Two weeks ago my wife and I went to a local thrift shop. Shopping at this store is a favorite activity for my wife who likes to look for inexpensive items to decorate our house or give to someone as a gift.  Although I’m not as enamored as my wife is with second-hand stores, I love seeing her joy and appreciate her desire to find old treasures that don’t break our budget. Anyway, while she was investigating other items, I was drawn to a “$1 or less “ book bin near the checkout counter. As I was perusing through the bin, I came across an old, small, red-jacketed book entitled “My Prayer Book.” The yellowed pages fit its 61-year old publishing date, and I began reading a few of its entries. I was moved by the broad scope of the prayers that were simple yet profound and deep—and interwoven with Scripture. The personal prayers the author (or authors) wrote were woven with praise, thanks, confession, and petitions, and were expressed with awe, humility, and trust in the presence of God.  The book spoke to my heart, and I sensed that God had pointed me to it as a tool to strengthen my relationship with Him in prayer. I gladly paid the $1 and have been using this book as part of my times with God each day the past 2 weeks. Here is one line of a prayer from that book:

“Help me, I pray, to reflect in my life the infinite love with which you have loved me in Jesus Christ, my Savior…”

Prayer is an essential part of a vital relationship with God in the Person of Jesus Christ. Because we are human, it’s essential for Christ followers also to understand that our prayer life will ebb and flow. There will be days when prayers flow like water and other times when our prayer life will feel like a desert—dry and difficult.  However, our God is the One who from whom all blessings flow and the same One who brings springs in the desert. So wherever you are right now—in the desert or enjoying the fountain— prayer begins with the same request that Jesus’ disciples brought to him:

“Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1)

This is a passage that often comes to mind as I enter into times of prayer before God.  Authentic prayer springs from our inherent, eternal need for God—whether we are in times of plenty or emptiness. When we recognize and admit the fact that we are hopeless and helpless apart from God we have arrived at the nexus of life:

“God I need you and desire you and your saving power in my life. Teach me Your path and show me Your way.”

God’s power, grace, and love are fully available to us—if only we ask. Prayer is not so much about the words we say as much as the heart we bring to God.  Sometimes the words of our prayers come easily, but if not it’s okay to use and voice another Christian’s spoken or written prayers if they touch our heart.  Augustine was a faithful Christ-follower who lived many centuries ago, but his writings and prayers still resonate in my being. Here is one example:

“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.”

Finally, Scripture passages are most powerful and effective when voiced in prayer to God through and in the circumstances of life. God promises that His Word will never return empty but will always produce fruit (see Isaiah 55:11). When we pray God’s Word, we allow His power to flow in and through us and into the circumstances of life. As an example, read the first 5 verses of Psalm 103 and then read it a second time as a prayer, even inserting your own name—or someone else’s— into the passage.

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)

Over time as I have prayed God’s Word I have discovered that my overall prayer life has become increasingly laced with Scripture. I am convinced that this is how the Holy Spirit works as we become immersed in God’s Word: He brings to mind the Scripture passages that are needed at just the right moment as we pray alone or with someone else.

Whether or not your prayer life flows like a fountain, it’s good also to make use of the resources God provides to bolster and grow us in our times with Him… including a $1 prayer book in a bargain bin.

God bless you!

Chris Atkins