“But when I pray, frankly, it’s boring.”
And when prayer is boring, we don’t feel like praying. And when we don’t feel like praying, it’s hard to make ourselves pray. Even five or six minutes of prayer can feel like an eternity. Our mind wanders half the time. We’ll suddenly come to ourselves and think, “Now where was I? I haven’t even been thinking of God for the last several minutes.” And we’ll return to the mental script we’ve repeated countless times. But almost immediately our minds begin to wander again because we’ve said the same old things about the same old things so many times.
“It must be me,” we conclude. “prayer isn’t supposed to be like this. I guess I’m just a second rate Christian.”
No, the problem is almost certainly not you; it’s your method…(Praying the Bible p. 14-15)
Don Whitney has a way of getting right to the heart of a matter. I remember feeling the same way when I read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life a few years ago.
A couple of days ago, Shawn asked me to pray about something for him. I broke down in tears, frustrated that my pattern of prayer is almost exactly what Dr. Whitney describes. I knew I wouldn’t really pray for him the way that I knew I should. Shawn handed me Praying the Bible and encouraged me to read it. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I’ve read other books about praying scripture and clearly they haven’t really helped. But since it was Don Whitney, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what he said.
I was immediately drawn in by the first chapter, where it felt like he was inside my head. His years of pastoral ministry and teaching seminary have allowed him to see that prayer is a common struggle among believers and that almost all of us have these thoughts as we try to pray. This was confirmed as I talked to some ladies at church that seemed to be struggling in the same way.
Dr. Whitney’s method isn’t new or groundbreaking. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea if it was. An effective prayer method must stand the test of time and transcend cultural barriers. It needs to be something that worked for the disciples and people throughout church history. It needs to work in America, China, and Europe. The solution, Whitney says, is to pray through a passage of scripture, particularly a Psalm.
It sounds simple, and it is. I recommend reading the book for more details about how to choose scripture and what a daily prayer routine might look like. Dr. Whitney has a way of writing that makes him feel like a wise, trusted friend sharing what the Lord has taught him, as you meet over a cup of coffee. Several years ago, we had the chance to hear him speak and meet with him in a small group as we shared a meal afterward. In person, he is as genuine as he seems in his writing and his years of wisdom spill out into every conversation. This is the picture of him that I have when I read his books
After a couple of days, I can’t say that my prayer life is “fixed,” but for the first time in a long time, I feel like there is hope that my prayer life can become more than what it has been.
And what if we could teach our children to pray like this now, saving them from the years of struggling to have an effective and vibrant prayer life in the future? Yes! I want my children to leave my home equipped to pray.
Praying (from Psalm 119) that the Bible would be my hiding place and my shield, that I would hope in the word of God and turn to it continually as I pray, and that we may teach our children to keep their lives pure by guarding it according to the word of God and through prayer.