Recently, the Lord has been moving my heart through the Psalms and this week was no different. As I’ve mentioned before, I am working my way through a Bible reading plan that has me in a different genre of literature each day. Wednesdays are the Psalms, thus that day has quickly become one of my favorite devotional readings.
Along with that, God has deeply convicted my heart concerning my prayer life – which has historically been anything but what it should be. Much of that conviction has come through my reading of Tim Keller’s book on Prayer entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. It has been a rich resource combining deep theology and incredibly practical tips.
Today, I want to briefly share with you the most helpful tidbit on prayer that I have gotten from the book. Then, I want to apply the tip to a passage of Scripture so you can see it in action. It is my hope that this will lead you to first, get the book by Keller and more fully develop your understanding of prayer (because I'm only sharing a fraction of the wisdom I have gleaned from it) and second (but most importantly), encourage you to seek a fuller intimacy with God through prayer.
Let’s get started.
In one section of Keller’s book, he draws on some of the Reformers for some practical ways to engage in meditation and prayer. The tip that most helped me came from arguably the most well-known Reformer, Martin Luther.
Luther devised a four-step method that served as a bridge between Bible reading and prayer. It is not quite Bible study and not quite full-fledged prayer, but a way to more fully open your heart to receive truths from God’s Word through communion with the Father. Essentially, it is Bible-based meditation.
His four step method is as follows:
1. Read a passage of Scripture and summarize its teaching in your own words.
2. Ask yourself how the passage causes you to praise God.
3. Ask yourself how the passage leads you to repent and confess sin.
4. Ask yourself how the passage leads you to appeal to God in supplication.
This method has proved incredibly helpful in preparing my heart to meet with God in prayer for two reasons. First, it focuses my mind on God before anything else. I tend to rush into asking God for things I want, but this meditation causes me to think about things like God’s attributes and His great love for me. Second, it puts me in my rightful place as a sinful human being that relies on God for my every thought and breath. There are other benefits to this practice, but these are the two that stick out to me.
Let’s observe this method in action with Psalm 13:6. Here’s the verse:
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” [ESV]
1. What is this text saying?
It’s important to remember that you aren’t doing in-depth Bible study here. You are merely summarizing the teaching of the verse in a concise statement. Feel free to look at the surrounding context, but don't get lost in the passage - keep your focus on the verse you intend to meditate on. For this verse, you could say something like, “This verse is teaching that even though the psalmist is struggling, He is putting His trust in the Lord because of what He has done. This trust then leads to praise.”
2. How does it lead me to praise God?
Here, you are simply thinking of ways this verse leads you to praise God. You could say something along the lines of, “This verse leads me to praise God because of His lovingkindness to sinful humans like me.”
3. How does it lead me to repent and confess sin?
Now, you’re taking the teaching of the verse and thinking of how you have failed to implement its principles in your daily life. You could pray, “Father, forgive me for failing to praise you the way that I should. Forgive me too for not acknowledging how bountifully you have dealt with me in my life. I repent of these sins and ask you to help me better praise and acknowledge you.”
4. How does it prompt me to appeal to God in petition and supplication?
This final step flows naturally from the third. Once you have confessed and repented, you can appeal to God to help you better enact the principles of the text in your life. So you could end with, “Lord, I ask that you would help me better praise you in the midst of trials and acknowledge you for the bountiful way you have dealt with me.”
When you finish these four steps, your heart should be warmed to the gentle presence of the Spirit and more open to prayer.
I hope these principles of meditation have been an encouragement! I am deeply indebted to both Luther, for originally formulating this method, and Keller, for summarizing it in his work on prayer. I encourage you to pick up Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God today!
Let me know if you implement this method in your prayer life! I am curious to see if this method will be as effective for others as it has been for me! If you give it a try, let me know in the comment section below! Or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter! And don’t forget to hit that subscribe button below for more content like this delivered right to your inbox!