You know the story. A man has been a believer in Christ for decades. To all outward appearances he’s a man of Christian faithfulness and integrity. He has maintained a reputation as a fine example of public and private faithfulness to the things of God for decades. Then, without warning, it all collapses into a sinkhole of sin. Everyone wonders how it could have happened so quickly. In most cases, it soon becomes known that — like most sinkholes — the problem didn’t develop overnight.
Several years ago, this man likely had a relatively consistent devotional life through which the Lord often refreshed, strengthened, and matured him. But with each passing year, his busy life became ever busier. Increasingly he saw his devotional life more as a burden — a mere obligation sometimes — than a blessing. Because of the massive doses of Bible teaching he’d heard — in addition to the knowledge gained teaching church Bible classes himself — he began to imagine that he needed less private prayer and Bible intake than when he was younger and not as spiritually mature. Besides, he had so many other God-given responsibilities that surely God would understand that he was too busy to meet with Him every day.
One small concession led to another; one plausible rationalization led to the next, until the devastating day when a tipping point was reached and the spiritual weakness developed by too many private compromises could no longer sustain even the appearance of Christian integrity. And into the sinkhole fell his reputation, witness, ministry, and perhaps much more.
Okay I admit it. My prayer life is often duller than that knife I have out in the garage that will not even cut through warm butter. I have often felt guilty about my prayer life or lack of one. It is not as though I do not have a lot to speak with God about as there is always something going on that needs to be brought before the throne of the Father in prayer. There just seems to be something about the exercise of prayer, knowing what to say without feeling repetitious or my mind not staying focused.
If you are in the same pickle as I am regarding your prayer life, let me suggest reading Donald Whitney’s excellent book titled Praying the Bible. Whitney aptly notes the biggest issue with our prayer lives is the aforementioned repetition, namely “saying the same things about the same things” which leads to our attention span taking a hit which leads to our overall prayer life taking a serious hit. Ultimately, we end up feeling guilty, defeated, and frustrated with prayer, often getting to the point where we honestly hope we are not even asked to pray in public or in private.
There is a solution to this rut. Whitney suggest praying through the Bible. At first I was not sure how this would work. Pray through the Bible? I get there are prayers in the Bible that we can use, even use verbatim, but would that not qualify as getting into the repetitious mode we are trying to avoid? Whitney aptly addresses that issue, noting the idea is not to pray the Bible as a means of shall we say cheating. The purpose of praying the Bible is it is chock full of ready-made, God inspired truth that is relevant to each and every situation in our life.
Whitney recommends the best place to start praying the Bible is in the Psalms. They are 150 chapters laden with the issues of life. While certainly the Psalms are often viewed as praises to God, they also can easily be turned into prayers by simply reading the text, and praying about what comes to mind as we read the words of the Psalms, in particular the specific issues the Psalmist addresses that are impactful to our own situations. Given the sheer amount of Psalms available, the fear of getting into repetitious word usage will be replaced with a plethora of discussion points with God.
The reader is also presented by Whitney with ways to pray other texts of Scripture to include what constitutes the majority of the Bible, that of narrative. We can read a section of narrative, reflect on what took place, and then go to God in prayer regarding how the actions in that periscope relate to something we experiencing, something family related, in our culture at large, or those on the other side of the world. Praying the Bible not only helps with our prayer life, it forces us to meditate on the passage we are reading – a true two for one bonus.
If you are struggling in your prayer life, give this book an immediate read. Put into practice the tools Whitney shares throughout and I can guarantee your prayer life will experience a kick-start back in the right direction. The former doldrums of praying will be replaced with earnest, faithful, and joyous prayer as you bring to God through the words of Scripture what is on your heart and mind and I can assure you that your mind will wander a lot less if you put into practice the valuable tips Whitney provides. This is a short book with an impact that will last a lifetime.
This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.
I received this book for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
8 Reasons to Start
The worthiness of God to receive your family’s worship each day is reason enough to start practicing family worship today. But in addition to that, consider these other good motivations:
1. What better way to speak the gospel into your children’s lives every day?
2. What better way to provide a regular time for your children to learn the things of God from you?
3. What better way to provide your children with an ongoing opportunity to ask about the things of God in a comfortable context?
