I’ve been struggling with prayer lately. My words don’t come. My voice seems weak. My motives impure. My mind inattentive.
Automatically my response is often, “muscle through it Susanna.” As if I were urging myself through the last mile of my training runs. I’d say that persisting in prayer is good, biblical, called for, and necessary often. But when I try to “muscle through it”, I try to do it completely on my own. As if using the Bible to guide my words or someone else’s written prayer was cheating, lazy even!
We’re not meant to push through this life on our own. Using someone else’s words to articulate our emotions isn’t prayer failure. It’s community.
Think about it. We sing other Christian’s words. Hymns that have been sung by the church for centuries were once the prayer of one individual’s heart.
So this morning as I was feeling empty and very much like giving up on praying, the Spirit reminded me of a little black book my husband had given me while we were dating: The Valley of Vision.
It’s a dear book of Puritan prayers compiled for the encouragement, edifying, and unifying of the body of Christ.
The one I prayed through this morning is what my heart longed to express but had no idea how to communicate:
O God of my Exodus,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons,
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives for ever.
He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that this his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
in him I rose,
in his life I live, in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.
thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as Man of sorrows
wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than thine,
no agony more bitter,
no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious,
no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive
thine enemies behind thee.
What more could be done than thou hast done!
Thy death is my life,
thy resurrection my peace,
thy ascension my hope,
thy prayers my comfort.