Last year, on my bookshelf, I rediscovered a prayer book that I had bought at a second-hand bookstore a few years earlier. The book’s previous owner had inscribed her name and a date on the inside cover—Sister Francis, 1974. The spine is a little fragile and the pages dog-eared. One has the impression Sister Francis used the book well.
I began to dip into these prayers in my Quiet Times. Despite the many ‘Thee’s’ and ‘Thou’s’, the prayers often expressed my own deep desire for God. If a prayer resonated with me, I wrote it in my journal and began to memorise it. I found that—much like meditating on Scripture—repeating the prayers worked the words into my heart and made them my own.
Invitation to deeper prayer
Before this time, most of my slightly erratic prayer life was reactive, along the lines of ‘please help Auntie Dora with her gout.’ But the prayers in this book were different. These men and women were seeking to know God deeply and to be transformed by him.
As I’ve started praying through the prayer book, I’ve sensed God inviting me to write my own prayer, one that gives words to my struggle with—yet longing for—Christ-like change.
I invite you to join me on this journey to write a personal prayer for growth and transformation in 2022.
Questions to reveal the state of our hearts
A good starting point for writing this prayer may be to ask yourself some questions. Here are a few to help uncover areas for prayer:
- What barriers keep me from a deeper relationship with God?
- What hinders me from loving others well?
- In what area may the Holy Spirit be leading me to grow this year?
- Where do I most need God’s touch of grace in my life?
Consider journaling your responses to these questions. Truthfully unpacking the answers will lead you to discover your deepest areas of personal sin, struggle and need for change. These can become the cries of your heart this coming year.
Putting our prayers into words
We all have our way of speaking to God. Some of us are drawn to beautiful language (possibly even the occasional Thee or Thou). Others like prayers that have a rhythm and sound poetic. Some call out to God in emotive language, others prefer simpler, quieter words.
The form our prayer takes is not important; what matters is that it’s an honest expression of our hearts.
Here are some suggestions for putting your heart’s deepest longings into words.
Pray with Scripture
Scripture provides us with rich language for prayer. In fact, the book of Psalms was Israel’s prayer book and is filled with supplications. I often weave Scripture into my prayers. In my anxiety, I pray, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3). In my drivenness, I pray, “You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest” (Psalm 139:3). When I wrestle with a lack of self-worth, I pray, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
Pray with the words of others
As I discovered, others have written prayers that beautifully capture our own hearts. Fortunately, God does not pronounce ‘plagiarism’ when we pray with other people’s words! In my struggle with distraction, I pray Dallas Willard’s words:
“Lord slip up on me today. Get past my defences, my worries, my concerns. Gently open my soul and speak your Word into it. I believe you want to do it, and I wait for you to do it now.”
In my desire to be mission-minded, I pray Rich Villodas’s words:
“May I live as one sent by you into a broken and bruised world. May I be Christ for another, in Jesus’s name.”
Many of the worship songs we sing are prayers too. Begin to pay attention to the songs that particularly stir your heart and you may find words for your personal prayer.
Pray simply, in your own words
You may prefer to pray with your own simple, heartfelt words. In Luke 18: 9-14 Jesus contrasts the proud prayers of the Pharisee with the humble cries of the tax collector. A bystander might have been impressed by the Pharisee’s eloquence, but God saw through it. It was the tax collector who ‘went home justified before God’ (v. 14). Let this encourage you that God is not swayed by the beauty of our words, but rather by the honest humility of our hearts.
Praying our personal prayer in 2022
Once you have written a prayer that expresses your longing and hope for growth and transformation in 2022, begin using it in your conversation with God. Pray it daily, weekly, or monthly. Read it—slowly and reflectively—or memorise it and recite it to God. Allow each line of the prayer to be an opening for deeper discussion with the Lord. As you pray a line, reflect on your victories or difficulties in that particular area at that time. Let the prayer lead you to confession, to thanksgiving, and also to deeper listening to God. Give him time to speak and guide you as you pray this prayer.
Paul’s beautiful prayer for the Philippians captures a heart beseeching God for growth and transformation: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11).”
Let this same desire to become ‘pure and blameless’ and more like Jesus every day, be at the heart of your personal prayer for 2022.
‘Sister Francis’s book’: Michael Hollings & Ette Gullick, The One Who Listens, Mayhew-McCrimmon Ltd, 1971
Dallas Willard, A Life Without Lack, Nelson Books, 2018
Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life, Waterbrook, 2020