Praying from Your Heart and Mind
In our church tradition, we don't often write out our prayers. We tend to think of written prayers as more formal and somehow less personal. I've also seen this with a lot of preachers who believe that if they were to sit down and write out their sermons, they aren't being led by the Holy Spirit as much when they stand before the congregation to preach.
Well, I don't know about you, but I've heard a lot of prayers and sermons that could have benefited from a little more forethought! Although I'm all for people praying and speaking from the heart, I also think we can gain from the discipline of writing out a prayer every now and then. Join your mind, heart and pen (or keyboard) together to pray to the God of heaven.
A book that has helped me grow in this area is called Prayers Across the Centuries (Harold Shaw Publishers). The book is a collection of prayers from the Bible, the early and medieval church, the Reformation all the way to the present. This is a wonderful tool to grow in our understanding of the power of prayer and in the discipline of us learning how to pray. For example, here is a prayer of Polycarp (AD 69-155) who was the bishop of Smyrna and was martyred for his faith. Tradition has it that Polycarp was bound and burned at the stake, but when the flames failed to touch his body, his executioners stabbed him to death. I'm always willing to listen and learn from someone who has given his all for the cause of Christ!
Consider how much Polycarp suffered as you read his prayer: "Lord God almighty, Father of your dear and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have been granted to know you; you are God over all; over angels and other spiritual powers, over the whole created universe, and over those good people from every age who live in your presence. I thank you today for the privilege of being counted among those who have witnessed to you with their lives; of sharing the cup of suffering which Christ drank; and of rigging again to life everlasting with him, in body and soul, and in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today into your presence, a costly sacrifice and so an acceptable one. This is all part of your plan and purpose, and you are now bringing it to pass. For you are the God of truth, and in you is no falsehood at all. For this, and for all the other things you have done for me, I bless and glorify you, through our eternal high priest in heaven, your dear Son, Jesus Christ, who shares with you and the Holy Spirit glory forever. Amen."
The richness and depth of this prayer can guide our minds when we must drink from a cup of suffering. The hope and peace expressed in Polycarp's prayer can encourage us to put our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ from whom we ultimately discover peace. As you reflect on Polycarp's prayer, may it be a resource to help you grow in your own prayer life. Whether your write your prayers, say them conversationally, or try doing a little (or a lot) of both, may your prayers come from your heart and mind in your journey of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.