Pease pudding hot, Pease pudding cold,
Pease pudding in the pot – nine days old.
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot – nine days old.
Sometimes prayer books seem to one of those things, like the pease pudding. Different people have different tastes and preferences. Some like to use them, some don’t. Some, like me, start off with a bias against them, thinking that extemporaneous praying is the only way to go.
If you’re like me, you would have grown to a place where you understand that we’ve always had them with us, check the Bible. Now, I’ve even written my own, the main one being Heart Cries: 100 Prayers of Faith, Hope, and Love. Notwithstanding, today’s question is a legitimate one. Can we learn to pray with prayer books?
In many ways, this is really about how we learn to pray.
If you were to think of how you learned to speak as a child, you did not start off by reading. Reading came later. You started learning to speak by hearing, imitating, practicing, until you were able to enunciate that first word closely enough to how everybody else was saying it that those around you recognized it. Grand moment!
Does this suggest that you can’t learn to pray by using a prayer book? Not necessarily. The prayer book could function as the voices that the child hears around her or him. It becomes the language you hear and imitate. Therein lies a problem, however. You may stop short and never develop your own prayer language. This in turn would suggest that your praying was more about what lay in the books than your relationship with God.
Among the many things one could say about prayer, this one stands true: Prayer, like significant communication, is about relationship. As a matter of fact, you could go further and say that prayer is relationship. It starts with God reaching out to you in love and you responding, growing in confidence as you get to know God more. Prayer books can both enhance and limit your relationship with God.
The problem with prayer books
Prayer books have been written by other people. Some, like mine, grow out of personal experience with which you may find resonance. You find spiritual uplift and enlightenment in the prayer books as they deal with familiar matters and situations of life and the heart. Other prayer books are written for use in a corporate setting.
Unless, you pray what’s written in a prayer book, it’s just another book that you’re reading. You read it without sincerity and/or honesty. Thus, it’s interesting but not life-giving.
In addition, as mentioned above, you may stop with the words of the prayer book. However, it’s important to pray your own words that come out of your own situation, thoughts to, and understanding of God.
Another problem with prayer books is that of habitual use. You become familiar with the words and after a while you stop noticing them. Once again, you’re not praying them. I address this in my upcoming book: How to pray: Living Wholly Through Honest, Surrendered, Heart Praying.
The opportunities of prayer books
Nevertheless, prayer books afford great opportunities. Think of how your mind expands, as well as your vocabulary, through reading books. You gain new insights that enrich you as a person. In the same way, prayer books can enrich your prayer life, further enriching your spiritual life.
Through prayer books, you gain fresh insights and perspectives on God and life. Consider the number of prayers in the Bible and how those have become a part of your vocabulary and how they help you to know God more. It’s not that I’m putting prayer books on the same level with the Bible, but there is much you can learn from them.
When you truly pray the prayers in prayer books, you will connect with God, know God more, and deepen your relationship with God.
In addition, you connect with other Christians. Once a prayer book is in the public sphere, there will be other people using it.
Can you learn how to pray from prayer books? You could, depending on how you use them. Certainly, they can enhance your praying life. However, they are no substitute for your own unique prayers arising from your own unique situation. This is explained in the video below. Look at what it says on how to pray and prayer books:
Here’s the link in case you have a problem seeing the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZm-6Xjt68U
So tell me: Do you use books? If you do, how do they enhance your prayers? If you don’t use them, why not?
Experience the shift to clarity and peace through honest, surrendered, whole whole-hearted praying.
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