CALL TO PRAYER: How to pray in a 'second' language
Everyone has an opportunity to think, speak and pray in God's language -- Scripture, the foundational language of the universe.
Scripture carries God's revelation and message to mankind, setting forth His forgiveness and grace among those who turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Then, through the Holy Spirit, Scripture has the power to extend deeply into our souls, into the parts of our earthly existence from which all language and human behavior arise. All other languages are but conduits for Scripture, the heart language of God.
Every word in the Bible, in one way or another, is part of the sustenance that God can supply for an adventurous yet tender faith that can be wondrously wholesome and fulfilling, stretching forward from this point in your life throughout eternity.
Consider, for starters, the following brief passages from Scripture as potential prayers. Or select some from your own reading of the Bible. Pick one and patiently begin to memorize it, ponder it, absorb it into your soul. Quote it (as best you can) whenever it comes to mind, especially when you and God come together in prayer. After a couple of weeks or longer, pick another in response to the Holy Spirit's leading. Then another and another in the weeks and months ahead. Whenever they fade from memory, venture back to them via review and re-memorization, which often leads to a new level of precious rejuvenation.
-- Romans 10:9: "... if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." If, by the Holy Spirit's stirring, Jesus becomes the heart cry of your soul, move forward by surrendering your life to Him. Usually, "surrender" is a term of defeat but, with God, it is a term of victory over the confines of earth.
-- Galatians 5:22-23: "... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." More than a series of words, this is an important picture of a person who yearns to reflect the qualities that God imparts through the Holy Spirit. Both you and God will take pleasure as these godly traits become increasingly evident in your life -- evident to you as well as to others.
-- James 3:17: "... the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." At first glance, this may seem like a perplexing description of wisdom. And perhaps so, because it originates with God, not human philosophy. So try this: The next time you face a significant decision, repeat this verse to yourself several times. Quite possibly, you will begin to gain insight into ways that your decision can be made with godly wisdom.
-- Matthew 4:4: ... "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." In the same way that we cannot see the air that we breathe nor the molecules of nourishment in what we eat and drink, the individual words of Scripture are vast in number, yet they form the framework for God's counsel regarding every facet of life. Regularly examine your heart to make sure you haven't lost sight of any element of God's redemption or any nuance in His call to godly, compassionate living amid the emptiness and tumult in our communities and throughout the world.
-- Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God....." While there are many dimensions of knowing God, this verse reflects the fact that God speaks through silence in ways that, beyond our earthly understanding, give greater depth to our efforts to pray, to absorb the riches of Scripture, and to live out our faith by word and deed. Amid the chores, challenges and opportunities that tend to occupy to our lives, there are some things we can only know when we are silent with God.
-- Romans 5:10: "For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" A twofold truth shines forth in this verse: Christ not only died on the cross to make the ultimate payment for sin, but He rose from the dead in the ultimate supernatural victory of the ages. In His ascension to heaven, He has empowered the Holy Spirit to provide an ongoing infusion of His life into our lives, nurturing an inner transformation by which we are continually growing in His divine nature.
-- Acts 3:19: "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord...." Plenty of skeptics take delight in needling Christians about how little "fun" they can have. Yet there is a unique, overarching enjoyment in being rescued from the demoralizing ravages of sin and continually being refreshed and nurtured by God's grace.
-- 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Just as you wash your hands whenever they become dirty, it is important to cleanse your soul each time it becomes spiritually unclean. We would never be content for germs and grime to accrue on our hands, and we should never be content for sin to accrue in our hearts and minds. 1 John 1:9 is God's soap, so to speak, enabling us to return to our daily pursuit of his highest, purest intentions for our lives.
-- Psalm 119:11: "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Immorality of various sorts may seem inconsequential, pleasurable, even justifiable -- for a season -- but sooner or later it exacts a toll, whether in a sudden onslaught or a slowly tightening grip of guilt and regret. Just as multiple temptations arise each day, multiple opportunities to draw closer to the Lord can be nurtured through Scriptures that help lift us from our most vulnerable inner weaknesses.
-- Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." A yearning to be pure in our thoughts, our motives and our actions is evidence of an ever-blossoming faith. Yet, this simple sentence spoken by Jesus adds an ultimate, eternal reality: The pure in heart will see God. The purity to have eyes of faith to see God in heaven will flow from His grace of new birth in our earthly lives in tandem with His grace of forgiveness whenever we seek his cleansing from sin.
-- Psalm 119:14: "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches." An initial glance at the first part of this verse might yield a lukewarm, perplexed or incredulous response to the idea of rejoicing over God's commands. But then comes the second part of the verse about great wealth. It's odd how, in our humanness, we sometimes have little enthusiasm for obeying God yet great enthusiasm for monetary gain. Yet, without doubt, there is cause for great rejoicing when our souls are invigorated each day by the depth and breadth of God's wisdom for every moment of life.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. EDITOR'S NOTE: Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, has issued a call to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013. Baptist Press will carry first-person articles during the year encouraging Southern Baptists to pray in specific areas and for specific needs as we petition the Father for spiritual awakening. This article is adapted from "When I Meditate," an ebook by Art Toalston available at eBookIt.com (http://bit.ly/PjrCgz), Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online sites. For an earlier article new birth, go to http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=17467.