Prayer that is learned

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 2:2 (NIVUK):“He (Jonah) said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.'”

Selwyn has this to say: “Now we come to the words of the prayer Jonah spoke … the surprising thing about this prayer is that it is a prayer of thanksgiving and not a prayer of repentance.

Commentators agree that though there is no mention of repentance in this prayer, Jonah had actually come to the point where he had turned back to God. … Clearly something significant had happened in his soul, though we have no record of it.

What we shall find now as we go through Jonah’s prayer verse by verse is that it is closely aligned to the prayers of the psalmists. … Jonah it seems, had been nourished by the book of the Psalms, and in the midst of a crises he prayed in the way that others before him had prayed.”

Now, I think it’s good to study the psalms and to be familiar with the language of the psalmists. But to copy them parrot fashion, I think is of no use at all. It’s the same with many of the prayers said in church services, such as the Lord’s Prayer, if they are said with feeling, love and understanding then they can be a real blessing, however, if they are repeated in a way that the words don’t even register with one’s heart – then, they are of little use.

The important thing to remember is that if we can’t think of the words to offer God in prayer, then the Holy Spirit will help us find the right ones to say – words, which will have meaning and will be pleasing to our Lord. They may also be found in the psalms but many times they will be your own unique words.

In Romans 8:26-27, we read: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

What is your view on this issue?