As I noted in my post about my prayer beads, I’m using scripted prayers regularly. I use the Lord’s Prayer, the Gloria, and the Jesus Prayer along with praying certain scripture verses and the Apostle’s creed. One of the concerns that I’ve heard about scripted prayers is the admonition given in the Bible that we are to avoid “vain repetitions” of the “pagans” (Matthew 6:7 in KJV). In the NIV, that verse reads, “And, when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Jesus is telling us here that it is the attitude of our heart, not the specific words, that matter when we pray.
There are three instances in which I have found scripted prayer particularly useful, although there may be many more. First, in a corporate setting, scripted prayers can be an effective part of worship. There is something that is hard to define, but quite special, about being part of a group that is praying the same words out loud.
Second, I find the scripted prayers to be helpful to start to clear my mind and focus me on Jesus when I’m starting my devotional time. Sometimes, there is so much going through my head that I miss the first half of my Bible reading or I realize that I’ve been “praying” for three minutes, but now I’m thinking about tomorrow night’s dinner. Using my prayer book or prayer beads gets me to focus and makes it a little easier to get started on my devotional time (and think about dinner plans a little later).
Third, scripted prayers can give us words when we have no words. In my case, the situation occurred about five years ago now when I was in the hospital getting treatment for a really bad migraine. I was an inpatient and getting iv narcotics to try to break the migraine. Unfortunately, no one knew at the time that I had obstructive sleep apnea, so when the nurse came around, she found that I had just about quit breathing. So, they gave me Narcan to wake me up, which put me into a funky heart rhythm, and they sent me to the ICU – which in a 30 bed hospital, is just down the hall. PWM (formerly known as Mr. Math Tutor) was at home, so they called him and he was on his way there. As they were getting me hooked up to every monitor in the ICU, I was asking the nurse to pray with me because I was scared and couldn’t think of anything to pray myself. I was getting a little frustrated because people seemed to be ignoring me! (Actually, they just don’t know how to handle a request for prayer.) Finally, the nurse asked about praying the Lord’s Prayer – which was just fine with me. So, we recited the Lord’s Prayer together. It was incredibly calming for me. I wasn’t able to say anything on my own, but saying the Lord’s Prayer helped me feel like I was “really praying” (even though I know God was hearing what I was saying without words before we prayed). (I have since learned that this experience has given this nurse the courage to ask her patients more often if they want her to pray with them.)
Do you use scripted prayers? How do you use them? How have they helped you?