My brother in Christ Dr. Vander Warner Jr. got me started thinking about this by his recent article on “Short Prayers.” (Do what I did and google it.)
Frank Laubach, literacy pioneer and beloved brother in Christ, used to call these “prayer arrows.” Short sentences sent heavenward to praise, give thanks, intercede or summon the Lord’s assistance have a potency all their own.
The hypocrites think they will be heard for their “much speaking.” (Oh, I pray for two hours every morning. You mean you don’t?)
Professor Dan Crawford remembers someone saying, “A sentence prayer is not a life sentence.”
Pagans think they will be heard for their loud praying. (“God must be far off and we have to summon Him to draw near to us.”) The Baal-worshipers on Mount Carmel are the poster children for this foolishness (I Kings 18:26).
The overly righteous think they will be heard for their religious praying. (“Let me pile scriptural phrases on top of more scriptural phrases. The Lord is impressed by that sort of thing.”) See what Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 has to say about this affliction.
Our Lord said, “Those who worship (God) must worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). That seems to be the standard: My spirit with His truth. And definitely not, “My mindless body with someone else’s thoughts.”
The length of one’s prayer seems to be irrelevant. Measuring our prayers (the time, the volume, the length) is an exercise in foolishness. Weighing our prayers on any kind of human scale ranks as the ultimate in silly.
When the sweetheart goes into her house at night, she does not gauge the depth of her fellow’s love by the length of his monologues.
Just speak to the Father.
1) “Thy will, O Lord–Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.” (Said to be the prayer of baseball great Bobby Richardson at an FCA meeting. But Bobby is in Heaven, so I’m claiming it henceforth!)
2) “My soul doth magnify the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47) Mary’s prayer.
3) “Thy will be done on earth on earth as it is in Heaven; What wilt thou have me to do?”
4) “Set a guard, O Lord, upon my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3) This one is all for me! If ever anyone needed to pray it, you’re looking at him.
5) Please forgive my sin. For Jesus’ sake, by Jesus’ blood, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
6) “Thank you that you always hear me when I pray.” (John 11:41) The Lord Jesus outside the tomb of Lazarus.
8) “O God!” This was my prayer the night I was saved. I was 11 years old and couldn’t utter anything else, just this line, over and over again.
9) “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) The prayer of the thief on the cross.
10) “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) The prayer of the distraught father.
11) “Have thine own way, Lord. Thou art the potter; I am the clay.”
12) “Dear Lord, thank you for creating me, knowing me, and loving me; for calling me and forgiving me and accepting me; for indwelling me and instructing me and protecting me; for sending me and accompanying me and using me; for promising me and guaranteeing me and abiding me; for purifying me and cleansing me and sanctifying me; for inspiring and enlightening and comforting me, now and forever. Amen.”
13) “Lord Jesus, I love you. I bless you and honor you and adore you. I cherish you and thank you and glorify you. I hear you and obey you and bow in thy presence. I praise you and worship you and exalt your holy name.” (I know it’s not short, but it’s a one-theme prayer. Roget’s Thesaurus helps with this kind of prayer. Smiley-face here.)
14) “Thank you, Jesus.”
15) “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) The prayer of a drowning disciple.
16) “May Jesus surprise you with every spiritual blessing you need on this day” (Fusako Takada’s prayer).
17) “Here I am, Lord” (Acts 9:10). Ananias’ prayer.
18) “O God, have mercy upon me!” (Luke 18:13) The tax-collector’s prayer.
19) “Lord, do something in the service this morning not in the printed order.” (My prayer on the way to church one morning. An hour later, a motorcycle gang showed up for the service. It was an unforgettable experience.)
20) “How great Thou art!” (Prayed by a zillion people, inspired by a thousand things and one singer named George Beverly Shea; reminiscent of Psalm 8)
I’m tempted to add our Lord’s “Get behind me, Satan!” from Matthew 16:23. However, I recall something Adrian Rogers said. In a sermon, he told about speaking out loud to the devil. Then, he added, “I can imagine someone saying ‘You pray to the devil?’ Listen friend, I’m not praying when I say ‘Scat!’ to the cat!”
As a kid walking up the West Virginia mountain to our three-room school, I would frequently be praying softly. And, with a child’s understanding, I refused to speak a final ‘amen’ because that felt like I was ending the prayer and closing the door on the Lord, and I wanted Him with me all day long and to be able to pray to Him at any time.
I still feel that way.
“Thank you, Jesus.”