Sometimes when the power goes out at my house, I have a terrible habit of continuously trying to turn the lights on. Then, as I move about the house and get busy working on other things, I forget about the lack of electricity. I keep doing this repeated action and almost seemed surprised by the outcome every single time.
If I decided to stand in my kitchen and keep flipping the light switch on in a “try harder attempt” to overcome that lack of electrical current flowing into my home, most observers would be concerned for my sanity. No amount of turning on the light will cause the bulb to be illuminated without access to electricity.
Sometimes my approach to prayer can look a great deal like this exercise in futility. I pray, but I get distracted, confused, concerned, and defeated. How often am I simply approaching prayer with little preparation?
Are my prayers plugged into the power source God has provided? In my case, not always. If I am being honest, not very often at all. I want to complete my prayer tasks rapidly in the name of efficiency. I want to move through a list of requests and check them off. And yet I struggle…
So, what is the power source?
Before I can plug into God’s powerful provision, I need to review some basic communication principles. Prayer is, after all, my communication with God. So how does God speak to His people? How do I hear from Him?
Psalm 19 points to one way God speaks: through his glorious creation.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. Psalm 19:1-6 NIV
In His kindness, God also speaks through the Bible.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. Psalm 19:7-10 NIV
Every sunset, sunrise, mountain vista, or starry sky speaks volumes for God and His character. God reveals Himself in the world He placed His people in. If I choose to notice, I can take in God’s stunning creation every single day.
In His kindness, God also speaks through the Bible.
God’s word provides warnings, guidance, and soul nourishment. It refreshes the soul. Since He created me, He knows exactly what my limitations are. God knows what I need and what would be best for me to avoid. The Bible overflows with gifts for me, but I must open them. Also, and perhaps the part I have so often missed, I must take time to meditate on God’s word.
Sadly, the secular world has hijacked the notion of meditation and perverted it into something to avoid at all costs. While Eastern meditation practices are not tools for me to use, the practice of meditation itself is neutral. It all depends on the focus of my meditating mind. Spending time focusing on God and His word is a way for me to tend my soul and plug into the power source God has provided. Taking time out of my busy schedule to sit and dwell in God’s presence as I read or listen to His word provides a needed reset.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:11-13 NIV
Focused time in God’s word can keep me on track with His will and serve as a warning when I go off course. God’s word brings ongoing transformation.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NIV
This final verse from Psalm 19 is a pattern for powerful prayer. Donald S. Whitney, in his book on spiritual disciplines, explains, “…meditation was a catalyst that catapulted David (the author this Psalm 19) from the truth of God into talking with God.” Taking time to process the input of God’s word steeps my heart and mind with His presence. Continually repeating this process with a daily intake of scripture begins to change me from the inside out. My prayers will transform because I will want what God wants. My mind will shift because I will think about what God thinks about. My heart will change, and I will enjoy what God wants.
The psalms can provide an ideal starting point for meditation that leads into prayer. Each psalm provides both a focus for meditation and a written prayer. For example, read Psalm 19 to begin and ask the Holy Spirit to highlight one verse or phrase.
Ways to Meditate on Scripture
- Read the psalm a second or third or fourth time
- Read the psalm in different versions of the Bible
- Listen to someone else read it to you
- Look for a song that features the passage of scripture you chose
- Try drawing a picture or painting something from the psalm
- Read each line, pausing and listening for God to speak between each one
- Ask the Holy Spirit to show you something fresh and new hidden in the text
Prayers prayed after a meditation time will be more focused and have greater clarity. This exercise will increase confidence in prayer. My heart is instructed by the truths found in scripture.
How about you? Do you meditate on scripture before you pray? What passages of scripture do you use? I would love to hear about your experiences.
During Lent 2022, I’m writing about one spiritual discipline each week. What kinds of spiritual disciplines are you taking on this season?