7 prayers I can’t do without

Prayer is a gift. Communing with the Creator of the cosmos is an inestimable grace, surpassed only by the Savior himself and His Word and Sacraments. This is my fundamental conviction.

I’m afraid, though, that we too often muddle the gift. Prayer becomes a complicated dance when it’s meant to be a simple conversation. And so I try to keep in mind the words of Jesus:

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6.7-8)

God knows what I need. Jesus mediates for me before the Father. The Spirit dwells within and intercedes on my behalf. I can keep prayer simple, focusing not on informing God about things He already knows about but instead nurturing our relationship.

In this spirit (or should I say Spirit?), I submit to you 7 simple prayers that I personally can’t do without on an almost daily basis.

1. The Lord’s Prayer

[su_pullquote align=”right”]I can keep prayer simple, focusing not on informing God about things He already knows about but instead nurturing our relationship.[/su_pullquote]Yeah, yeah, it goes without saying. And yet it doesn’t. That it becomes merely rote is not the fault of the prayer, but of ourselves. On my better days, I linger over each petition, pondering the promises therein.

I find it incredibly helpful to revisit the explanations to each petition in the Small Catechism. It always deepens my understanding and appreciation of what God is promising in the prayer He gave us. I’m also reminded that His grace exceeds my spirituality: “Indeed, His kingdom comes even without our prayers…”


2. Come, Lord Jesus (table prayer)

Okay, one more obvious one. But how could I leave it out? Again, the simplicity of the prayer masks its profundity. “Come, Lord Jesus…” It is a request, not merely for divine fellowship at table, but the renewal of all things.

For the Bible concludes: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22.20). Every meal is thus an opportunity to look forward to the great marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which shall have no end.


3. The Jesus Prayer

Known as the Jesus prayer, this simple prayer is an adaptation of the publican’s cry in Luke 18: “Lord Jesus, have mercy one me, a sinner.” The constant Kyrie, this breathed confession, always brings me peace and settles my heart. Though it is sometimes abused as a kind of mantra (see J.D. Salinger’s novel Franny and Zooey), rightly used it is a Christ-centered confession of faith.


4. Collect for the Word

You may not know that title, but you have probably heard the prayer:

“Blessed Lord, you have caused all Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear it, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it, that by the patience and comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.”

This remarkable little collect, which I believe comes from the 16th Century Book of Common Prayer, is a tried and true petition before meditating on the Bible. It always brings me back to the purpose of such study: not merely to chew the Word up and spit it out, but to ruminate upon it, take it into myself, and let it be translated through my life.


5. Psalm 121

I recently wrote about the value of the Psalms for prayer, and among the whole psalter Psalm 121 stands out for me: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth…” The psalmist’s repeated assertion that “the Lord will keep you” is a welcome salve for everyday anxieties. I heartily recommend its memorization.


6. Luther’s morning & evening prayers

Too often overlooked among the contents of the Small Catechism, Luther’s morning and evening prayers are priceless little gems for the devotional life. Each night at bedtime I pray the evening prayer with my children, who by now know it (mostly) by heart. What especially stands out to me is how both prayers begin: “I thank you, my Heavenly Father…” Our day is thus bracketed by gratitude.


7. “Help me, help me, help me!” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Whenever the topic turns to prayer I’m likely to quote from Anne Lamott. In her book Traveling Mercies, she writes, “Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me,’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.'” At the end of the day, we are sometimes only able to offer “groanings too deep for words.” Little utterances from a heart that depends wholly on the mercy of its Redeemer.

And the Father receives them, and is pleased.

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