The Psalms are the hefty centre for prayer in the Bible, but they are far from the only place we can turn for guidance in prayer. Scattered throughout Scripture are actual prayers of God’s people, from the Israelites’ cries for help to individual leaders’ pleas for wisdom and the power to discern God’s direction, from the apostles’ prayers for God’s movement through their ministry and in the lives of their hearers to the final biblical prayer for the Lord to return and bring his kingdom to consummation.
All this to say, we have many helpful prayers in the pages of our Bibles that, even though others prayed them first, we can make our own. These various prayers all, in their way, elaborate on what Jesus taught us to pray. They long for God’s work to be present in this world, and they recognize the battle we wage against sin and temptation and the unforgiving ways of an often bitter world.
In this post, I simply want to share with you some of these prayers, selected from the letters of the apostle Paul, who reminded the church in Thessalonica that they should “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Paul understood that sometimes we don’t know what to pray. He suggested that at these times the Holy Spirit would be praying out of our hearts the cries that are too deep for words (Romans 8:26-27). But aside from these wordless heart-prayers, the Spirit through Paul’s letters has also left us some words we can adopt for ourselves. These prayers sometimes need a little tweaking, since Paul prayed them for his churches. But you don’t have to do much more than change “you” to “we” or “I” or “they” (since we should also be praying for each other) to find yourself able to start practicing in the school of prayer. What strikes me is how much we find ourselves led to pray for deeper knowledge of God, ever-increasing love for God and others, and the ability to live a life that pleases God.
“I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:14-19
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:9-11
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” – Colossians 1:9-12
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13