Despite the fact that Christ Himself gave us a way to pray, much of my prayer life has historically been organized about carefully avoiding sounding too formal. Stuffy, pre-written prayers were for those who weren’t genuine, Spirit-filled believers. The Holy Spirit had equipped me to pray real prayers.
Flash-forward a few years and several (thousand) humbling experiences and my attitude towards prayer, towards worships as a whole, has quite changed. I am less certain of my certainties, my wisdom, my contribution to my worship but I am ever more convinced of the mercy of God upon my life.
I have shared before about my struggle with depression and my heart for liturgical worship. In His ever-faithful way, He reached into my life in my moments of pain and has shown me that, even when my heart fails, He will sustain my worship.
He broke down my walls, my pharisaical prayers of lengthy, flowery words from my heart, and has shown me that prayer is not as much about sharing my heart as it is about centering it.
2 Corinthians 10 implores us to, “take captive every thought,” but instead of calling my thoughts to Christ, much of my prayer life revolved around calling Christ to my problems. Despite my efforts, prayers pour forth from my lips in the form of, “God if you just___. Why can’t you____. I need You to _____.” I seemed to have the God of creation confused with some pathetic sort of personal Santa Clause. Sure, my prayers ended with an obligatory, “Thy will be done,” or an, “Align my heart with Yours,” but if you read my prayers, one after the other, in a book, there parallels between them and the letters I wrote to Santa as a child would be painfully, eerily obvious.
While I am all in favor of childlike faith, I can safely say this was childlike selfishness.
Liturgical worship had called back to the heart of the Father and reminded me that worship is not about me, it’s about Him.
On Sunday mornings, my heart often felt beaten and bruised. I had nothing to offer up but an empty vessel. But I could indeed offer it up to be used by Him to bring glory to the King.
I started searching Scripture and the words of the psalms often became my prayers. I realized that there was a proper and an improper way to pour my heart out before the Lord and that it involved keeping my thoughts in line with who He is and what He does. Worship should be at the heart of the Christian life, not petitions. My priorities in prayer had become disordered and I wanted to find a way to help reorder.
That’s when I came across the idea of Protestant prayer beads.
Previously, I had ascribed prayer beans into the category of something mystic or unfelt. I imagined pre-written prayers as something that couldn’t speak the heart even while pour over poetry that I felt spoke to the true heart of “secular” emotions. But the psalms were prayers and they expressed my heart. The Valley of Vision and other traditional prayers, they spoke to my heart.
So I searched online and I found a little Etsy shop and order a set of DIY prayers beads.
They were beautiful.
I prayed as I assembled them that God would melt my selfish heart and remind me of His majesty.
The beads are broken into 4 sections of 7, the number of completion. Each section focuses around a different elements of prayer. There’s a time to praise and express thanks. There’s a time to present petitions at the feet of the Father and time to confession your sin and remember His grace.
This tool has guided me towards balance in my prayer life.
It is not a fix all. It’s probably not for everyone. But I’m so grateful for the way it’s pushed me to honor God in my prayer life. It’s given me focus and words and a platform when my heart is empty. It reminds me that He is the one who began the good work and that He, not I, will be the one to complete it.