(June 22) How to Pray When You Don't Know What to Say
Sometimes prayer feels simple and effortless. Other times, not so much. There are those days when you bow your head, close your eyes, and pour out your heart to the Lord. You sense His nearness and are aware that He hears every word you say. Yet, there are other moments in prayer where we do not know how to express what is in our heart. Somedays it feels like our prayers get no further than the ceiling. What about those days? What do you do when your prayer life feels "stuck" and going nowhere?
One helpful practice is to read the prayers contained in the Bible. When we sit down and consider prayers that saints have offered to the Lord, prayers that the Holy Spirit preserved for us in Scripture, our hearts can be strengthened.
One such example is found in Daniel 9. Daniel is aware of the sin of his people, yet he is also fully convinced that God is still at work. The Medes have overthrown the Babylonians (just as had been prophesied) and Daniel cries out to God. His prayer is one of personal and corporate confession. Take a moment and read the words of Daniel's prayer and then take a few minutes and lift up your own prayer to the Lord.
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
What a great example of how we are to pray to the Lord. As you enter a time of prayer, remember the words of verse 18 -- "For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy."
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