for my husband:
- I pray that he would enjoy having guests in our home and love what is good. Help him to live wisely and be just; to live a devout and disciplined life. Give him a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught so that he can encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong. (Titus 1:8-9) Teach him to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. Give him a sound faith and fill him with love and patience. (Titus 2:2)
- May he not be weighed down by worry, but encouraged. May he not be discouraged, but see his dreams fulfilled. (Proverbs 12:25, 13:12)
Prayers for persecuted Christians:
- As they trust in you, give them new strength. May the soar on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Prayers for our nation and the world:
- I praise you, God, for all the wisdom and power are yours. You control the course of world events, you remove kings and set up other kings. You give wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. You reveal deep and mysterious things and know what lies hidden in darkness, though you are surrounded by light. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you are the source of wisdom and strength. You will reveal what is true. (Daniel 2:20-23)
Perhaps my favorite advice on praying came from a Chip Ingram podcast where he encouraged us to pray with our Bibles open. To me, that means as I sit each day and read the wisdom and truth of the Bible, I slow down and let it seep into my heart. As I hear God’s voice in the words, those very same words become my prayer.
The discipline of prayer looks different for everyone. Maybe, like me, you sometimes feel like your prayers are too short and too small. But if you’re doing it at all then be encouraged! May your faith and prayers be always growing, never waning.