Have you ever thought about First Person Prayer? Many passages in Scripture written in the first person are located in the Psalms: ”Lord, You have searched me and known me (Ps. 139).” “…and my sin is always before me (Ps. 51).” “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck (Ps. 69)!” It stands to reason that many of these passages come from King David, known for being a “Man after God’s Own Heart.” David wanted to walk intimately with the Lord. Of course, he had some serious character flaws just like we do. But no one can deny the fact that David wanted to know and experience the God he served for his whole life.
But what about passages in the New Testament that may be written to a specific full church, group, or audience? What about the practical nature of becoming a disciple through progressive sanctification, TODAY? Is it possible to, for instance, take a deep dive into one of the Pauline Epistles or Letters and pray some of what he’s written for a wider audience, in first-person language? This would be life-giving for missionaries and their churches to understand and take part in. This kind of praying bolsters our ‘Spiritual chops” and can rejuvenate and quench even the driest of souls!
However, if you grew up like I did, praying for yourself wasn’t exactly frowned upon. It was more like, “There are so many other things and people to pray for. I can’t be selfish when I pray, so let’s spend a bunch of time praying for others’ needs first. Then, if time allows, we can get into some prayer about my situation.” Just to be clear, this concept was of MY OWN DOING not from others around me.
What I’ve realized since my young adult years is that real heart transformation, real intimacy with the Lord, pursuing a real relationship with my Creator means I become intimate with Him regarding the struggles and successes, trials, and joys of my personal life. Devoting time to come before the Lord and pray His very Words for ME brings a kind of confident assurance that nothing else will ever be able to fill. I’ve struggled deeply at times in my life with truly understanding God’s beautiful, life-giving grace afforded me because of what Christ has done on my behalf. But when I peer into the “Perfect law that gives freedom (Jms 1:25),” I’m reminded once again just how much the Lord wants me to grasp how incredible His grace is toward me.
The statement from above is but one of a myriad of reasons why I LOVE God’s Word. So, let’s look at how we can pray this life-giving Word in the first person. We’ll start with a passage in its original form.
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body…Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing in us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:6-10, 16-18).”
So, how do we pray this passage in the first person? There are a couple of ways that I’ll share with you that I’ve done. I usually combine both of the concepts I’m about to explain into one.
The first concept is to meditate and pray the passage as it’s written but replace all of the we, our, us plural language with first-person pronouns my, I, me. The second is similar in principle but a bit more organic and free-flowing. You still use first-person pronouns but instead of strictly staying with the text, you pray out of the overflow of your heart and engage in thanksgiving to the Lord as it comes naturally to you. Trust me, it might seem really counter-intuitive to pray either of these ways at first. After all, aren’t followers of Christ supposed to be selfless. But, I will guarantee that your heart will be transformed and satisfied the more you practice this intimate prayer discipline. Let me show you how it works with the passage from above. Here’s how you could pray through it:
Heavenly Father, thank You for the light that shines out of the darkness. Thank You that this same light that comes from the knowledge of Your glory in the face of the Lord Jesus shines in my heart. And because of this light, I have this treasure stored up in clay jars…or in my mortal body. I’m blown away that the extraordinary power of this light comes straight from You, God, and not from me. There are times in my life that I have pressure in every way but I’m not crushed. I’m, at times, perplexed by my life and what You are doing but never need to despair. There will be days that I’ll deal with uncertainty and persecution in some form, but I know I’m not abandoned because You are always with me. I have faced many trials so far and will face more that have already, and will continue at times, to strike me down. But You call me more than a conqueror and I will never be destroyed.
I always carry the death of Jesus in my body, so that I can be continually reminded that the life of Jesus will also be revealed in my body. Thank You, Lord, that my trials and afflictions in this life are momentary to You, and that they are producing in me an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. Meaning, although my trials seem to last longer than I’d like them to, they don’t hold a candle to what You have in store for me in the future. This is such an encouragement and hope for me. So, I don’t focus on what is seen, because it’s temporary. Instead, I’m able to focus on what is unseen, looking to You my Redeemer, because what is unseen is eternal. I praise You for the light of life that is in me. Thank You that You are still working in my heart, so I desire to seek Your face! In the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen!
Do you see how this kind of prayer can be so energizing and encouraging? Think of the excitement from new believers in Jesus that our missionaries can share this with. This kind of intimate personal prayer can grow someone’s faith in unimaginable ways. Praying God’s living and active Word like this can bring someone comfort, bolster their resolve, heal brokenness, help mend conflict in relationships, satiate doubt, help bring others to faith, conquer sinful habits, refocus hearts from bitterness or despair to joy, bring us face to face with the character of God, and even help others who find prayer difficult get excited about it again…or even for the very first time. This is what true discipleship is all about; connecting knowledge we have of God and His Word to an experience on our hearts.
Let’s get excited about trying this kind of prayer. What passages will you start with? There are certainly enough to choose from and it’s God’s Word, so you can’t go wrong.