On praying the prayers others have written.

“And as countless nights before, the church, in the midst of my weakness, responded with her ancient voice: ‘Here are some words. Pray them. They are strong enough to hold you. These will help your unbelief.’” Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night (Downers Grove: IVP, 2021), 8.

Tish Harrison Warren introduced us many of us to a prayer that some of us have known for centuries. In the introduction to Prayer in the Night, she talks about the value of the prayers of the church, passed from generation to generation.

We can, of course, say many things to God. I often say, “Is Jesus God? Is prayer talking to God? If so, all the things the disciples said are prayer.”

There is a place for spontaneous cries from our hearts, specific requests, carefully constructed statements of adoration written in our journals.

But there is a place for the well-worn prayers, words we’ve learned so well that when we cannot find other words, they guide our minds and hearts.

Tish’s words about the ancient words offered by the church reflect a time, prior to surgery in the midst of a miscarriage, when she cried out for Compline. And she and her husband prayed the words of the evening prayer.

Even priests, in the middle of crises, don’t depend on finding great words on their own. They rest in the guidance of words that have proven helpful.

So can we.

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