Reflections on prayer

by John Arnold
Pastor, Library Baptist Church

About 20 years ago the Lord laid on my heart the possibilities of prayer. In retrospect I could have never known what I was about to learn over the 20-year period. I do remember standing before our Sunday school teachers challenging them to begin a journey of prayer with me. One teacher said after we were into the prayer journey a few weeks, “This has transformed my life.” Draw­ing closer to Christ will transform anyone’s life.

This journey has morphed from one phase to another throughout the years. From the simplest form of prayer into a growing maturity, not only of prayer, but other spiritual disciplines: assimilation of the Word, fasting, personal worship, memorization of the Scripture, and finally, praying the Scripture. All of these disciplines were first items of prayer before they became a reality.

I had this conviction — that if I could pray about the disciplines in the will of God that He would answer these requests. I never really knew how simple it was to pray in the will of God. I guess you could say, “I stand amazed.”

Right now I’m enjoying more and more the joy of practicing the disciplines and learning as I practice that God opens up new variegations of each discipline as you grow in them.

Learning to memorize scripture is one of the main keys to standing strong in the Lord. I have chosen to memorize the familiar verses that define what we believe and how to present the gospel, but have in recent years majored on verses that deal with the worship of God.

Everyone knows if you don’t use the verses you lose them, so in my quest to be “the best memorizer I can be and the best worshiper I can be,” I use these verses in two ways. The first is reviewing them while walking on the treadmill in the morning. As I walk I review and I’m renewed by the Word and energized by the walk. This keeps the verses fresh on my mind. Also I pray these verses to God as I worship Him, trying to use as many scriptures as possible in my time of praise. In other words, this prayer time turns into a shower of scripture as I stand in the presence of God. I find now that I have many things to say to the Lord that are scripture-based and what I have hid in my heart and mind comes pouring out in adoration. This type of prayer is about giving, not receiving; it is more blessed to give than receive.

Variety in places and formats to prayer are good as well. I am a creature of habit, but every now and then I find it is good to be open to a change of place to pray and change of position. Singing to the Lord is a good element to incorporate as we worship. I have several songs that I’m using now, two of which are, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “O Come Let Us Adore Him.” A.W. Tozer said, “I would not even attempt to tell you how many hymn books are piled up in my study. I cannot sing a lick, but that is nobody’s business. God thinks I’m an opera star!”

Using memorization, praying the Scriptures, and singing round out a very meaningful period of worship that enriches the soul and gives a glimpse of heaven. Everything that we spiritually crave develops from an intimate relation with our Lord.

I’m persuaded that we are expecting too much of the church worship hour as it relates to our own needs. Now, more than ever, I see personal worship as paramount to our own spiritual vitality. With this vitality we can bring our overflow of worship to church rather than expecting to receive it from the service.

Worship also opens the door for incredible possibilities of service. A. W. Tozer said, “We have great churches and we have beautiful sanctuaries and we join in the chorus, ‘We have need of nothing.’ But there is every indication that we are in need of worshipers … Practically every great deed done in the church of Christ all the way back to the apostle Paul was done by people blazing with the radiant worship of their God. A survey of church history will prove that it was those who were yearning worshipers who also became the great workers. Those great saints whose hymns we so tenderly sing were active in their faith to the point that we must wonder how they ever did it all.”

The early church was known for its daily adorations. The contemporary church should be known for that as well. What better way to enhance the corporate worship of the church than to have the members bring their worship with them?

Of all the things God has taught me in the last 20 years, the experience of personal worship is at the top of my list of disciplines. Memorizing scripture is the key to standing strong in the Lord. And using them in personal worship is the epitome of spiritual experience.