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The Power of Your Knees

In seminary, I had a professor who came into class one day, looked me in the eyes as he did with other students, and asked a simple, cutting question -- how is your prayer life? He had found, as he told us all, that Christians who struggle with prayer often struggle period.Truth be told, I have often gotten into ruts with prayers. I actually cannot go to sleep without saying my bedtime prayers. I will stay awake half the night then think to myself, "You forgot to pray." Once I do, off to sleep I go. I am Pavlov's prayer dog.But if I'm honest, often the prayers are cursory prayers. They are rote, routine, and I could forget that I even prayed them. Over the last several years I have sought to change that. I keep a little notebook of people I know either in the real or online world and I rotate through the pages praying for the people in the book, always adding and rarely subtracting names. Why?

In seminary, I had a professor who came into class one day, looked me in the eyes as he did with other students, and asked a simple, cutting question — how is your prayer life? He had found, as he told us all, that Christians who struggle with prayer often struggle period.

Truth be told, I have often gotten into ruts with prayers. I actually cannot go to sleep without saying my bedtime prayers. I will stay awake half the night then think to myself, “You forgot to pray.” Once I do, off to sleep I go. I am Pavlov’s prayer dog.

But if I’m honest, often the prayers are cursory prayers. They are rote, routine, and I could forget that I even prayed them. Over the last several years I have sought to change that. I keep a little notebook of people I know either in the real or online world and I rotate through the pages praying for the people in the book, always adding and rarely subtracting names. Why?

First, I can be a selfish person and if I didn’t force myself to pray for other people, I’d only pray for myself. Second, because I think God wants me to pray for other people so I do. Third, because it is calming to me to pray charitably for others, even some I may not get along with well.

My prayers, though, are often self-centered. At least, in the last few months they have been. For the last two years, the finances here and related to our conference have been tough. I have woken up many nights in the past few months unable to go back to sleep because promised sponsorship checks had not arrives, bills were piling up, and there was nothing more I could do.

It has been a real encouragement to me to see small, generous things happen unexpectedly as I’ve just prayed that God encourage me. He has abundantly in many small and large ways. After months of feeling like my world was coming apart as I tried to get a conference funded and finished and launch a brand new radio show, I find I spend way more time in prayer now than in the past. The fear that led me to pray because a forced habit of prayer, which in turn became a good habit of prayer. That, however, often leads me back into routine, habitual prayers that are done in pro forma manner.

After many years of these cycles of prayer, I have found the only real way that really gets me to focus on God and focus on what I am actually praying for and the people for whom I am praying.

In a quiet, private room, I get on my knees and I pray. And I open my prayer the way a Rabbi once prayed for me. It is rote. It is memorized. It is habitual. It tells my whole being that I’m going before God. It forces me to really pray. The rote, routine, memorized words give way to a meaningful heart to heart with He who always was, is, and will be.

Blessed art thou, O Lord, the King of all Creation who holds the universe in the palm of your hand.
You bring bread from heaven.
You bring water from rocks.
You raised me up from the dust of the earth and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies and you bring me here to my knees.
I thank you.

There are times I have a casual running commentary with God where I don’t start that way. But just about every time I pray now, I pray those words first. It reminds me of my place and why I am there and that God has already been generous to me. It reminds me that God’s got this. It reminds me he already took care of me and my needs. It reminds me that he knows me more intimately than anyone can know me. It brings me to my knees.

Find words of scripture for yourself. Turn them into prayer. I cannot really say just how much I have privately struggled with overwhelming worry these past few months. I really have in ways large and small. I worry today. But when the worries begins to creep in, I do my best to go quickly to my quiet, private place, bend my knees, and utter those words as I head into prayer.

Lately, I do it because I feel the whole world is careening off a cliff and I am troubled for the sake of my children and wife and friends and the madness around us. It calms me.

I don’t know that you will feel the same. But if you are low, overwhelmed, full of dread, doubt, or worry, go find a closet, a room, or somewhere dark, quiet, and private. Get on your knees, turn scripture to prayer and turn praying scripture into prayers to overcome what would otherwise overwhelm you. Pray for yourself. Pray for others.

Blessed art thou, O Lord, the King of all Creation who holds the universe in the palm of your hand.
You bring bread from heaven.
You bring water from rocks.
You raised me up from the dust of the earth and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies and you bring me here to my knees.
I thank you.

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