Readers of this blog know how much I love the The Bowers Files series (The Pawn, The Rook and The Knight). But now we have a delightful book from Steven James called A Heart Exposed: Talking to God with Nothing to Hide. It is a book of prayers. Some people don't like to read written prayers much less actually pray them. I'm not one of them. In fact, I'm quite the opposite. I find written prayers are often thoughtful, creative, stirring, convicting and inspiring. Think to yourself how often you hear prayers start with "Lord, we thank you for this day." I would venture to say 95% of the spontaneous prayers I hear begin with those seven words or some variation of it. People need to read more prayers because there is so much more to be thankful for and so many other ways to start a prayer. We need to stop rushing into prayer as if a moment of silence would kill us. With that said I commend this book of prayers to you. It's hard to review a book like this but I want to offer a couple of the prayers I found especially moving. (Note: I haven't found one yet that starts with thanking God "this day.") I start each new prayer with the first word or sentence in bold.
I'm ashamed to admit it, but here's my typical prayer:
"God make my life safe, comfortable and easy. Lead me away from the trials that might purify my faith, the difficulties that might teach me perseverance, and the temptations that reveal my true allegiances. Please don't discipline me (even though I know you say it would shape me into the kind of person you desire) because it might not be very pleasant and I want my life to be Happy and Fun All the Time. Be for me a Santa Claus or a Dr. Phil, not the battle-hardened warrior of the ages or the fiercely loving Father you are. Amen."
No more of those prayers, god.
For your sake and mine. (142)
O Creator of Beating Hearts,
and Healer of Broken Ones,
I've let my passion grow cold
since those days
when I first began my journey
You've become a part of my life
rather than the center of it,
a distraction rather than the direction.
And my prayers have grown stale,
stored so conveniently
in the cupboard of my heart.
So here's what I ask:
give me the eyes of a newborn believer;
introduce yourself to me again.
Amaze me with your presence
and upset the comfortable balance
of my numb and stable life
with your strange brand
of fiery grace.
Crack open my courage and my awareness
so that I can finally speak to you
with all of my will and emotions,
with heartfelt needs and honest fumbling,
instead of holding myself back and
offering up such
hollow little prayers. (15)
I regret many things,
but I do not regret this moment with you.
For it will have been a lifetime well-spent
to have lived this single moment
aware of your presence. (41)
O, Light Above the Darkness,
Truth Above the Lies,
Ruler of the Galaxies,
King Above the Skies,
Mystery of the Ages,
Wonder of the Tale,
calm me in the tempest,
guide me through the gale.
Lover of the Wanderer,
Prince of Those Who Stray,
I bow before your majesty,
rule in me today. (91)
take me by surprise.
A normal day and a
normal yawn and then I feel your
Spirit passing across my shadow.
A flash of reassurance,
as sudden realization that you delight in me.
You, the star-speaking poet,
you, the dragon-slaying prince,
you, the battle-scarred carpenter,
actually take delight in me.
You actually do.
So now, at last,
I accept the invitation
to take delight
in you. (103)
These prayers mold the English language into the service of praise and prayer to the Creator of language. They unleash the emotions of the heart and give expression to contrition, praise, devotion and confusion. They unearth our worldliness and reveal our shallow hearts. The unveil the glory of God and plumb the depths of his mercy and grace. I read prayers like these and I find they till the hardened ground of my heart and give balm to my wounds which, if left unattended, would draw me ever so slowly from the great physician.
Read this book. Pray these prayers. Let your heart resonate with them. And never, never start another prayer with "Lord, we thank you for this day." After reading this book you'll have a hundred new things to thank Him for.