While my daughter Emily was in the hospital following a serious snow-skiing accident, a friend sent me beautiful, elegant prayers via text. In the moments as I waited at her bedside to hear if she would walk again, in the horror of what had happened, I was unable to formulate my own words of prayer beyond "O Lord, heal her." But having the text-messaged prayers gave me a specific prayer with which I could join in praying along with my friend. It gave me words to express what my shocked emotions could not formulate.
I grew up in a denomination that had a sort of unwritten code that you should not pray other people’s prayers or read your prayers. Reading prayers was considered too impersonal and might result in vain repetition, so better not to pray them at all. Instead, it was better to say clumsy, stumbled words from the heart than to say something poetic and profound and potentially not mean it.
I recently read a book by Scot McKnight called Praying with the Church that showed me that reading prayers have the potential to re-shape the soul. They provide a way of engaging with God in a meaningful way. Vain repetition comes from a heart not focused in prayer, not because of the prayer itself.
These are some advantages that I have found to using written prayers:
- Improves prayer life.
- Easier to pray on a routine basis.
- Brings connection with God and greater intimacy with Him.
- Gives a sense of unity with other Christ followers praying the same prayer.
- Lifts the burden of being creative in my prayers and gives me the words to say in ways that express my thoughts better than I can by myself.
- Leads me away from vain repetition.
- Mentors me in how to pray.
Some sources of written prayers that I use:
- Psalms: Psalm 51 for confession, Psalm 121 for protection, Psalm 139 for intimacy with God.
- The Our Father/Lord’s Prayer: Jesus taught us to pray with this prayer. When I want to pray but don’t know what to say starting off, I use this one.
- The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions
- The Common Book of Prayer - I have this as one of several prayer apps on my phone.
Some resources that Scot McKnight recommends that I’d like to check out:
- Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours
- The Glenstal Book of Prayer
- Celtic Daily Prayers
- The Liturgy of the Hours