Why, What, and How do you pray?

As Bonhoeffer describes the day in the community of his seminary in chapter 2 of Life Together, he discusses prayer in relationship to the Psalms. He says praying through the Psalms does three things:

1. Praying through the Psalms teaches us the meaning of prayer.

Many times our prayers are self-seeking prayers that have no place in our relationship with God. In the words of James – We ask and do not receive because we ask for our own selfish pleasure. Praying through the Psalms provides a corrective to the pattern of selfish prayer.

2. Praying through the Psalms teaches us the content of prayer.

Often our prayers get stuck in a rut. I’ve been to enough prayer meetings to say that most requests focus on health. These prayers are followed by circumstance prayers – this person needs a job, that person is going through a tough time at work.

Praying the Psalms enlarges our scope. It aids our imagination to think bigger than the needs of health and circumstance. In the Psalms there are prayers of praise, repentance, and requests for justice, righteousness, and God’s intervention in the affairs of nations.

3. Praying through the Psalms teaches us to pray as a fellowship.

Many of the Psalms are meant to be voiced in the midst of more than one person. We are not meant to pray in isolation, at least not all of the time. The Psalms can be a great way to avoid the ruts that come when we gather together for prayer. Many times when we gather for prayer, the prayers become formulas full of empty patterns. The Psalms expand our prayer in community.

That we pray is important. But why we pray, what we pray, and how we pray matter as well.


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