One-Sentence Prayers

August 23, 2006

Recently I have been thinking about the prayers I pray, especially the one-sentence prayers that come so often to mind. These are “arrow prayers” that shoot from earth to heaven and reach the heart of God. If it seems odd to pray one-sentence prayers, I remind you that the Lord’s Prayer is essentially six short petitions. In offering this list, I do not make any claim for it, except that these prayers came to mind as ones that have been meaningful to me in recent years.
“Lord, speak to me.” I start here because this is really a child’s prayer, and it is the faith of children that our Lord recommends. When we come as children, asking our Father to speak to us, to make the way clear, he will certainly do it. And he will rearrange our circumstances if necessary so that we can slow down enough to hear his voice.
“Lord, do things I’m not used to.” I learned this prayer from Ramesh Richard shortly after the tsunami disaster in December 2004. I discovered that if you pray this prayer, you’d better buckle up because if you mean it, God will take you up on it, and you will find yourself pulled out of your comfort zone in more ways than one.
“Lord Jesus, open the eyes of my heart that I may see you clearly.” This prayer comes from Paul’s request in Ephesians 1:17-18. I find myself returning to it over and over again because it touches on my need and the Lord’s sovereign power. Left to myself, I am like a blind man groping my way through life, bumping into things, tripping, and running into walls. Unless my eyes are opened by the Lord, I will remain in the darkness. But once my eyes are opened to see the Lord, in his light I will see all things clearly.
“Your will be done. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” Somewhere I read that Bobby Richardson was asked to pray at a banquet, and this was all he said. But what else needs to be said?
“Lord, let your will be done even if it means that my will is not done.” I like this prayer because it reminds me that in any clash of wills, it is God’s will, not mine, that must prevail.
“Your is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Years ago Jerry Rose said that when he was just starting out in the ministry, a very successful older minister advised him to repeat this prayer every morning because it centers the heart on things that matter most. It’s his kingdom we seek, his power we need, and his glory we desire.
Robert Odom told me that before he speaks he prays that God will help him to preach the sermon he needs to hear. Almost every time I preach I pray the same thing for myself: “Lord, help me to preach the sermon I need to hear.” Rarely will I know in advance what an entire congregation needs to hear, but if my own heart is attuned to the Lord, the message will probably resonate with the people. This prayer reminds me that I do not stand above the congregation, and that my greatest need is to hear the Word of the Lord in my own life.
Finally, there is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I particularly like this prayer because it encompasses the deepest need we all feel–to receive the mercy of God. There are many times–more and more as the years go by–when I honestly don’t know how to pray or even what I should ask for from the Lord. Prayer in many ways does not come easier. As life rolls on, you realize your own lack of understanding, whereas when you are young, you naturally feel you have the answer to all things. But time has a way of humbling all of us. So nowadays when I pray, I often simply cry out, “Lord, have mercy.” That’s a good prayer because he knows how to fill in the details.
Someone has said that there are basically only two prayers that we pray:
“Help.”
“Thank you.”

It’s hard to be briefer than that.
(Use the comments section to add the one-sentence prayers that have meant the most to you.)

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