I grew up in an environment opposed to all things liturgical. There was practically a liturgy developed out of being non-liturgical. It was like, “Look, we’re so non-liturgical we do this other thing in this order every time we get together at this time instead, just to show how non-liturgical we are.” Corporate prayers, confessions of faith, and the sacraments were viewed as remnants of Roman Catholicism and thus to be avoided at all costs. Later in my mid-20’s my husband and I spent 7 years in a small inter-city Reformed Presbyterian Church and my eyes were opened to the value of liturgy through the confessions of faith and the singing of Psalms. The ancient beauty of the Psalter stood in such contrast to the filth and chaos all around us. When we moved to Hawaii it was really hard to find a doctrinally sound church but the Lord led us to an aging congregation in the first and oldest church in the islands. In general, the preaching was pretty bad, but at least we knew that the truth of the gospel would be proclaimed each Lord’s Day through the liturgy. There would be hymns, the Apostles creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the benediction and then the doxology and the Queen’s Prayer sung in Hawaiian. I learned to love liturgy there because I knew that my kids were learning great doctrinal truths through those repetitious means. There is just something so Psalm 148:12 about your kids’ young voices joined with the elderly in these historical forms of worship.
But I still had a hang-up about written prayers. Two things recently changed the way I viewed the value of composed prayers. The first was in my thirst for understanding the Word of God. I started praying segments of Psalm 119 each time I sat down to read scripture and then transposing them into the plural form when we’d gather as a group to study. The second, was in reading the book of Revelation and the corporate worship of the living creatures, the elders, the angels, and all the saints and wanting my own worship to be in accord with what was already and will be taking place around the throne. Why are we so willing to sing lyrics written by another in worship but so opposed to repeating words written by another in prayer?
The ESV Prayer Bible (Crossway, 2018) arrived at my door in the middle of these contemplations. Here’s how it’s different from other Bibles. It’s in single column format, which I love, and has prayers inserted throughout which correspond to the text. These are written by a variety of Christians from the first century all the way into the 20th. I think the most contemporary was Henry Wotherspoon of Scotland who died in 1930. There are several index’s in the back including an author index and an index of the 400+ scripture passages that include a corresponding prayer. My favorite index is a list of every passage of scripture that either is a prayer or references the subject. THAT is a feature I have already put to good use as I explore this topic further.
If you already have a rich and plentiful prayer life this Bible will only enhance that by reading these prayers in a Biblical context. If, like me, you are wanting to grow your prayer life, this could be an invaluable resource. The disciples themselves knew their own deficiencies in this area and asked Jesus in Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Paul confirms this in Romans 8:26, “We do not know what to pray for as we aught, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.” This friends, is NOT given as an excuse not to pray. Rather it should encourage us to participate more fully through the work of the Spirit in our own hearts teaching us to pray more in accordance with God’s will, just as Jesus modeled for us. Paul says, “we aught” to know how to pray! This book contains many examples worthy of our emulation.
A final point. Prayers like the ones included in this Bible are a fantastic tool for training up our children in the faith. They, like the confessions, creeds, and historical hymns, can be great instructors in right doctrine. For that reason, I think children can be the greatest benefactors of our liturgies and yet most have sadly been robbed of this instructive form of worship. I highly recommend this Bible for use in family devotions. Take an extra minute when you come across a prayer to read the short author’s bio in the back. It will add a historical continuity to the faith you are instructing your children in. And while you’re at it, why not throw in a Psalm or hymn or a little catechesis?
(Although I was provided with a free copy of this book from the publisher I am under no obligation to write a favorable review)