the biggest problem with my prayer life

words on wordsFlipping through the pages of yesteryear, the ones where my life gushed out in a desperate attempt to affirm meaning and discover reason, I come to a startling, two-fold realization.

One. My prayers have a habit of turning vague and cliché.

“Lord, fill me up again. I’m tired of my pride. I went looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places. Only you can satisfy me. Make me more like you, Jesus.”

Not that these are bad things to realize or ask for—they aren’t. And not that the Lord has not used my vague and cliché times with him to take my nothing and turn it into exactly what he wants—he absolutely has. But I rarely got down to the nitty gritty of what was wrong in my heart.

And at first I fear I might bring this as a do-more-try-harder call to more thorough journal entries and much longer prayers for all of us. But when I really think about the heart of the matter, I believe that the vagueness and the mindless repetition were truly my attempts at cleaning up and self-correcting.

When I keep the details of my struggles from the working out of the pen-to-paper, I’m actually tucking them away in a safe and manageable place. “Ok, God, now I see. Thanks for the quick-fix. Now I’ll just say all the things I think I am supposed to say and try harder next time.”

When I gloss over the gory I miss out on true grace.
When we hide the hideous parts, we never come to realize what real healing and hope we need and have in Jesus.

We do not need more time given to religious acts. We just need our real selves to come out into the grace of God. An hour of penning repeated phrases to flatter God makes much of our discipline and piety. Five minutes of gut-wrenching honesty makes much of God’s grace.

Let’s be specific. Let’s allow the Spirit to probe. Let’s not tuck away the mess. Let’s allow him to reach the deepest parts.

And two. Nothing speaks greater grace to a heart than praying the word of God.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

What I need in my vague moments are the two-edged words of God on my behalf. His word is able to uncover, dissect, and conquer all the hidden parts of me. Repeating the words of man, however insightful they may be, can never accomplish the full transformation of God’s work in my life.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout,…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11

Other books and songs of worship are great; we give thanks to God for the people who teach and write and sing for the purpose of illuminating his word for us. But the only word guaranteed to accomplish what the Lord wants to accomplish, is the word which he sent out.

The only word guaranteed to accomplish
what the Lord wants to accomplish,
is the word which he sent out.

Jesus, the word became flesh, who accomplished exactly what the Father desired on our behalf. The written word of God.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

No other words known to man are qualified for accomplishing the work of God in our lives. Even where we least expect to find him, in the parts that seem to read like anesthesia, the word of God is faithful to penetrate and prosper the image of Jesus within our hearts.

“Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts.”
Jeremiah 15:16


Pause to consider…

  • You might choose one of these passages to pray? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what he is accomplishing in your life circumstances in light of the faithful word of God.

Psalm 16—A prayer of David, echoed by Jesus.
Psalm 63—David’s prayer in the wilderness.
John 17—Words Jesus prayed for you.

  • Do you have any “go-to” phrases you repeat before the Lord? Spend a few minutes listing them, and then search God’s word for truth you might memorize instead.
  • Music is one of my love languages, and I have come to love having the word of God stuck in my head through song. If you need some new music to put Scripture on repeat in your brain, you might enjoy Shane & Shane’s “Psalms,” and Jonathan & Emily Martin.

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