I am a visual learner. If I can just see what I need to learn, I can usually learn it. I recently repaired a piece of lawn equipment. I just looked it up on YouTube, watched a couple of examples of the repair, and I jumped into it. Since I am about as mechanical as a soup spoon, it really was a major success.
When I need to learn new spiritual things, I still need visual examples. Jesus recognized that we need examples to learn spiritual things as well. When the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He gave an example. We know it as the Model Prayer (Luke 11:1-4). We also have many prayers of faithful saints throughout the Old and New Testaments: Asa, David, Solomon, Moses, Abraham, Hannah, Mary, and Paul. While some view the Psalms as Israel’s hymnbook, others view it as Israel’s prayer book. We can learn many valuable prayer lessons from the prayers in our Bibles. Lockyer’s All the Prayers of the Bible provides an invaluable reference.
I have also come to value the written prayers of other Christians, both contemporary and past. Since my wife is the queen of carport sales, I often peruse the books which might be on sale. This summer I found My Prayer Book published by Concordia. There is a prayer included for about every occasion I can imagine and a morning and evening prayer for a solid month. These have been a guide to me as I am now starting those prayers again each morning and evening.
Since I am a minister, I am often asked to pray at meetings, ceremonies, and meals. I guess I am the token pray-er. Sometimes, I look over my two- or three-volume collection of prayer books to get ideas to help me pray at those special times. However, reading the prayers of others give us insights into prayer and help us pray. I am sure you are familiar with prayer guides that help us pray for government leaders, pastors, and spouses.
Now, being the good Father He is, God is not expecting or requiring some level of excellence in prayer from us. He hears all prayers, even the simplest. He also is not as attuned to words as He is attuned to the heart of the one praying. In fact, we know that the Holy Spirit takes our wordless groanings and translates them accurately to the Father (Romans 8:26). But we have no business slouching through prayer when we consider this open avenue to such a good and high and holy Father.
I also find I grow in prayer, so developing discipline in praying is a benefit God desires in my life. I enjoy and I gain from reading the prayers of others. Here are some of my reasons for reading the prayers of others:
- I get ideas about what to pray about.
- I get encouragement to pray.
- I get an expanded vocabulary for prayer. I know God understands my babblings, but I learn to express my needs to Him more effectively.
- I find concepts for meditation and reflection.
- I can make some of those prayers my prayers. I already do this with Scripture. See Don Whitney’s Praying the Bible.
- I have grown in boldness and confidence in my praying as I learn from the prayers of others (Ephesians 3:12).
- I feel I can intercede for others more effectively.
- I experience a richness in fellowship and heritage when reflecting on the prayers of others.
- I can get ideas about what is important as I pray.
- I find illustrations for my teaching and preaching.
- When I lead in public prayer, small group prayer, or prayer with individuals, I have a greater sense of being better equipped for prayer.
If you want to read and think through the prayers of others, make your Bible your starting place and mainstay. Then begin to read prayers of other Christians such as the prayer of St. Patrick, the prayers of the Celtic fathers, the prayers of Augustine of Hippo, prayers of the Reformers, and others.