From the Chaplain’s Desk: Some Thoughts on Prayer

By Mike Shea

I don’t like people telling me how to pray. So I don’t want to tell anyone else how to pray. But I’ll describe some practices that have been helpful to me lately and perhaps they will be helpful to someone else.

When I pray, I almost always make use of the psalms. It gives me a prayer vocabulary, and it helps me to listen to the word of God first and then pray in response. When my mind starts to wander I can bring it back by just reading the next verse.

The word “trust” is so common in the book of Psalms that perhaps it is not much of an overstatement (I have the spiritual gift of overstatement) to say that “trust” is almost a synonym for prayer.

“Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him”
Psalm 62:8

Lately, instead of saying to God “I pray for my family, I pray for my ministry…” I’ve been saying, “Father, I trust you with my family, I trust you with my ministry…” And I’ve been enjoying longer silences in prayer as I try to be still and know that He is God.

The Psalms are full of images that help us understand what it means to trust in Him. We take refuge in him, we find shelter in Him, we hide under the shadow of His wings, He is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, our shield, etc. One image that helped me last month is found in Psalm 37:5

“Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in Him and He will act

The Hebrew word for commit is galal and it means to roll away. After a long hike with a heavy backpack, I roll it off of my shoulders onto the ground as I sit down to rest. So there have been some burdens I have carried too long and need to roll off of my shoulders and onto the Lord. That image helped me to trust in Him one memorable day this summer. If only I could trust him like that every day!

Finally, here is all of Psalm 13. Look at how trust changes everything.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.