Are your prayers too small? On Pentecost Sunday (June 4), Pastor Clay Smith gave a stirring and inspiring sermon about the kind of prayer that sustains our participation in God’s full mission. While God certainly cares about the smallest details of our lives, he also calls us to lift our heads and hearts higher than our own personal circumstances to fix our hopes and efforts on nothing less than himself and the coming of the fullness of God’s kingdom in our city and the rest of the whole world. Clay rightly reminded us that Jesus taught us to frame all of our prayers to the Lord in the context of this big request and hope: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
But how can we keep this up for the long haul? The inspiration and conviction resulting from a single sermon will fade amid the pressures of daily life that always threaten to squeeze our prayers into their mold. If we rely only on the concerns and desires of our own hearts to guide our prayer, we will soon find ourselves back in the rut of praying the same old things about the same old things.
Praying from the Bible is the primary solution to a prayer life that is too small. God not only tells us to pray, but he has also filled his word with prayers to guide us in praying with big, God-centered words and ideas that we would never think to pray ourselves. In the Psalms (a whole prayer book!) and other prayers from people such as Moses (Exod. 15), Hannah (1 Sam. 2), Zechariah and Mary (Luke 1), the early Christians (Acts 4), and our Lord Jesus himself (Matt. 6:9-13; John 17), we can learn kingdom-focused prayer that constantly stretches our minds and hearts to the full breadth and depth of God and his mission in the world. When we use Scripture as a means to speak to God, the Bible becomes not only a means of knowing about God but also a living means of knowing God and communion with God himself. Thus, the Bible becomes kindling for our prayers, for it gives us powerful, inspired words and images that the Holy Spirit uses to fan the flame of our longing for God himself and to illumine our imagination with a vision and hope for his goodness and glory to make all things new.
How can you learn to pray in this way? Central’s daily prayer guide (http://www.centralpres.com/prayer-guides) provides a simple tool to expand our prayers and align them with the worship of the church. The guide contains Psalms, songs, and other scripture readings and biblically-based prayers that relate to the theme of the Sunday sermon each week and amplify the effect of corporate worship on Sunday as it echoes throughout our daily meditation and prayer. (When you sign up, you will receive the prayer guide in an email on Sunday mornings with all the materials for the coming week as well as a short introductory email that furnishes a brief user’s manual with instructions and resources for using the guide most productively.) By praying from the Bible and the prayers of the church, we will never run out of things to say and our prayers will always be directed by the Holy Spirit toward the highest goal of communion with the Lord himself and the fulfillment of his transforming mission to the world. Come, Holy Spirit, and lead us to pray for the kingdom of God!