4. What better way for you to transmit your core beliefs to your children?
5. What better way for your children to see the ongoing, positive spiritual example of their parents in real life?
6. What better way to provide workable, reproducible examples to your children of how to have a distinctively Christian home when they start a home of their own?
7. What better way for getting your family together on a daily basis?
8. Isn’t this what you really want to do?
Why Do We Struggle?
Despite the desire that many men have to begin family worship, some simply lack the resolve. In his Thoughts on Family Worship, J. W. Alexander answers eight common objections to starting family worship, but then says that a “single reason operates with more force than all the others put together.” It is when a man says—most likely only to himself—“The truth is, I am ashamed to begin.” 
This happens when a man awakens to his spiritual responsibilities in the home, but because he has failed to lead family worship for so long he feels embarrassed to begin now. Or he fears the sneer of some member of his family when he says he wants to begin daily family worship. Or he is afraid that he is not capable of leading in family worship. Or he is ashamed because, even though he has tried something like this before, he did not stick with it. For some men their reluctance may be nothing more than the embarrassment of not knowing what to say to their wives and children to get family worship started.
Men, all you have to say is something like this: “I have come to believe that the Bible teaches I should be leading us in family worship, and I want to start today. I have a lot to learn about it, but I want to do what I believe God wants me to do. Will you join me?”
In this video, Justin Taylor sits down with Donald Whitney to discuss his new book, Family Worship.
If I try to pray for people or events without having the word in front of me guiding my prayers, then several negative things happen. One is that I tend to be very repetitive…I just pray the same things all the time. Another negative thing is that my mind tends to wander. – John Piper
Since prayer is talking with God, why don’t people pray more? Why don’t the people of God enjoy prayer more? I maintain that people—truly born-again, genuinely Christian people—often do not pray simply because they do not feel like it. And the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things.
When you’ve said the same old things about the same old things about a thousand times, how do you feel about saying them again? Did you dare just think the “B” word? Yes, bored. We can be talking to the most fascinating Person in the universe about the most important things in our lives and be bored to death.
As a result, a great many Christians conclude, “It must be me. Something’s wrong with me. If I get bored in something as important as prayer, then I must be a second-rate Christian.”
Indeed, why would people become bored when talking with God, especially when talking about that which is most important to them? Is it because we don’t love God? Is it because, deep down, we really care nothing for the people or matters we pray about? No. Rather, if this mind-wandering boredom describes your experience in prayer, I would argue that if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit—if you are born again—then the problem is not you; it is your method.
The Spirit’s Presence Prompts Prayer
Notice that very important condition—“if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit”—for no method will enliven prayer for a person who isn’t indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Such a person has no sustained appetite for prayer, no long-term desire for it.
When God brings someone into a relationship with himself through Jesus Christ, he begins to live within that person by means of his Holy Spirit. As the apostle Paul writes to followers of Jesus in Ephesians 1:13, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul also reassures believers in Christ, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God.”
Just as you bring your human nature with you whenever you enter any place, so whenever the Holy Spirit enters any person, he brings his holy nature with him. The result is that all those in whom the Spirit dwells have new holy hungers and holy loves they did not have prior to having his indwelling presence. They hunger for the holy Word of God, which they used to find boring or irrelevant (1 Pet. 2:2). They love fellowship with the people of God, finding it unimaginable to live apart from meaningful interaction with them (1 John 3:14). Hearts and minds in which the Holy Spirit dwells feel holy longings unknown to them previously. They long to live in a holy body without sin, yearn for a holy mind no longer subject to temptation, groan for a holy world filled with holy people, and earnestly desire to see at last the face of the one the angels call “Holy, holy, holy” (Rev. 4:8).
This is the spiritual heartbeat of 100 percent of the hearts where the Spirit of God lives. A person may be just nine years old, but if the Holy Spirit has come to him or her, then these hungers and desires are planted there (expressed in nine-year-old ways, of course, but they live there because he lives there). And a person may be ninety-nine with a heart encrusted by the traditions and experiences of the years, but pulsing underneath is the ever-fresh, evergreen work of the Holy Spirit manifested in every person in whom he dwells.